I don't like to have unfinished business in my life. In fact, I spend a great deal of time and energy writing things down and checking them off my list. When it comes to relationships, its not always that simple. Lately, there is one person from my past that I just can't seem to get off of my mind. He lives in another country just over the bridge.
The last time I spoke to the Canadian was before Christmas. He told me that he loved me and he would see me soon. And then I never heard from him again. In the beginning, it was really hard to accept that he just disappeared on me. Whenever I would talk about him, everyone kept telling me that he was an asshole and that I should just forget about him.
But deep down inside I knew that the Canadian still cared about me. After all we have been through over the years, I refused to believe that his feelings could have changed so quickly.
A few weeks ago, I had a dream about him. He is a frequent visitor in my subconscious, but this time it was different. The Canadian was the star in a fairly complex and elaborate scheme that kept me tossing and turning most of the night.
In my dream, I was going to a huge concert with my girlfriend, the Canadian and a bunch of his friends. We were supposed to meet up at his apartment, but it was hard for me to get to him because there were security guards and barricades up everywhere. Once I finally got to his place, we barely had a chance to speak because there were so many other people around. Everyone started splitting up in different directions and he told me to go ahead and he would call me when he got to the concert so we could meet up.
The next thing I remember was weaving in and out of the crowd with my girlfriend holding a phone in my hand and waiting for it to ring. As time passed I started to get anxious that I might not hear from him. Finally I put the phone down on a table and really focused on it. It was in that moment that I realized it was not actually my phone. I must have gotten someone else's by mistake.
Then I started to panic. Here I was at this huge concert with thousands of people and now I had no way to get in touch with the Canadian. We searched around trying to find him and headed back through the barricades to see if he was still at the apartment. Of course, being a dream the apartment had moved to a completely different location and now there were even more people around.
Somehow I managed to find him. He was standing outside surrounded by a bunch of other girls. I slowly walked towards him and everyone else seemed to disappear. The two of us were standing face to face. Finally, it was my chance to talk to him. Then I woke up.
Everyone says that life is too short, but I look at it the opposite way. Life is long. Too long to spend day after day filled with doubt or regret. Instead of struggling with it, I decided to send him another note.
I thought about what I really wanted to say to him. I didn't want to write paragraphs about what happened and asking why he never called me. I just wanted to know if he was doing ok and if he ever thought about me. So I typed my two little questions into an e-mail and hit the send button before I could change my mind. I wasn't sure if I would hear back from him, but I felt better just getting my thoughts out into space.
When I woke up on Wednesday morning, the message light was blinking on my Blackberry. I opened it up to see that the Canadian had sent me a message. In the subject line was the word 'often.' And then it said:
Hey I do think of you often and if my life wasn't such a mess it would be different. I can barely do my football and its starting to show. I wish it was different. I will always be thinking of you, you have always been a brite spot in my life.
Reading his note gave me a sense of inner peace. It confirmed everything I had hoped he was thinking, but I could not let myself believe until I heard it from him.
There are probably a lot of people out there who think I am crazy for feeling this way. Here is a guy who has loved me for close to 20 years and yet he can't make the effort to do whatever it takes to be with me. Shouldn't I be angry with him for just giving up? Why isn't he fighting harder for me? For us?
I believe that when you truly love someone, you accept all things about them. And I know the Canadian inside and out. He and I are not a casual thing. With us, it has always been an all or nothing proposition. And with his current situation, he knew that he could not offer me forever so he had to choose the only other alternative and walk away. Thinking about me is the best he can do. And for me that is enough.
My mom once told me that I tuck my past relationships away, like butterflies in boxes. She said that I am not able to be with the person, but I am not ready to give them up either. So I put them away on a shelf. It's funny, because I do have a bunch of boxes on shelves in my basement. But they are filled with books, pictures, letters and old tax returns.
I have always held onto that mental image of placing something in a box, tying it up with a bow and putting it away in a special place. And I think my Mom was right. I tend to do that with all of my significant relationships. If I thought enough of someone to give my heart to them, they must have intrinsic value as a person. And all of those special qualities don't just disappear because things didn't work out.
My relationships don't exist in a vacuum, they are part of a continuum. On some level, I look to the next relationship to solve the unfinished business from the ones that came before it.
When I was dating my Mr. Big, I remember spending an entire Saturday afternoon going through letters and e-mails from those boxes in my basement and re-living the history of my past loves. Then I called my Mr. Big to tell him that I could see how everything I went through with the other boyfriends prepared me to be with him. Back then I thought that he was the One, but life had other plans for us.
And now I am with the Boy. The first time I started dating the Boy, I was on a rebound from losing my Mr. Big. And this time around, I will admit that it started because I needed someone to lean on after all of the disappointment and frustration with the Canadian.
But I have noticed in these past few months that my relationship with the Boy is changing. Rather than being a distraction in my life, he is turning into a destination. I am not just running away from everything else, I actually find myself running towards him.
As usual, I had a horrible day at work on Friday. I ended up working until about 8:00 at night and all I could think about was getting to the Boy's house and curling up in his bed. When I got there, he was waiting with food, wine and open arms. We were talking about how we have come to rely on each other for support and how nice it is to have someone you can talk to about anything.
"It is starting to feel like we are in a real relationship," I told him last night. "Don't worry," he assured me. "I won't tell anyone if you won't."
Back to my Mom's theory about the butterflies in boxes. I think the butterflies in boxes actually exist in my heart and not on a shelf. Each time I truly love someone, I carve out a little place in my heart for them. That spot belongs to them forever and I visit them often.
I will always love the Canadian. I still think about him almost every day. We have a shared history and an understanding between us that will never go away. But while he is over there thinking about being with me, the Boy is lying right here next to me. And each day, he shows me that he will do whatever it takes to make me happy.
Thinking about the people from your past doesn't have to hold you back. Sometimes you need to visit the past to see your future more clearly.