A few weeks ago, I was approaching that old familiar, uncomfortable territory of change. My post-graduate summer internship with a non-profit organization was coming to an end, and I was preparing to return to my part-time behavioral health position. My hope was to keep my old job with minimal commitment until the end of the summer in the hopes that one of my recent interviews would result in a more permanent full-time position. I felt like my life was up in the air, and I was very frustrated that eight months of job searching had not yielded my desired result. I kept reminding myself not to give up hope and trust that things would just work themselves out, just as they have in the my recent past. For the past six years, I feel I have continued to cycle back to a place of total uncertainty and nearing the breaking point when suddenly something popped into the picture at just the right time. So, I was at this place yet again while being accompanied by additional raised emotional turmoil. I recognized these feelings of distress and I was waiting for myself to become aware of the root cause. Sometimes it is awoken by a sensation, a song or an epiphany. This time it was a moment strolling down a sidewalk.
My parents, sister and her boyfriend were in town visiting me. We enjoyed some of the art scene, downtown and paths along the river. My family wanted to enjoy some good Italian food, after all I have been living in Pittsburgh's Little Italy. The restaurant I figured that would be most reasonably priced while also having great food also happens to have a bar that my ex-boyfriend frequents. I was hesitant and I had not stepped inside the establishment since the break-up. But my family really wanted to go. There are two doors, one in the front and one on the side. So, I figured we could use the side entrance and if he was there, he would be in the front and probably would hardly notice each other. What were the chances? Strangely, we had not run into each other living a few blocks apart for nearly seven months.
So, who did I see walking up the sidewalk at the exact same time as me? RJ. He was about to turn to enter the front entrance and I was about to step in the side door. Had either one left seconds earlier or later, we would not have met at that moment. All of the other scenarios that could have prevented this moment ran through my head. If only...if only we went there first instead of the beer emporium, if only I kept my shoes on when running back into the house, if only I had not paused to run back to recheck that I had locked my back door...if only. Really? Really? Did I really have to run into him at that exact moment? This is precisely what I had been avoiding because I didn't know how I would react or feel.
I felt like time and movement slowed as the air in my lungs seemed nonexistent. Then quickly, I became aware and took a deep breath. He seemed to experience similar surprise, shot a hand up and waved from a distance. I waved back. And as time seemed to resume to life speed, we continued along our separate paths into the restaurant. It all happened within seconds, but seamless.
Later, I saw a text from RJ. He said he was sorry because he wasn't sure how to handle the situation. He wanted to say hello, but also did not want to make an awkward scene. I texted saying I wasn't sure what to do either. I felt his wave was appropriate and if he had come to say hello, that would have been fine.
The day after an encounter with RJ usually results in unsettling feelings, like aftershocks from an earthquake. It is because it hurts to see him knowing that he doesn't want me in his life in the way I had once hoped. While on some distant levels I miss him, I've done a lot to move forward. I have accepted that we are not to be together and it is best to move on. I realized that all of the recent inner turmoil was the emotional work of letting go of the dreams I had with him. The loss is the hope of moving into a house together like we started to talk about before I left for my summer internship in Columbus last year. The loss is the hope of marrying RJ. He was a man that I loved so deeply after all that I had been through with my ex-husband. It was an experience that was almost unimmaginable, but it felt so right. Where did it all go? And had life continued along that other dreamed road, at this point this summer we would have been in that house, free from my grad school commitments to have more freedom in our life choices and planning our next adventure.
It is a double-edge sword. The losses are sad. I do not want a relationship with RJ anymore. But from previous experience, this experience of the loss of the dream just means that I am almost at the end. It is the last major hurdle in processing the end of our relationship. And soon I will be more free, more complete and capable of deciding if I am ready to give of my heart again. The strength is rebuilding and I am on my way.
A few more songs. However, I've never really been one to say that I'll close myself off to love. But I will be stronger and hopefully smarter.
Of course, that is not the end of the story as life is not stagnet and continues to roll along. About a week later, RJ and I were talking on the phone about an unrelated matter. He brought up the chance meeting and shared that he was bothered about if he handled things well for several days after. What does it mean? So, I'm not the only one who feels those residual ripples. I guess what I take from it is that what RJ and I shared was special and meaningful. It is a very different experience from my prior long-term relationship in that at least RJ values the time we spent together to some degree and that he respects me as a person in some way. It has softened my heart in understanding how some people may actually be able to have reasonable conversations or friendships after the romantic relationship has ended.