Can Relationships Stand the Test of Time?

(Q) I keep losing relationships that have been important to me. This has been going on for some time, right up to a few weeks ago. Different reasons – death, a falling out, political intolerance, distance. Is this happening to others too?

(A) Yes. It is happening to others too, including me. Does knowing that make it feel comforting or strangely alarming? Remember the old saying, “Why put off until tomorrow, what you can do today?” Well, we did put many things off until another time, and signs point toward now being the time when all extensions and postponements are coming due.

Time is elastic. It can stretch this way and that, giving us the illusion that we are free to choose all that we experience. Time is our companion in everything we do. Some people believe that we are in a race against time. I prefer to think of time as my jogging partner. Time helps me to pace myself. It makes sure I pause here and there to smell the roses. It also makes sure I don’t miss my ‘karmic” milestone moments. Karmic appointments are not good or bad, but they can be challenging. If we ignore them or push them off for too long, the gods will send messengers in the form of teachers and teachings to remind us that we are here to do important work.

Death is an obvious messenger. Some of us have sorrowfully surrendered loved ones whose (life) time has run out. We prefer to think that we will live to a ripe old age, but that is not our purpose in being here. We are here. We are. We love, share, and belong for a few seasons, maybe a little more. We have not been promised more than that. Our real unit of exchange on earth is not money, it is time. We can bargain with it and shortchange it, but eventually it will discover all of our hideouts. For the dying, death is a vehicle for transitioning to a different plane. For the living, it is a wake-up call. Those who leave us gift us their last breath. It is all they have left to offer up. Every breath belongs to this world and here it must stay. Breathing reminds us that we also have appointments to keep, and one of them will be with death. The worst thing about losing a loved one is that we cannot see where they are going. If we could, it would be easier to say, “So long. I hope to recognize you when next we meet.”

It is also painful to lose friends and family by falling out of right relationship, especially if they have been part of our inner circle. My inner circle is akin to a sanctuary. When I invite friends into my inner circle I hope they will honor it, and me too. When trust at this level is easily dismissed, it can feel devastating. A violated sanctuary can only be repaired from the inside. It must be healed and made whole again. We humans are hard on ourselves; we are hard on each other too. These tough times have made that painfully apparent. Across the globe, I see good people stepping on each other’s goodwill. We forget that we are kin, just sunlight dancing on water. I have been able to glue some relationships back together, but have had to let some go, too.

Long ago we accepted loss better than we do today. When family members separated, they sometimes did so for good. They didn’t expect to be reunited. When possible, relationships continued through letters and photographs. Sometimes, goodbyes were final. Today it’s different. We do not measure time or distance in the same way. Email and text messages erase distance, but they do not have the warmth of an embrace. Perhaps we don’t value friendships as we once did? No matter. We will learn, try again, remember what we forgot. Get it right.

Intolerance, political or otherwise, is a sign of immaturity. Intolerance pushes, shouts, maneuvers, and bulldozes everything in its path. Young souls, like young children, are impatient and like to throw tantrums. Tolerance is a learned skill that requires ongoing practice and patience, even far into adulthood and old age. We could all use help in this area. We’ll get there, but not for a while it seems. I give intolerant people the right of way. They have a higher energy budget than I have and that is how they choose to spend their time and energy. My father was an intolerant man. I did not want to be in the same room with him when he was at his worst. Intolerance is not welcome in my home or in my sanctuary, but I do not meet intolerance with intolerance.

Physical distance is hard, too. Most of my favorite people live far away from me. What a cruel joke! Why is it so difficult to find like-minded, open-hearted friends in our own backyard? Is it so that we will appreciate our friends and not take them for granted? A few years ago, I moved from a small town to a small city about three hours away. I knew I would miss my good friend but thought we would still see each other often. I also thought I would easily make new friends, but that has proven more difficult than I imagined. Good friends help to ease difficult moments; they make life feel more comfortable and worthwhile. Among other things, the pandemic taught us to be grateful for contact of any kind – a warm hug, a shared meal, and resourceful gatherings.

Someone has already nicknamed these first hundred years of new millenium, the lonely century. And most of us are lonely, at least some of the time. We are missing something or someone. We may not be able to name what we are missing, but we can feel its absence. Maybe it’s the simple knowing that we are not separate beings after all. We are one big, messy, human family who need each other. Sooner or later we’ll figure it out. In the meantime, we are busy trying to get unstuck from what we don’t want, but not sure how to attract what we do want. We have been running from time, but it has caught up to us. Maybe we should pause here and listen to wants to tell us.

How is your relationship with time? Is your timekeeper running ahead of you, keeping pace, or chasing after you? In my visualizing exercises time is always holding something – a gift, a message, a tool. The last time “he” caught up to me it looked like he was holding up some kind of reflective sign, but on closer inspection it was one of those funhouse mirrors that reflects a thousand distorted versions of the original image. The message was simple: There are infinite versions of “us” everywhere, all of them with different faces. None of them are the real “us”. We are all reflections of each other.

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