We have dear friends who are thinking about moving away, and it breaks my heart.
I had a friend in Los Angeles who had to deal with this often. Eventually she decided to only make friends who planned to stay in L.A. for the long haul. Too many friends – couples who she’d known as singles, whose weddings she’d attended, whose children she had seen born – moved away over the span of a few years and it was too much to bear. She couldn’t keep her heart open for just anyone new – and there is always someone new in L.A. She had to be selective, to protect herself. I knew it must be hard, but as one of the people who was planning to leave I didn’t really know how it felt. We had a going away party when we first decided to move back to Kansas, and announced at said party that we would, in fact, be staying for a while longer as Marc was going to shoot a documentary. A year later we had our second annual going away party. This time we actually moved. It was a long-time coming, and for me a mostly exciting change. I was the one leaving. Not being left.
But now I’m feeling the impact of being left behind. I planned on raising my kids with these friends, taking family vacations together, being able to say “remember when” with them every year of our grown-up lives. And now they will be packing up their things and the irreplaceable spot they have in my heart and driving away.
In his soaring song Land of the Living, about dealing with the death of his father, Matthew Perryman Jones sings “You cannot love in moderation/ You’re dancing with a dead man’s bones/ Lay your soul on the threshing floor.”
I agree. That’s the problem. To love someone you have to give your whole heart, and take the risk of having it ripped away. It doesn’t matter what sort of love you’re dealing with – romantic, friend-friend, parent-child, person-dog (actually that one’s a little easier) – for it to be real, you have to be vulnerable and raw.
C.S. Lewis writes about this in The Four Loves
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly
broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an
animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it
up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless,
airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable,
So awfully and wonderfully true.
I tried the casket route for a few years. When my mom was sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I decided not to feel. I would be strong and keep the sadness at bay. That didn’t work at all – it only produced anger, which is itself a feeling, and a terrible one to have. Even a broken heart is better than anger, because it’s a release. It’s not bottling up, or stuffing in, or avoiding. It’s cathartic, and real, and necessary. I don’t know when the tears broke through, but I remember they did. All of a sudden, after years of very little crying, I let it out. And out, and out. And it made all the difference. It made me a better daughter, a better friend, and eventually able to be vulnerable enough to fall in love.
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the friar cautions the young lovers “Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so. Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.” He is trying to save them from their passion. To temper their lust and love into something that will last. His words are wise, but as we see in the rest of the play, even if it comes to a tragic end, loving fully, passionately involves abandon of the heart at some point. In my love for my husband, my kids, and my friends, I choose to give the whole bloody thing over to them, because I want to be real. I don’t want a hard heart, even if it saves me pain.
So I’ve given my heart to my friends who may leave, and if they do they’ll take it right along with them. I know it will hurt. It will sting and throb and there will be no medicine to help. I could cut them off now, as with a tourniquet, to stop the blood-letting. But that would cut off the joy too. It would hurt them. My friend in L.A. didn’t cut me off before I left. She let it hurt. She was real. And we are still friends. That is what I will hope for as I watch their car turn the corner, away from me, if and when it goes. I will choose that over feeling nothing. Take the risk and let the pain come. And cry, and cry and cry.