Life is full of changes. We can’t stop it. At this very moment the world is changing, people are changing. And you are changing too. As always we have a choice: we can either accept it or deny it.
This is particularly striking with relationships. Two people have an affinity based on who they are at a given point in time. A few years later they have changed: what once existed between them is no longer here. They are simply two different people now but they keep hanging on to “the relationship”, in denial of the change that has occurred. They cling to the memory of good times long gone. The relationship has become part of their identity, like an old pair of glasses that doesn’t fit anymore. Now it hurts.
Let go of your mental image of the other person: see them as they are now. Let go of your expectations on the relationship: see it as it is now. Let go of your past self: be who you are now. If there is still an affinity, this is the perfect opportunity for a new beginning. If it’s time to move on, do it without anger, blame or judgment. We each need to walk our own path. Sometimes they stick together and sometimes they part. It is no one’s fault: it just is.
Because only when we’ve let go of asphyxiated relationships do we have enough space in our soul for new and vibrant relationships. Like a rose bush, trimming allows us to bloom again.
I dedicate this piece to N. for her courage (she will recognize herself).
Saint Exupéry is famous all over the world for his masterpiece “The Little Prince” but he is also the author of the very beautiful book “Earth of Men” (translated into English as “Wind, Sand and Stars”), a work combining stories of his aviator life and philosophical thoughts.
Here are some of my favorites:
By working for material possessions only, we build our own prison. We shut ourselves solitary, with our currency of ashes that doesn’t procure anything worth living for.
It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.
To be a man is to be responsible. […] It is to be aware, when setting your stone, that you are building the world.
Once caught in the event, men are no longer afraid of it. Only the unknown scares men. But, for whoever confronts it, it is no longer the unknown.
When we become aware of our role, no matter how minor, only then will we be happy. Only then will we be able to live in peace and die in peace, because what gives a meaning to life gives a meaning to death.
It is not danger I love. I know what I love: it is life.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry, “Terre des Hommes” (1939)
“Where do you find the best coffee in Central America?” The loud and obnoxious tourist from New York interrogates me over dinner. I hate the question. A journey is a collection of experiences, some more pleasant than others but never better: they are what they are. I learned more about myself overcoming challenges than sipping cocktails in front of a picture-perfect sunset. But the girl is not interested in that. She just wants to know where to find “the best coffee”. I doubt she really values my opinion, so why should I give it to her? But her high-pitched and inquisitive voice has silenced the entire dinner party: all eyes are now turned towards me. I need to say something quickly. A laconic answer comes out of my mouth, bypassing my mind: “El Salvador”. Pretending to care, she replies: “Oh, really?” Then she continues to talk about herself. Blah blah blah. The words start to blur. I tune out.
In actual fact my favorite cup of Joe is not from El Salvador: I love the taste of Nescafé instant coffee. Almost every morning I prepare myself a small cup. With the right amount of powder and sugar, the dark mixture tastes better to me than any freshly ground Arabica or Robusta. Maybe this goes back to my late teenage years when I would savor a large bowl to help me wake up each day before going to school. Anyway, Miss Egocentric cannot understand. She lives in a world where the best things in life are objectively known and scientifically labeled. The best books are listed in the New York Times, the best hotels in the Lonely Planet and the best movies are the ones who received praise from the critics.
In my world Nescafé instant is the best coffee. In my world the best books are the ones that touch my heart, not the ones that use fancy words and collect literary prizes. In my world the best hotels are the ones that no guidebook tells you about: you just find them – or maybe they find you.
We are each masters of our own world, free to decide what we like and what we don’t, what matters and what doesn’t. As long as we remain true to ourselves no one can take that away from us. It is our secret, our treasure.