Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Letting Go of the Past

Having consumed two bottles of wine, I feel that I can finally write this post.

I've never written a blog post while under the influence of alcohol. I have developed a slight buzz from some high-alcoholic beer while conducting a review, and I admit that some of the chapters of Songsaengnim were composed with a few Manhattans under my belt, but I've never needed to use booze to share some feelings on The Brown Knowser. Until tonight.

For those of you who are coming to my blog for the first time, this post may seem déclassé: me, outing somebody publicly. For even some of my long-time readers, this post may sound harsh. But The Brown Knowser is a place where I feel I can air my feelings, vent my frustrations. Open my heart and soul and bare myself. Can I?

How's my spelling? Grammar okay?

Stephen Page, in his early days of the Barenaked Ladies, once sang: If there's someone you can live without, then do so. Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to make a lot of friends. These friends have gone on to live their various lives, and I have wished them well. Many I have lost track of, but if I were to run into them tomorrow, I would enjoy sitting down with them and catching up on lost time.

Some of those long-lost friends—many of them, I should think—would chat with me and it would seem as though no time had been lost: we would pick up where we left off.

I am lucky in that many of my elementary-school friends and I still keep in touch. I have friends that I am close to from high school and college. And there are some who I still see from my early adult years.

To me, when I make friends, I keep them.

In my life, there are only three people that I can think of, with whom I've had a falling out. One friend, I had known since college. We had had a misunderstanding when he was about to start a job in Toronto. For years, we didn't keep in touch. It was, perhaps, as many as 10 years.

When I learned that he had moved back to Ottawa, I reached out, and he readily agreed to meet. When we did, it was as though time had never elapsed: we picked up exactly where we left off and still maintain that friendship.

Another friend, one with whom I had known since the fourth grade, and I had had a falling out after more than 12 years of being best friends. Some of those years, we were inseparable. But a woman got in the way, things got ugly, and like that, we were no longer on speaking terms.

That incident tore me up, and it took me a long time to recover from that falling out. For more than 17 years, we didn't speak.

And then he reached out, not knowing if I would tell him to go to Hell or would try to make amends. We met, in a pub, knowing almost nothing of each other. It was like the last 17 years never happened. We're close friends, once again.

The only time I fell out with a friend and did not try to patch things up happened more than 11 years ago. I won't get into the details. That friendship was one, when I think about it, that shouldn't have happened in the first place. We weren't right for each other. Both of us were bad influences on each other, but in the end, I came to realize this person was not the type of person that I really wanted as a friend.

With that person, there will be no reconciliation. I won't ever reach out: I won't ever respond to any contact. We're done.

But what is killing me is that last week, I came to the realization that one of my oldest, dearest friends and I have come to a point in our lives where we have grown into two individuals who have differing views on life and have taken paths that come nowhere near each other.

We were elementary-school classmates who didn't come together until a classroom bully brought us together on the playground at recess. And even though we became friends on that day, our lives only intersected briefly during the remaining years in elementary school.

We didn't become fast friends until high school, and even then we only got together in a gang of four or five, or sometimes six, at a time. It wasn't until the university years that we really bonded and would hang out one-on-one.

This person is like family: first, he was like a distant cousin, and then like a close cousin. Eventually, he was like a brother. He was an integral part of my wedding; he saw the birth of my daughters. I have crossed the Atlantic to visit him.

We have differed in opinions and have argued on countless issues. But recently, in my last two visits with him, I came to the realization that if I had met him for the first time on those visits, I would not have wanted to be friends. The last time I saw him, I couldn't wait for the evening to end, couldn't wait for him to return home.

And that realization broke my heart.

All of my friends who have known me for years and are reading this post know who I am talking about. Many of these friends will be shocked that I'm being so open.

Believe me: I've toiled over this issue for a few days. I tried talking to this friend about my frustrations with his critical attitude over things for which I hold dear. He either spoke over me or appeared dismissive.

I'm not worried that my friend in question will read this post: he's never read a thing I've written, has turned down every opportunity. I can only guess by the way he brushed aside any mention I've made about my blog and novel that reading it is beneath him.

I may be wrong, but that's how he made me feel to believe the other week.

As Stephen Page sang: If there's someone you can live without, then do so.

When I last saw my friend of more than 40 years, I thought that I never wanted to see him again. Now, as I sit and write this post, my mind hasn't changed. Perhaps, in time, I can let these feelings go, remember the good times, not see him as the pessimistic, self-righteous asshole that he displayed.

Maybe, just maybe, he'll read this post. He'll either be outraged and never speak to me again. The way I currently feel, in my saddened and alcohol-induced state, that would be the easiest way out. Maybe it would invite him to contact me and talk about it. And from there, we would maybe move forward.

Right now, I'm content to just let him return home, to let go of the past. To think of the many friends that I still have and whose company I cherish.

To move forward.


  1. Ross this is a very powerful post. I am in the same position with one of my friends. It is hard to admit that we have these situations, but it is better to let go and move on and that is what I have to do. This post will give me the courage to do so. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your kind words and your encouraging support, Susan. Sometimes, in order to grow the way we want, we must give up what helped shape us in the past. Those who don't help us grow become an anchor of resentment.

      Good luck in your journey forward.

  2. I like it Ross. In vino veritus.

  3. I admire your honesty and integrity. Wonderful qualities. I had a similar situation about 7 years ago but I am sad to say that I was on the other end. I learned a lot about myself when my friend ended our 30 year friendship. I became a better friend to others (I hope) and learned to forgive myself for my behaviour (some of which I have since learned was the result of an undiagnosed mental illness) and to take responsibility for my part in the dissolution of a friendship that I had imagined would be lifelong. All this to say, that you may have unknowingly helped your friend learn some important life lessons.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Valerie. Such experiences, although painful, can teach us a lot about life.