We met weekly for 6 years, and then one day, it was done. We were breaking up.
I have a committed group of friends, that met once a week for dinner get togethers, religously for years. We started the group when we first had kids — we all needed a night away from being parents, or being spouses, and a chance to laugh, share stories, and enjoy.
It was also a great way to get advice and learn from each other too. Whether it was learning to cook a new recipe, use a new gadget, fix our finances, try a new workout, fix our spouses (!) …all was fair game for our evening chats. We went to great pains to make sure that we would not be interrupted during that one weekday evening–making arrangements with our spouses, grandparents, babysitters — to ensure we would be able to keep it up. And we did.
But, this past year, we all started to notice that we were running out of things to try together. Some of us started meeting each other separately to do things the other members would not be interested in. At times, someone would miss the night.
So, we cut back to once a month. At first, this seemed great. Suddenly, I had 3 nights a month to myself. But then, after a few months, one of our group called it out: it was time to end our get togethers. We weren’t as interested in the sessions, and not everyone was equally committed anymore. We were breaking up, and there was nothing I could do.
I was indescribably sad. This event was a stabilizing and grounding part of my week. I felt proud to be someone who not just had friends, but was deeply committed to them. Did the ending of the evening also mean we were no longer friends? Did it mean I could no longer call them out on those nights, even once in a while? Would some of us continue to meet, in secret, without the others? And what was I now going to fill that evening with instead?
This all got me thinking — it doesn’t matter how old you grow, change is often difficult when you weren’t the one instigating it. Sure, I embrace change when I am the one stirring the pot, or I’m the one walking away from the relationship, but could I surrender with a smile when the change was something I didn’t ask for? When it was thrust on me? Some part of me kept thinking “But, wait, I’m not quite ready to let go, or move on….hold on a second…”. But, sometimes, it just isn’t up to you, and change visits from teh outside. So here’s a few things I had to go through before I could really move on:
When change happened, I wasn’t ready and I begin to doubt myself. Maybe I had done something wrong? Hadn’t I contributed enough, and now I was being dumped? Perhaps the rest of the group just didn’t find my company enjoyable, but rather than say so, they were breaking up the whole group?
To get over this, I had to grieve a little in my own way before I could let go. I let myself be sad, ate ice cream, and the wallowing felt good. Sure, I didn’t want to go on indefinitely like this when I lost someone or something I care about, but a little sadness allowed me to acknowledge that something has changed, an era was over. Whether it is a friend moving on, loved one, a job…some sadness is in order.
Also, I had to stop the thoughts in my head that made it feel personal. Breaking up was not a statement about ME…after all, hadn’t we enjoyed each other just fine for years? Just because we no longer enjoyed the evenings, doesn’t mean we never had.
It’s easy to try to fill the gap right away with something else. At first I kept calling the same friends, as if to say “hey, we’re still ok, right?”. But then, I slowly stopped doing that, and stopped trying to recreate an imitation of what was lost. I needed space to move on. A space, in which there is nothing. It’s important to give everyone involved some breathing room so new avenues of connection can form. Or perhaps even dissolve away.
Now, we are in touch periodically in other ways. Some of us drifted away with busy lives more than others. But, as we dissolved the evenings, we are able to develop new ways to connect. And, it also created room for me to discover that I have new interests, new friends, and things I need to spend time on that are more in line with my self expression as it is today. I too have changed, and perhaps I didn’t notice as I clung to the old comfortable constructs.
Moving on to something new, something better, sometimes requires us to let go of something old. Whether it’s an old pattern of thinking, relationships we’ve outgrown, or a job that doesn’t fit, it can be difficult. But, if we remember that renewal is on the other side, and awaits us, it will help us be ok during the heartbreak!