The Past isn’t just the Past
It can come back and bite hard as we learn and grow

The Past isn’t just the Past
It can come back and bite hard as we learn and grow

It’s those one of those moments I’ll never forget. Walking into my home one evening, she was sitting at my computer. The room was dark and the light from my messenger account open on the computer screen coloured her face. That face looked back at me, visible surprise and pain mixed and palpable. My own face wore disbelief and a subtle anger.

At the time I thought I handled the situation well. I asked her calmly why she was there, I asked her to give her keys back to me as I could no longer trust her with them, and finally, I asked her to take responsibility by personally messaging the people on the other end of my conversations to let them know she had invaded their privacy. I was angry at her for invading my privacy and felt she needed to take responsibility.

Anger and resentment harboured within me as felt I had not been treated well during that relationship. I had moved on as well as any person possibly could. With little sadness, guilt, or regret. In fact,I left with an overwhelming relief that it was over and an excitement for the future. I was finally free of what I’d come to see as a burden and could do whatever the fuck I wanted. I felt awesome!

And, it was awesome. The next two years of my life were packed with tons of amazing experiences and growth. I got out there, challenged life, walked tall, overcame fears, followed passions, and loved pretty much every second of it.

But, of course the good times can’t last forever. One day two and a half years later everything inside of me suddenly and powerfully changed.

All that it took to start the slippery slide downhill was that I broke up with another woman. When I did it, I didn’t think of it as a massive big deal. I’d broken up before, it was always fine afterwards. I had a full life and didn’t really feel I relied on anyone.

Instead of being totally fine, I was devastated. Completely devastated. My emotions overcame me in a way they never had before. Thoughts uncontrollably flew through my mind…. “what was she doing right now?” “Had she met someone new?” “Did she still love me?” “How could she forget about me so fast?” “How could I ever meet someone else like her?” “What was I thinking to break up with her?”

At 36 years old, I cried for what was really the first time in my life. I cried hard, and for days. Anxiety was constantly present and anything that reminded me of her sent me into withdrawal and depression. This went on for months. I craved her, but could no longer have her. Through it all, I just couldn’t understand why I felt this way. Why was I being so weak? Why did I need someone so much? What was wrong with me? Why was this so different?… we’d only been together a year….

I couldn’t fight the urge to message her, call her, talk about her, ask about her, check her Facebook and Instagram constantly… Desperately seeking any sign of what she was doing, who she was with, and how she was feeling. Sadness and loss overtaking and controlling me as I lost control of my ability to focus on anything. I felt depressed, remorseful, afraid, anxious, weak, confused, and embarrassed at having become such a mess in the first place.

That experience in itself was completely unexpected, unwelcome, and utterly devastating. I had expected to simply move on quickly and easily, as I had always done before. 

But, wait, it gets worse. In addition to how bad that that breakup was on my fucked up and apparently now fragile little mind, I also had the sudden overwhelming pain of realizing how much pain my previous ex must have gone through. Of course she had checked my Facebook messages. Of course she had called me in tears. Of course she had been in tremendous pain. She had loved me. And she had lost me. No, I had straight up and coldly abandoned her.

To make it what I can now only imagine as unbearably more difficult for her, I hadn’t really felt I’d lost anything. I had walked away unscathed and totally fine.

My own sense was that I had been kind and supportive throughout the breakup, but I couldn’t understand or empathize with her pain at all. I felt sorry for her, but my thoughts were things like “Why not just see this as a positive?” “Why not just go out and do cool things with your life?” “What’s the point of being so sad about this, when it can be a growth opportunity for both of us?” “Why can’t we still love and respect each other, but just not live and sleep together?”

Years later, I sat and imagined how she must have felt with new eyes. Eyes now able to understand pain. I saw her there, suddenly tossed aside from an amazing life. The one who tossed her overboard being the one she had trusted most in the world. Him just kindly, but coldly watching. Watching from safety and telling her to just figure out how to swim on her own. When she looked up, all she saw was me looking down from the safety of the boat with eyes that were disinterested at best. The one she had loved and and cared about most suddenly didn’t care about her or about her pain at all. He didn’t even recognize it. When she looked down all she saw was the terror of drowning.

The pain that she felt was pain that I now felt. Now, at this moment, years later, I understood her. I felt her pain.

I was devastated that I could have treated such a lovely and sweet and loving person with such careless disregard. Without any understanding or respect or understanding of her feelings. Guilt and shame and sadness overtook me.

It took years, but in the end I learned an important lesson. A lack of understanding breeds anger and resentment within ourselves. I still believe that breaking up had been the correct decision. But, without the growth that I had needed to understand and empathize with my ex, and without addressing it at the appropriate and relevant time, I had allowed a giant bomb of quiet resentment to grow within that just sat quietly waiting to explode in my heart and soul with an explosive mix of understanding, sadness, and shame.

These days, I always try as best I can to empathize and understand others if I feel the tinge of resentment, less I react with anger or action that later kills my soul.