Years ago, I was running through Golden Gate Park alone. It was a really sunny, beautiful Friday afternoon and I was trying to beat the San Francisco fog that enveloped my part of the city daily. I was also in a rush because I had a second date that night I was really excited about. I was thinking about what I was going to wear and where we were going to eat. I was feeling really good.
I didn’t have my contacts in, but suddenly my peripheral vision registered my ex down the road. I knew that body and how it moved almost better than I knew my own. I paused and leaned against a nearby tree, pretending to stretch. They were running across the street in the opposite direction, going fast like me and looking like they were feeling equally as good; great, even.
After a few seconds, they passed by and I slowly peeled myself off the tree and made my way home. My walk turned into a run and then my run turned into a sprint. As I got closer to my apartment, I skipped my normal five-minute stretch in the lobby and bounded up the stairs. I called out to my roommate to see if I was alone (I was), and then went in my room, closed the door and leaned against it. After a few minutes of trying to catch my breath, my breathing turned into crying.
For so long, without even fully realizing it, I had been telling myself in my head that my mourning period was over. I was over this person. There was no reason to be sad anymore. I was done with my stages of grief, wasn’t I? But in that moment, I lay down on the floor, fully sprawled in sweaty running gear, and just let myself cry. I cried about all the little memories that had popped up over the last several months when I hadn’t let myself grieve. I cried because it was really over. I cried because we were strangers.
I mostly cried because I was happy, something I had initially thought impossible without this person. I cried because I had just seen someone, a person who used to be my best friend, live their life without me (and me without them). And we were both doing really well — well enough, in fact, that we were both sprinting happily through the very same park. And I no longer wanted anything to do with that person, that life. I had no desire to chase after them.
That’s what it feels like when you’re really over someone. Perhaps the opposite of love isn’t indifference, full stop. Perhaps the opposite of love is the sadness you feel in realizing you’re thoroughly OK with letting them pass you by.
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Also on Mend: How Breakups Change As You Get Older.
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