Out of all of the incredibly complex emotions that humans regularly experience, one of the strangest is missing someone. How is it that the absence of someone can weigh so heavily on our hearts and minds? How can loss manifest itself as a very real sense of longing and dissatisfaction?
Perhaps I find it so strange because we constantly link our feelings, reactions, and beliefs with the presence of different stimuli. For instance, if you’re happy, it could because you’re in the presence of someone who makes you content, or that you’ve received praise and acknowledgement for all of the hard work you’ve invested in a project, or that it’s a brilliant summer day and you’re just happy being able to enjoy it. But when you’re missing someone, you’re doing the opposite. It is the absence of something or someone that causes you such profound dissatisfaction.
When I was younger, I would miss things passionately and often, almost to a fault. For instance, when I was around seven years old, I remember being given a bright green balloon for the promotion of some sales event in a grocery store. And of course, I was absolutely delighted. Green was my favorite color. Balloons were just airy balls of joy. Yes, yes this green balloon was a marriage of everything beautiful in the world!
What could possible make this balloon even better? little Anusha had gotten to thinking. I looked at the pale tiles of the store for a moment. What if I were to share it with my friends? That’s it! Show-and-tell! Genius!
Upon leaving the building, however, I must’ve momentarily forgotten how balloons work, because I let my grip of the green ribbon slip. And WHOOSH!
The cruel, unforgiving balloon was snatched up by the wind and quickly made its ascent into the bright blue sky.
“NOOO!” I screamed at my bright green companion before bursting into tears. For an hour I was inconsolable, cursing my lapse of judgement and agonizing over the horrible loss.
And this was just over a balloon. Just imagine how hard goodbyes with real people must have been. For years I struggled to cope after parting ways with a loved one.
Hot tears would sting my eyes. A lump would well up in my throat. My heart would ache with a debilitating sense of loss. It was incredible.
It was as if, by leaving, that this person had taken a piece of me with them to wherever they were going.
And I guess they were.
But over the past several years, I’ve found that goodbyes aren’t as shattering as they once were. Yes they still hurt, but the intensity of the pain isn’t as strong as it once was. What was once a torrential downpour of sorrow and yearning has now become a dismal drizzle, which quickly parts to reveal the sun.
As a freshman in college, I’ve heard a lot of complaints from my peers. From the pressure of work and academics, to boyfriend/girlfriend drama, to the appalling conditions of the bathrooms on Saturdays and Sundays (believe me, you do not want to know what’s in that sink.), but one I’ve heard most frequently is that of homesickness.
Homesickness? What is it exactly? Much unlike seasickness which manifests itself as a host of physical symptoms such as of nausea, fatigue, and dizziness, after spending periods in a craft in water, is characterized by a distinct yearning for home and family after prolonged separation. Those who suffer from it often experience far off and mournful glances out the window, hearty sighs, and a lasting dissatisfaction with their current surroundings.
Now this may be a strange confession to make, but I have rarely ever felt homesick since my time in college. Of course there were times where I longed for the company of my old friends and family, but they never lasted for more than a few moments. Because regardless of where I was, there would always be something drawing me back to the present. All of my new friends. All of the work I had to do. All of the places I had to be before the day was done. So in essence, I never really had time to dwell on what I no longer had, but instead chose to concentrate my efforts on what I had been given.
But just because you’ve been enraptured by the present doesn’t mean you have to sever ties with the past. I realize that maintaining relationships with regular contact via phone, or texting, or email, or Skype is great both for our emotional and intellectual health. At the same time, I’m not going to brood over a loved one’s absence. I realize that I miss you and would rather have you with me rather than wherever else you are, but that’s not going to be an impediment to my happiness. I’m not going to drown myself in a sea of sadness, self-doubt, and agony because of your absence, and if you loved me you wouldn’t want that either.
Rather than see goodbye as a heart wrenching death sentence, I like to perceive them as brief pauses in time. As see-you-laters. And if our relationship means as much to you as it means to me, then I definitely will see you later. I’ll cherish the time we spent together without wallowing over the time that we could have been spending. I’ll think of you fondly and smile, but abject despair just isn’t my style.