Once upon a time, a friend broke my heart.
If I'm being honest, the truth is that I saw it coming.
And, if I walk a few steps deeper, from true to truer to truest, I had a hand in the heartbreak as well.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I experienced an emotional growth spurt, a period of massive change and shifting and growth. I had just started graduate school, a part of a program which essentially guarantees massive life-upheaval - the kind that turns your beliefs and stories and judgments on their head and forces you to work through them. The program - and the people in it - effectively changed my life, providing the space and the encouragement and the right kind of challenge to draw out my realness and shine a light on all of the deep, shadowy stuff that keeps me from it.
My world was shifting. I had just begun dating the man who would, eventually, become my husband - a man who inspired and supported freedom in me, who witnessed and celebrated the realness coming forth through my coursework. And I had made real and intense progress in identifying and working through my self-limiting beliefs with the help of my phenomenal therapist.
Looking back, an "emotional growth spurt" might be putting it mildly.
It was, in fact, a full-body tilt towards the sky and the stars, a self-love-soaked turning towards all that I could and would become.
Truth be told, it left me unsure of how to relate to the woman and the world that I used to inhabit. I felt alien, resistant, tender, defensive. Like a butterfly who had emerged from her cocoon, I felt unrecognizable, testing out my wings, unsure of how to relate to the reality that I had left behind.
Looking back, I was clueless about how to navigate the transition, and I'm sure that my uncertainty left those that lived (and still live) in that world similarly confused.
For one friend, it proved an impossible chasm to breach. I won't get into details - it was far too personal and painful, not to mention in the past - but the heartbreak, and the lessons in self-love that followed, remain some of my most poignant and present.
"When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she had always been. But she had wings."
- Dean Jackson
I vividly remember working through the motions of heartbreak, which felt as close to betrayal as I had ever experienced and had less to do with her than the soul-stretching it inspired.
My first instinct, as a lifelong people-pleaser and a perfectionist, was to lie down. I had no intention of wholly denying my newly-discovered wings, but my people-pleasing inclination was to hide them, to retreat and pacify.
It was my therapist who reminded me that to love meant loving myself and that I had no obligation to dull my light for anyone in exchange for their comfort.
Life is about growth and expansion, about authentic alignment and earth-shattering vulnerable connection. And love, sweet, sweet, true and whole love. I have learned that, in pursuit of this, not everyone will like you, no matter how hard you try. If someone asks you to dampen your spark to make themselves more comfortable, send them love... and let them go.
And so, I let her go. The act itself felt foreign and new but led to unhindered expansion and, eventually, to forgiveness.
It has been years now, but I count it as one of the most important lessons of my life. It was painful and unknown and deeply, deeply vulnerable. And so, so good and necessary and life-giving.
Some people won't be able to hold the container or understand your evolution. Just because they are unable to love you through your growth does not mean that you (or they, for that matter) are unloveable.
It is your choice who you invite into your brave new world to love you and be loved.
Anyone who is unable to hold, appreciate and align... send them love and let them go.