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Opening myself to future pain

standard June 18, 2012 8 responses

When I was 17 I met a boy I would end up dating for just over 5 years. Two months after I broke things off with him (for a large number of reasons) I learned that he had been steadily cheating on me for those 5 years and that he had been seeing another girl for 2 years before our break-up.

I remember distinctly walking home after learning of his treachery and thinking to myself that I could either decide that all men were utter schmucks and none could be trusted, or I could decide that each was different and that risking love again might be worthwhile.

History shows that I was right to risk again. And then right to risk a third time or I wouldn’t be married to the amazing man who shares my bed today.

A few years ago (long after the boy kinds of heartbreaks had stopped happening) I live tweeted one of my awesome mothers’ group speaker meetings and a blogger, who I’m pretty sure had never crossed my radar before, tweeted at me.

“Your mothers’ group sounds awesome. Can I join?”

I thought she was joking, but a quick glance at her Twitter stream and blog showed that she had recently arrived to the area.

I tweeted back “We meet every other Wednesday and we’d love to have you!”

Such an innocuous tweet. Amazing that I remember the exchange so clearly among the hundred similar exchanges I have every week. But this exchange lead to the blogger coming to our next meeting, then to coffee with me, then lunch, and so on until we’d easily shared a million other coffees and lunches.

Two years later that blogger is one of my very best friends. We’ve spent countless hours sharing life stories, encouragement, business ideas, parenting advice, business plans, and giggles, many, many giggles.

This past week, that blogger-come-best-friend loaded up her car with the last of her family’s belongings, sent her kids to the airport with her father, and, with her husband as co-pilot, started driving to Texas.

The Bay Area is one of the most beautiful, amazing places to live. The weather is incredible. The people are smart. The resources mind-boggling. But Silicon Valley is also a vicious, brutal mistress who pulls you in, makes you fall in love with her, and then yanks the wool from your eyes. Life here is expensive, jobs are hard to come by, and it’s not always possible for even the Bay’s most passionate fans to find a way to live here forever.

Because of this, over the last 11 years, I’ve lost more friends to more benevolent climes (damn you Texas!!) than I can count on one hand. Because of this I’ve tried to only befriend people who have bought homes here, tentative proof that they’re at least trying to make a long term go of it here.

I broke that rule for this blogger and so I cried hot tears all week as they wound their way south.

I spent the week in a fog of sadness. Every coffee shop, restaurant, park that we’d ever been to drove home again the thought that they were gone for good and brought new tears to the surface.

Yesterday, as I was once again drying my eyes and wondering just how long this sadness would last, as I was once again reiterating my promise to myself to only befriend those who were here forever, I started reading the first chapter of Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection.

Now, if you’re new here, you might not know of my slight obsession with Brené Brown. She’s a researcher who, on her quest to better understand shame and how it affects people, discovered the importance of living a wholehearted life.

Brené has taught me in the past that you can’t experience great joy if you don’t open yourself to also experiencing great sadness. The brief chapter that I read yesterday reminded me of that.

So, yes, I cried sad, bitter tears all week. I lamented my plight as the girl who keeps getting left behind. But today I’m trying to change the way I think.

I can’t close myself to chance encounters. I can’t block my heart to people who don’t plan to stay here for good. This friend who just left, and others before her, have made me a better person through knowing and loving them. They may not be here to share a cup of coffee or a platter of sushi, but they hold important places in my heart, places that would just be sadly empty if they hadn’t come here for the short while they were here.

So, just like that day so long ago when I decided to keep my heart open to the possibilities of future love. I’m keeping my heart open to future friendships, knowing full well the extent of the pain I might endure later. Without the possibility of that future pain, I won’t ever experience the intense joy that comes from such amazing friendships.

The amazing Grace Duffy and I. Damn I miss that smile.

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8 responses

  • Oh hon. It is so hard to lose people who are special – for whatever reason. But you are right not to close yourself off, even though it is hard. Feel better!!!

  • You know I wish I could just collect up all the people I love (including you) and have them all live in my neighborhood.

  • I love this post, Jess. I feel like I have so many dear friends scattered all over the country, mostly DC and NYC. It seems so hard to keep up friendships through email and once or twice a year visits. But that you expect. It’s the surprise departures that kill me. My next-door neighbors who I had thought would be here for life, our boys growing up together, left for Texas a few months ago and that one smarts, even while the new neighbors seem really nice. But I know my mom has kept up college friendships through distance and when my dad died, those friends were there for her, just as my high school friends who there for me. Friendship is an changeable beast and can break out hearts but we would be lost without it.

  • I’m crying a little bit with you right now… My Best Friend from high school packed up her girls (who were oh so small and in love with “aunt Nik”) almost 11 years ago and there are days that it still stings like yesterday. But I thank God for the Internet, for cell phones and unlimited texting, and for conferences that take me to her necks of the woods every year (YAY FOR TYPE-A CON) because on the days where it is just to hard to make it through the day I can hear her voice in an instant. But as I always tell my BFF we can’t live a life dead inside or we will have nothing to pass to our children. So we open up for future pain and paint a smile on our faces to get us through the rough days. I promise you an extra hug when I see you this week. 🙂 And you’re always welcome to add me to the people who can help you make it through the rough days.

  • Boy do I wish I could write like you.
    You and Grace will undoubtedly be in each other’s hearts forever.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jessica,

    I finally found you on the blog sphere! Robyn and I keep talking about your blog… I just spent the last hour that I should have been sleeping, on reading your ‘thoughts’! I AM hooked!

    We have bought a house (and it is under water)so we are staying for a while 🙂

    I am volunteering to be your friend…


  • jess, so beautifully put! where we lived in san diego was similarly transitory. I was talking to a friend of mine who was a permanent fixture there once and asked how she did it, having friends come and go so often in her life. she said it used to bother her, but now she just thinks, “I get to have a really great christmas card list!” she said she just had to look at the situation just as you described it at the end of your post. such a good way to look at things and to keep in mind as we trudge through life. xoxo

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