One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is that we have a hard time letting go of things, not because we’re attached to the specific thing we need to let go of, but because we’re attached to the dreams we associate with it. Maybe that doesn’t make any sense, so I’ll clarify what I mean. (Of course, if I didn’t this blog post would be awfully short, which would be totally unlike me!)
There are very few things I actually give up on in my life. Most things just get put by the wayside until such time as I can pick up where I left off, and it’s usually because I’ve simply got too many other things on my plate. However, when it comes to anything having to do with people and relationships you simply can’t do that. They don’t wait around for you to ‘get back to them’ usually. Well, some do, but that’s usually a sign of obsession or desperation, so it’s probably not a good thing.
When it comes to those human relationships, though, as hard as they can be to walk away from, it’s usually not the relationship itself that people are afraid to leave behind. In fact, if you’re considering walking away it’s because the relationship is something you want to let go of. What makes it hard is the dream you might have had about what it could have, or should have, been. The dream where you get happily ever after, of course. This doesn’t apply only to romantic relationships. I have friends I had a very hard time walking away from because we used to joke around about how we’d end up sitting on a porch together as a couple of old ladies. We’d be the crotchety kind of old ladies, of course, like that comic strip character, Maxine.
Of course, romance plays a part – how could it not? I’ve been married three times. (Yes, three, get over it. I had to.) I know what it’s like to fall in love and get married, or even to sometimes fall in love and not get married, and having a problem letting go when it was all over. No, I’m not holding onto anyone from my past – that’s not what I’m talking about at all. I’m talking more about making the decision while you’re still in the situation.
The reason this is in my head right now is that a friend of mine is going through this sort of struggle right now. It’s a high school sweetheart kind of thing, with a reconciliation thrown in to add to the twist. When you’re a teenager the dream is heightened even further. At that age you’re so susceptible to the romance of it all. You want true love and happily-ever-after. You want to be swept off your feet. Okay, well maybe you never really stop wanting those things to some extent, but you certainly stop expecting them once you’ve gone through the things that I have. Hell, I’ll probably be surprised if anyone ever calls me their girlfriend again, never mind the happily-ever-after stuff.
Now, imagine you’re with someone you’ve always considered to be your soul-mate. That’s a dream in and of itself, and if the relationship gets bad you start to feel disillusioned. You’ve been betrayed by your dreams. Not that my friend’s situation is exactly this way. I only brought it up as an example of why my head is in that place. Now, as human beings we struggle to find hope in things usually. So, our hope that we weren’t misled tends to keep the dream alive for far longer than it should be sometimes.
It works the same way when we’re looking at new relationships, too. We see the potential in someone, so we have a dream based on their potential, rather than the reality. Eventually we see the reality of the person, unless we willfully blind ourselves to the truth. The rose-coloured glasses come off, and we’re faced with a decision – do we choose to love the person for who they really are, do we pretend they’re who we think they are, or do we walk away because they’re not who we thought they were? In all cases it’s a matter of holding onto a dream, or simply letting it go, whether you retain the relationship or not.
From my experience it’s best to rip off the rose-coloured glasses, and make the decision based on the reality of the person. If we can let go of a dream about a person, we just might find that the reality is far better for us than the dream itself. When it comes to the ending of a relationship you’ve had for a long time, though, the dream of growing old with someone (and knowing that they have your back) is not an easy dream to let slip through your fingers. You keep hoping you can get it back. You convince yourself over and over that it’s worth fighting for, and sometimes it is. Sometimes you can get past the hard parts and hold onto the dream of forever.
The dream of what could be has always been what’s kept me holding on when it was time to let go. There is a certain comfort in even being able to have that dream, that hope. You can look at your future as something that might very well be great. When you take away the dreams and the hopes, what is there to look forward to? Then again, I still find it better to deal with reality, no matter how enticing the dream might be. I prefer to know the truth of a situation, and I’m usually pretty good at determining what that truth it. It doesn’t make it any easier to walk away sometimes, but it lets you know that you have to.
The last time I had to let go of a dream it was pretty devastating for me, because I felt like all my hope was gone. These days I know it hasn’t, but it took me a long time to get there. I can let go of dreams and still know that there’s hope for new ones, different ones. I’ve also discovered that I actually want the dreams, no matter how they turn out. I’ve discovered that I’m looking for something more for my life than what I thought I was, and I’m not willing to settle for less. I guess that means I’m not actually able to let go of that particular dream, after all – I’m just changing where I’m going with it!
*In case you were wondering, the title of this blog post partially comes from the song “Just a Dream” by Nelly. It keeps getting stuck in my head.