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On Learning to Gracefully Let Go of Those I Meet on the Road

by Cathy Brown Mar 8, 2017

I can say goodbye brutally well at times. I’m an incessant traveler who crosses paths with cool people all the time, each of whom I feel a unique connection with. We enjoy each others’ company, we may or may not decide to try to stay in touch in the future, and when it comes times to go our separate ways, I’m out — moving on and moving forward to whatever and whoever the next adventure brings.

Until the universe dropped a certain Australian botanist onto my doorstep, both a hardcore badass in every way imaginable and the most profoundly tender soul I’ve ever met — irresistibly, fiercely adorable. We share the same passions of plants and travel and literature (and, surprisingly enough, swords and fire-staff wielding), the same ridiculously dorky sense of humor, and the same lust for living an epic, magical life full-on, independent and and without fear. Long story short, I fell and I fell hard.

He was to stay two days to machete invasive plants species and move some heavy construction piles for me. He went hiking and then came back for a few days more under the guise that he wanted to fill my woodshed for me so I would be prepared for winter. Then he left and came back for a while more, with no guise. It was clear by then that we simply wanted to spend more time together.

I knew what I was getting into. I knew the day would come when he would finally hit the road to go check out the sequoia forest south of me on his way to do a long trek by some glaciers. I knew going in that he has a full life doing what he loves most back in Australia. And yet saying goodbye to this one hit me like a ton of bricks, morphing me from a strong ‘wave you off with no more than a quick ciao’ woman to a tearing-up, heavy-hearted, ‘please come back!’ vulnerable-as-hell little girl.

Here’s what I’ve had to quickly learn about attempting to let go gracefully:

Focus on being grateful.

I have a big heart, it got filled to the brim recently, and that’s a good thing. If I never see this person again, would I regret having met him? Never. I choose to be grateful for every laugh shared, for every part of the adventure of getting to know another awesome human being who made me happy to be alive. Life put me in contact with someone who made me feel deeply, who moved me, who got me out of my comfort zone and who challenged me to grow. It reminds me of something Elizabeth Gilbert once wrote: “Soul mates, they come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you”. If I can’t be grateful for that having happened, I have real problems.

Have self-compassion.

At the same time, I’m fucking sad right now. And that’s valid, too. Trying to play it cool, be tough and pretend otherwise would only prolong my anxiety of letting go. I need to make friends with the fear of never meeting anyone so compatible or incredible again. I need to allow myself to basically grieve a bit, to shed some tears instead of keeping them in. And I need to be kind to myself meanwhile.

Remember to give myself love.

I was loved really well recently and now that he’s gone I feel a void. I need to remember that it’s my responsibility to love myself, to feel complete on my own. I’m in a tough spot right now, feeling a little low, so the best thing I can do is take care of myself. Long walks in nature, gardening, reading, opening a fabulous bottle of wine to genuinely celebrate the magic that is life and love — these are things that I can, and should, do for myself right now.

Trust that if our story is not over, we’ll see each other again.

I don’t ever want to put expectations on this. Expectations do not do much more than screw things up. I’m not going to say that I know that we will see each other again. Time will tell. Right now the best thing I can do for myself is to give space and time for things to settle, to find their flow, to center myself so that I can collaborate with life to create the best possible paths for myself, no matter what those may end up being. I trust fully that if our story is not over, we will make it a priority to meet up again. Let’s be honest, here. It’s only a plane ticket and we are both avid, enthusiastic travelers. It’s not asking for the impossible.

Cultivate a genuine happiness for that person’s happiness.

I love this person unconditionally. I choose to wish for their happiness whether that comes from being with me or not. Every photo I see of him in a beautiful old-growth forest, or ecstatically hiking a dangerous glacier in a snowstorm completely unprepared, or back home grinning while drinking shitty beer with his buddies on the beach — my intention is to be filled with happiness.
Life is in constant flow, and attempting to hold onto things is one of the most unnatural things that I could do. So I had a beautiful experience and met a beautiful person — why on earth would I want to suffocate and eventually kill that beauty by desperately clinging, by trying to create stagnancy, by trying relentlessly to stop time? The best thing I can do is to send genuine, unconditional love his way, to carry on with my living my life to the fullest, and to trust that the universe has a master plan — if it involves him in any other way, paths will be crossing again. If not, I’ll hold in my heart an inspiring, profound encounter that left me a clearer, stronger person.

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