It’s an art—learning to love, learning to un-love, and learning to forget.
It would take me three days to finish that letter. Three days. Because I would write a sentence, throw myself under the covers while I let the one line resonate in my head, and proceed to allow my internal organs to twist and pull until I needed to actually fetch for air. And after I finished pouring all my vulnerability onto all the tear-stained pages, I would procrastinate another hour with three-dozen read-overs before I could bring myself to sign, seal, and deliver it—the letter, the key, and three years and nine months worth of friendship and memories.
They say that goodbyes aren’t forever but if we’re honest with ourselves, some goodbyes are forever.
I hope I can come back one day, years from now, and swallow those words whole. But right now, goodbyes are forever. Because that would be the last time I would ever let myself into that house. It would be the last time I would ever walk into that room unattended. And it would be the last time I would perch anything on that pillow, accompanied by an envelope marked beautifully with a name that I had written and spoke so many times before that it was second nature to me.
I remember saying in that letter that I didn’t feel brave enough, that up to that point I didn’t have it in me to write out everything that needed to be said because I knew I would crumble. When he received it, he told me how much he respected me for writing that letter. He told me that it was one of the bravest things I had ever done. At that time, I agreed with him because to me, mustering up all those emotions and pouring them onto white pieces of paper looked a lot like bravery. Now I am absolutely swayed to believe it wasn’t an act of bravery at all. It was hard and necessary, but it wasn’t brave.
The bravest thing I did, was allow myself to begin the process of forgetting.
Except, forgetting didn’t look like scenes from The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I couldn’t gracefully erase my memories with a procedure that left zero remnants of anything or anyone. I couldn’t casually extinct all recollections. Instead, forgetting looked liked retreating under a rock and being okay with that for a while. It looked like locking myself behind closed doors for a couple weeks exculpating every aperture and crevice and drawer and box of every single item that ever meant anything—ripping and trashing journals, cards, photographs, gifts, and adventure paraphernalia. And even though I knew all those things were just material, I needed to start learning to forget somewhere. I began the process from the outside in.
People say that it’s impossible to forget something completely, experiences and emotions specifically. They say you can’t lose memories unless you’re experiencing Alzheimer’s and brain deterioration, or some sort of disease that interferes with brain development. I beg to differ. Because maybe forgetting doesn’t look like a complete supernatural extermination; maybe forgetting looks more like removing yourself from their presence and ushering in an inability to trace each other.
I was afraid of what forgetting would do to me.
Every nightmare I imagined it to be came true. I swam around in a roaring ocean of unknowns, got thrown under by waves out of my control, and drowned a bit (or was strangely close to it because I swallowed a lot of salt water). I had to tear myself away from the safe comfort of certainties in order to feed my craving for truth. And the truth was that it was a slow and wearied surrender, and I had to learn to forget. I had to dig so deep and get so uncomfortable. But I knew I was on the right road to forgetting when I was standing in the same room and didn’t know a damn thing because detachment was in full effect. And that, for me, was progress.
The thing is: Nothing good ever results from being overly comfortable. Learning to love is uncomfortable. Learning to un-love and forget is equally as uncomfortable.
We were on our way back from Downtown Los Angeles, sitting in traffic, when she asked me why it was so difficult for me to be vulnerable. I hadn’t told her much of anything. In fact, it was our first time ever hanging out for real. But in her boldness, this girl was not afraid to call me out on the walls I’ve spent years building.
The truth is that I am awful at letting people in. Because when you let a person in, you give them the clearance to either bind or break you.
She asked me all the questions, and then asked me if I had surprised myself. I looked at her with pure confusion. She said, “You let someone in. I am proud of you. Did you ever think you were capable of loving so wide and deep, and have as much patience and grace as you did?”
“I guess I did surprise myself, because I had to learn how to love. It was uncomfortable. Now I have to learn to forget and un-love, and that too, is uncomfortable. And all that, I guess, is an art—the art of learning to love, learning to un-love, and learning to forget.”