When Friends Become Strangers

It’s strange that people who used to know each other so well can become total strangers. That’s weird, isn’t it?

We spend hours and hours together, making each other laugh, drying each other’s tears, sharing the burden of boredom and waiting. Finding meaning together, letting go of trivialities together. And then, well, we’re not together anymore. Familiarity or circumstances cause us to drift apart.

Sometimes we try to keep it going, but it takes and equal effort. One person can’t carry a whole relationship. If you try, what you’re carrying becomes a one-sided dream. It’s only a matter of time before the other person wakes us up, pops that little bubble world we’ve created, points at that lifeless sketch we’ve drawn of them, saying, “That’s not me! This is me, now.”

Who are you? We might ask. Who is this person?

And then that’s that, it’s over. No more illusions of being a unit, a team. It’s OK as long as we don’t look back. Looking back, peace of mind is whisked away like Eurydice’s shade yanked back into the Underworld. Looking back helps to keep relationships alive, but only when everyone involved is looking back. If it’s only one, then we stand like Orpheus at the mouth of the cave, longing and alone. It’s not Eurydice that was sucked back into the Underworld, but the past. And it wasn’t Hades that took her away, it was the future.

We can’t live decent lives if we carry around the delusion that positive thinking and never giving up alone make things right. It doesn’t matter how much effort we put in if the other person isn’t willing to match it; it doesn’t matter how positive we are that we won’t get rained on if there are holes in the roof.

Time owns everything, it gives us everything and takes it all away. Time being dependent arising. All of the things that we usually give God credit for are owed to cause and effect, both directed and undirected. The forces that bring us together, that let us get to know each other, and fall in love are the same ones that pull us apart. It’s beautiful, enthralling, boring, hilarious, and tragic.

Detachment, in a Buddhist sense, isn’t apathy or clinging to solitude. It’s gathering attention, intention, action and perception onto a single ground so that we’re not consumed by the world. The way to do that is to no longer consume the world, but to let it flow unhindered, to admire the flower as it is rather than plucking it in order to keep it for oneself.

That’s the only real difference between a liberated mind and an incarcerated mind: the liberated mind isn’t imprisoned by the need to pluck and keep things. That means it doesn’t suffer the flower’s rapid post-plucking decay.

The second we grasp onto something as ours, it begins to die because we’re only grasping a still image of it. The more the thing we’re grasping onto conflicts with that image, the more we suffer and cause suffering. But if we don’t grasp, if we can just sit with the flower as it is, we can let it change. We can let it grow into something other than itself, eventually back into the soil to help provide nourishment for other flowers.

With this mind set, if someone we love no longer loves us, then they can go on their way. Because if we still love them, but they don’t love us, then we’re loving a version of them that no longer exists. We’re clinging to that wilting flower in a plastic vase, blind to the fresh field that’s growing before our eyes.

Is it OK to mourn the loss of the loved one? There’s no such thing as OK and not OK. Those are just concepts. At the seat of the mind, from the root of the Bodhi Tree, everything flowers. There is sadness, there are tears, but whose are they? Abiding in open space, the self is at rest, but that’s the only thing that is.

Never think that non-attachment will eliminate all sadness, it just makes it into nothing personal. In the end, it’s the same thing.

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