I recently decided to make a list of all of the people in my life who I know truly care about and desire for my happiness. I was amazed by how long the list became, and by the people who I thought to put on it. There are about six people on the list who I trust and know that I can call up any time I am feeling discouraged, spiritually crushed, scared, or uncertain. There are about ten people who I know really value who I am, but whom I would not trust to support me in the times of profound vulnerability. Regardless, they made it onto the list. And, much to my surprise, I found myself listing old friends, ex-lovers, and people who I had lost touch with or whom I had not spoken with for a couple years. I realized that there can be a bond between two people that outlasts circumstance. I can think of over a dozen people in this world who I can imagine wondering about me from time to time, perhaps only once a year, and I somehow know that they desire my success and happiness.
In yoga, there is a practice of metta meditation whereby the meditator chooses one person to dedicate their yoga practice and meditation to. The goal in meditation is to envision this person being completely happy and full of life. Sometimes I would feel puzzled or frightened because upon selecting one person to focus on for my metta practice I would sometimes cognitively land upon someone who I barely knew, someone who I had cut ties or split ways with, or even someone who had at one time or another really hurt me. And I would realize how much I cared.
I suppose I have a confession in the sense that I have a bit of an addiction to reconnecting with old friends and people who had once profoundly influenced me, even if only for a moment. I always like to let people know how much they meant to me and that they are welcome to contact me at any time; that, despite any unfavorable circumstances that led to our parting, I truly value the people in my life, recognize their impact on my development, and like to keep the door open for future interactions.
I also decided to go through a box of old letters I had kept from ex-lovers and friends. I think there is this sense that if a lover exalts your existence while falling in love then it must have been just of the moment. There can be so much bitterness and resentment when a relationship fails or one person ends it. The words said at the end of a relationship can overrule all of the kindness and sincerity of genuine appreciation and admiration that brought two people together in the beginning. Anyhow, I decided to cut out all of the kind words of encouragement and compile a collage of positive reinforcement that I have received over the years from friends, lovers, professors, family, bosses, etc. What I have created in the process is an overwhelming message of positive encouragement.
When I was in college, I met a woman who had this parallel set of significant life moments that matched mine almost identically. She was more like me than anyone I have ever met. It took me awhile to warm up to her because she was the woman who my ex-boyfriend had dated immediately after our relationship. I remember him calling me up and telling me how excited he was that he had met this amazing person, how he thought she was his soul mate, and how he was falling in love. I was so angry with him at the time for having expected that I could just be happy for him that easily. I wish I could have been, though. Anyhow, finally my ex-boyfriend told me that he really felt that I should be friends with Laura because she shared a set of very particularly character-shaping life events with me.
I remember that when Laura and I first really opened up to one another, I told her that I felt like she was my long lost twin sister. We had the same set of vulnerabilities. It went so deep. I didn’t have to confess anything to her, as I had to others, but instead we could share it. We could even laugh about it. Laura and I would spontaneously start laughing in the middle of group conversations over the same subliminal symbols that we would both detect in the same way. We could have a conversation with one another underneath a conversation that we were having with others and no one would get it but us.
I remember Laura once saying that she felt like we were both self-conscious in the same way. I remember at the time that I thought it was an insult, or just a very strange thing to say. I did not like to think of myself as being self-conscious at all, and thus it seemed like a strange thing to share with someone. I think I get it now, though. Her and I watch and observe ourselves and interactions in a very similar way. We pay a lot of attention to how we express ourselves in the world.