The hardest part about change is leaving. Goodbyes. Missing. Leaving people, places, times, eras, or dreams behind. I’ve said goodbye to so many people in my life, spent months and nights with this all-consuming missing that rips your chest apart and the sad news is … it doesn’t get easier the more you do it.
200 years ago, John Keats wrote:
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
I love that so much.
Everything that has ever happened to you is yours to keep. You own it. No one can ever take that away from you. Your experiences, feelings, cities you walked, people you loved, fights you fought: they are yours and yours only. And every single thing you’ve done and every single person you’ve met will stay with you, grow with you, and it’s these things that slowly build your character. These things build your life story, your whole being, and you will only lose the things you actively decide to let go of.
You can leave someone without leaving them behind. You can keep the warm, safe feeling of loving someone without wanting to be with them anymore. You can keep your love for someone, even when they say they don’t love you anymore.
Think about it: what’s beautiful about human relationships is the feeling we get from them. Think about a time in your life when you were hopelessly in love with someone, romantically or as a friend: you just had so much love for this person! It filled you up with energy and heat, made you smile and sing, and the thought of this person being alive made you feel both calm and excited and most of all just grateful.
Maybe something happened. Maybe that person decided to leave you, maybe you decided to leave them, or maybe it was a mutual decision to simply move on. Either way, it was not the other person that created that feeling of love and warmth inside of you; you created that feeling for yourself. You let yourself feel love, for this person, and you let yourself feel LOVED by this person. But the feeling was created by you. That means that you can let yourself feel love for anything and anyone. For life, or for yourself, at all times. And maybe most of all, that means that you can let yourself feel LOVED at all times. Loved by life, or people around you, and most importantly loved by yourself. No one can take the feeling of being in love away from you. It comes from you. You can carry gratitude of hope and safety with you, even though you have physically left him or her behind.
For the last couple of years, I have struggled with the knowledge that my closest people who are elderly will one day die, and disappear, and I will have to live on without them. It’s such a universal thing every single person on this earth needs to face at some point. It’s the way nature has shaped us. Your parents will one day pass away. Your best friend might go before you. Your brothers, sisters, and biggest role models might leave this place sooner than later, tragically or peacefully, and it’s something every single one of us needs to learn and accept. You can’t fight it.
I just simply can’t seem to find a way to live with the thought of my mother dying. Or my best friend being hit by a car. My granddad died 15 years ago and I still dream about him. How do you live with this? How do you live with the incredible sadness that comes from this knowledge?
I think it’s in the way we can carry things with us. It’s not the physical experiences or material things we appreciate and want—it’s the feelings they give us. The love, the laughter, the warmness of a kind heart. It’s the experiences we had with those people, the memories, the moments of solace and happiness. Maybe even the moments of sadness, fights, remorse, horrible words that shouldn’t have been said but you both said them and then you both knew you regretted it and even that can fill you with a sense of love for this person because to know that someone cared so much about you—YOU—that’s worth a smile. No one strikes up a fight if they don’t care about you. No one puts that much energy into a person if they don’t really mind.
We learn to remember the feelings they gave us and those feelings are yours to keep, yours to carry and feel and treasure, and they will become a part of you. Your first passionate love, the love from your mother, the proud look on your teacher’s face when you mastered this or that—they’re yours. Those feelings will make you a kinder, more gentle, loving person because love so strong and pure will make your heart softer without thinking about it. The more of this you collect in your life—the more love and beautiful experiences and warm memories—the softer it will make you as time goes on.
We never lose love. We never lose people. We carry it all with us and build our character from soft beautiful feelings and memories until we’re so completely built up of poetry and love that it’s all shining through us, making everyone around us a little gentler and kinder too. That thought makes me smile.
And maybe you have a role model in your life, that you know personally or only from a distance. You admire his or her guts, achievement, strengths, and wisdom. No matter if this person is still around or not, you can take the feelings, the inspiration, the motivation that person gave you and forever carry it with you. Make their energy a part of you and radiate it to everyone you meet. Eventually, you will become such a role model for someone else too, and isn’t it a beautiful thought to know that you will share that light and energy forward? Making this world a little brighter and more active.
You can say goodbye to people without losing the beauty they gave you. The feelings they gave you: they are yours. You own them. And you can pass them forward.
This is an essay from my podcast "Behind The Glass Podcast with Charlotte Eriksson".