Sure, If You Love Something, Set It Free…but Do You Wait for It to Come Back?

There was a reason for that smile–I had pretty plans to meet someone special the next day for a conversation.  Instead, the next day’s conversation sent me into a tailspin of re-evalutating my closest relationships.

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I’ve always hated Jonathon Livingston Seagull.  Irrational, I know, but the Richard Bach book came out around the time I was in the fourth grade, and I remember my teacher reading it to the class and gently (she thought) drilling into us that “If you love something, set it free:  if it comes back to you, it’s yours…if it doesn’t, it never was.”  I hated that quote.  Hated it.

I grew up on a farm with lots of little birds with broken wings that I nursed back to health, and I knew that as soon as I set them free, they would migrate elsewhere and I’d never see them again.  I might wait Spring after Spring to see if they would return, but few ever did.  There was an exception of a hummingbird and a bluebird I saw for a few seasons after I’d held them in my hands and fed them, but by and large, the birds I set free soared far away from me.  And for as much as I loved that moment when they found their flight again, it always saddened me that they never returned.

I never had any problem setting birds free.  Men either.  I don’t like the idea that a man is with me only because I require him to be or a piece of paper requires it or raising a child requires it.   I have always prided myself on giving both a lot of freedom and a lot of loving support in my relationships.  No, for me, the issue has always been more  to the tune of “If you love someone, set him free and wait for him to return.”  That’s generally a no-no when it comes to the Law of Attraction because there’s no surer way to focus on the lack of someone’s presence than to keep thinking of how you’re waiting on them to come back. 

I’m good at waiting, though.  My mom would probably disagree, but I learned that as a child and have never unlearned it.  I’m actually great at waiting.  Fantastic.  I would have made a fine soldier’s wife in the mid-1800’s or maybe even in Roman times when men went off to battle for years and you never knew when or if or under what conditions they would return home.  I’m sure my faith in a man’s promise to return could have rivaled my ancestor who positioned her cooking table toward the window so she could always look up and see if her husband was returning from the Civil War he’d gone off to years before.  (He did return but died 11 days later, so at least she had that.)   So somehow in my mind, I’ve always felt that if you loved someone, you waited for them.

And heaven knows, there’s plenty to wait for, even under the best of circumstances  that don’t include wars, amputation, or death.  People are always going through transitions and transformations and need time to get a firm footing before they can commit to the next step. Many of those times, you want them to have a firm footing instead of making a rash decision that will fall apart immediately.   I’ve been going through my own transition for the past year, as far as my relationship needs.  I think I realized that when I discovered that the second guy in a row was making wedding plans with someone else…who didn’t know about me.  Until that point, the man I loved would ask me to wait for him and make all sorts of promises, and I would wait–because I don’t bail when I love someone…and I had a long marriage to offer as proof of that.

 But at what point do you no longer wait?  And especially when the other person has been selfless enough to pointedly not ask you to wait for him to work through major decisions in his life? 

It’s funny looking back now because this man, an old friend I’d known for my entire professional life  but not one I knew that well personally, re-emerged in my life about the time I realized that my relationship needs had changed.  I needed someone much deeper on the emotional scale, much–how else can I possibly say it?–more intelligent,  more gentlemanly and caring,  more ethics and integrity, even a little more…old-fashioned and sweet and romantic.  The man I’d been seeing for the previous year had met my relationship needs early on but wasn’t anymore, and that all came to a head when I discovered some illegal and unethical behavior on his part.  I dropped  him and never looked back.  It was remarkably easy, probably because he so obviously no longer met my needs.

But I did continue to talk to my old friend here and there, and think nothing of it.  It was a bit of a thrill to discover how much we didn’t know about each other,  how awfully much we had in common, how we seemed to reflect each other’s deepest dreams.  It was easy to spend five hours a day in deep conversation, and yet it wasn’t nearly enough to satiate either of us.  Trust evolved quickly as we discovered a world beneath the surface of the person we’d always just known and admired but never really got to know.  He was a gift from the Gods, a sudden answer to my list of “here’s exactly what I want in a man, even if he’s not 23 and an underwear model.”   

I admit I stopped blogging as frequently because by the time I sat down to write out my insights and viewpoints, all I could do was sigh–I’d already expressed them all and worked through them all with him.  Instead of writing long essays on my world and publishing them to my journals, I wrote long letters to him, shining bright lights on things I’d kept in the dark and receiving his warm, gentle support as he helped me work through some festering old wounds.   I was able to say goodbye to some things I’d held onto for way too long.   

I have some awe-filled new opportunities happening in my life now, and they are largely because of the emotional support, affection, and unrelenting encouragement he has given me on every front for the last few months that pretty much no one else in my life has known about because they would not approve of our friendship.  I was the first person he told when he received devastating news, and his was the only embrace I could find solace in when my doctor, who was wrong, told me he suspected thyroid cancer.   Our relationship has left me alternating between absolutely soaring and feeling as if I just got struck by lightning, sometimes both at once.

And then suddenly he was no longer just a guy I’d known for forever.  He was a close friend.  And then he was my best friend.  And then I was madly in love with him and never saw it coming.  I can’t even say when the shift happened, except that it was a lot earlier than we’d realized. 

So my feelings for him  are on the table.  They have been for quite some time, though not known  to the general public. It’s surprising to me, but it’s the deepest emotional relationship I’ve ever had, one of complete trust and faith in the other,  and probably the one with more promise and joy-potential than any I have ever come within 10 feet of.  But I’m still going through my latest big transition, and I’m so, so, so close….almost done.  And he’s not.  He still has critical decisions to make about his life  and where he’s going with it.  That’s true of many people, but at least he’s aware of it where others are not.  He is now in territory I’m familiar with, and I didn’t pass through it quickly. 

So why is it for the first time in my life that I love someone and I feel I can no longer wait for the other person to get through their transition?  Why do I feel now, where I never have before, that I just can’t wait any longer for him to be at the same point I am?  Even though I have faith in him that he will transform himself in the wonderful ways he wants to, and very soon because I’m seeing the small changes the precede the big ones? 

Maybe it’s because the other men I waited so long for never made it through their transitions, and my biggest fear is that  this one won’t either.