A few weeks ago, I saw someone walking downtown that I haven't seen in years. I didn't have time to stop and talk to him, as much as I wanted to, I was on my way to a friend's house and already running later than I wanted to. I haven't talked to him since before I got married. I don't have a phone number or e-mail address for him anymore. I found a profile for him on Yahoo but it's a couple of years old. But suddenly, I find myself wishing that I'd run into him every time I am in that area.
I am haunted. I've found in my life that when a big life change happens, ghosts from my past - of the way things used to be, of people I used to know and things I used to do - well up from inside me to haunt my thoughts. It makes adjustment hard for me. When I move, I tend to be followed by these thoughts almost to the point of being obsessed.
Sometimes, it's just a distraction. I think about this man I used to know. Why do I think about him in particular? It could be that he was the only guy I have ever dated and had a genuine friendship with. It could be that he made me feel good about myself, that he accepted me for who I was. It could be that we didn't have a serious relationship, but I could see how much he enjoyed spending time with me just as friends. It could be that he made me laugh, or that he was truly happy for me when I started dating the man who became my husband.
Sometimes it perplexes me. During the time I lived in Bellingham and attended poetry night at Stuart's, I was part of a community. A community of art, of creativity. I miss that in my life. I walk around downtown and wish that I could run into someone I knew, wish that I could carry on random conversations with people just because I recognize them from a place we both have a connection to. I have started to become very comfortable at the coffee shop I go to now to work, they're starting to learn my name and I'm starting to recognize people. But how do you go from a bystander to a participant? It's something that seems to elude me.
Sometimes it hurts. I moved to the new city and couldn't stop thinking about my friend who'd committed suicide because he'd gone to that college as well. Missing him grew to such a degree that I felt alone and sad. I wished so hard it hurt that he could be there now, be there for me to talk to one more time. There were times I actually thought that I saw him - on campus, or driving a car - even though I knew that it was impossible. I felt so disoriented and mal-adjusted in that new city that I went to a therapist a few times before it passed.
Sometimes it wakes me up. Moving back to Bellingham, I have remembered things I used to do when I lived here last. I used to write poetry, and attend poetry night at a local coffeehouse. I'd go there to write and sip herbal tea or a cappucccino during to fill my days. I would listen to the poetry at night and even work up the courage to read myself. Living in the big ciy, in the environment of technology and riches somewhere I lost my creativity. I lost that longing to spend time writing, to build my skills. In the back of my mind, I'd think about it, but here I remember that I can spend time on it, work on it and develop it.
There have been times when I wished I was free of these hauntings, times I wished that I wasn't such an emotional packrat, that it didn't hurt so much when I lost friends or lost touch with people, when I realized that I cared more than they did. There have been times when I wondered why I hold on so tightly when other people don't, why even over five years later there is a part of me that wishes I was still friends with people I used to work with. But then I realize that this is part of who I am. Being tied to people, seeing these ghosts, isn't necessarily easy, but it is all tied in to my ability to be so open with the people I am friends with, to let people into my life and mean something to me despite the fact that it might not last. It gives me the ability to love my husband and my son, and the friends that I hold truly dear - to empathize and be proud and let myself feel the joys and sorrows of those I'm close to. It's my life, and I love it.