One Last Goodbye To The Man I Thought I Would Marry

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man and woman walking away on cobblestones

An open letter to a dear, old friend who no longer is in my life: 

How I’ve missed you over the past couple of years. While “they” say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, I’m finding that your absence has made my heart grow colder.

And, as the embers of fondness and love die, I often remember what I so enjoyed about you.

I loved the way that you listened to me. You listened so carefully and attentively, as though you were intent on getting every spoken and unspoken word.

Nobody else in the world has ever listened to me that way. I so miss your undivided attention.

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I loved how open you were with your own discomfort and how able to laugh at yourself you were.

The grace that you offered to me, you offered to yourself as well. You were as at ease with yourself and your human foibles as you were with me and mine.

I so miss your gracefulness with the everyday upset and confusion of being human.

I loved how you were confident of your own physical being — turning up fully prepared to meet me, under uncomfortable, damp and rainy circumstances. I noticed your sneakers didn’t have shoelaces and that didn’t matter to me — I thought it was kind of cute.

What did matter to me is that you were comfortable wearing shoelace-less sneakers and misstepping into puddles. I so miss the fullness of your presence.

I loved hearing your stories and appreciated the openness with which you told them, whatever the hour. You expressed regret when you called at dawn. I meant it when I said that you could call as early as you wanted or needed to (my dog’s “early to bed, early to rise” schedule was more reliable than yours).

I was entranced by your stories of what you had experienced. I so miss your voice, stories, and compassionate living.

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I miss how you made me feel about myself.

I loved who I was when I was with you. I think that is what I miss the most — how easy and open and free I was in your presence. In your presence, I really enjoyed my company and that was a complete gift.

And, despite all I love about you, doubts and worries linger.

I wonder what your current fears are.

Might you worry that I’m going to discover that you’re a complete jerk? For what it’s worth, I assure you that you can set aside that fear without additional thought. I already know that you can be a complete bastard in large ways and small — geez, I’m writing this heartfelt essay to a ghost I adore in passing.

Given my experience over the past couple of years, I’m still willing to establish an ongoing relationship with you, should you reliably turn up in my life.

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Your influence lingers even now.

Are you concerned that I might say you’re wrong about something? Well, I will do that. Guaranteed. I do that with everybody.

And my experience of “everybody” is that everybody corrects everybody else. Offering our version of “truth” is something that human beings are hardwired to do and we can’t help it.

What I can promise is that I will fully and intently listen before I consider offering a different approach.

Right now, in your absence, I’m confronted by what pains me about you.

First among these is your devotion to your work. I think your willingness to take care of your clients is admirable and I respect your devotion to providing the world’s best customer service, however demanding and uncompromising your clients may be.

Admirable that you’re willing to serve them. But, in my opinion, your clients are vampires, sucking the life out of you, while, at the same time, you willingly open your collar to them.

I see you offering your life to strangers with whom you have transactional relationships. I get that some of these transactional relationships may endure over years (or decades) and that, in the time you spend with these clients, you enjoy their company as much as they enjoy yours.

And I ask, how many of them have listened to you in the way that you listen to them? Were I a gambler, my money would be on “very few.”

Going further, how many listen to you in the way that I listen to you? My poker bet is “I’m that single listener. All in. Show your hands.” 

Your reward is the satisfaction of a job well done with a few laughs along the way. Once done, you move on to the next job and the satisfaction you get from that. The cycle seems endless and unrewarding to me.

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I know I turned up in your life as a transactional stranger.

Thank you for taking care of me at that time. I felt loved, secure, heard, and taken care of. I felt we had a connection beyond our shared transaction. I believe you felt the same. And, sadly, I am not one of the people in your everyday life. Time spent with me has less value than time spent taking care of transactional strangers.

I see you killing yourself — literally working 24/7 if I include those sleeping pills with which you knock yourself out every night.

Up at dawn (maybe earlier), manage overdue paperwork, meet clients during the day, come back to the office and handle paperwork or upcoming schedule, perhaps dinner with colleagues (or leftovers standing in the kitchen), a sleeping pill. Boom. Tomorrow. More of the same. This isn’t a life worth living if you want my unsolicited opinion.

Given the length of time that you’ve been working non-stop and that your sisters are as fed up with your schedule as I am; given your absence and unavailability; given that you haven’t reached a quiet point from which to relax and reach out, I’m so very heartbroken for you and your life.

I don’t know if you’re running to or from something. I can see only that you haven’t reached a resolution.

I wish you the best of luck. You’re a good man and I fully believe your heart is golden. I only wish that we had been able to develop and sustain a fuller, loving relationship. It makes me sad that, going forward, I’ll miss you until I don’t.

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Susan Kulakowski, MBA/MS, is a writer with a focus on making personal development courses available for children and their families. More information is available via The Relationship Mastery Institute.