“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime."
-- Author Unknown
This quote has always fascinated me, from the moment I realized it was dead-on.
I used to try to hang onto people and relationships, even if they weren’t sustaining me, simply because I didn’t know how to let them go. I couldn’t understand what to do with relationships that were once indispensable to my well-being. Should I put them on a shelf in case they came to life again? Should I file them under old memories? Should I nurse a grudge because of how they ended?
I’ve done all of the above as I searched for ways to handle feelings of loss, abandonment or rejection. The problem, as I saw it was that some people in my life were severing ties that I wasn’t sure I wanted to sever. But then I realized that it wasn’t only one way. I was pulling back from others and feeling guilty as a result.
What did this all mean? Did it imply that the relationships weren’t originally as solid as I thought they were? Or that I was no longer desirable as a friend? I went through some intense mental gymnastics trying to figure why things had gone “wrong”.
But then I came across the quote: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”
A Reason…So very many people have come into my life -- for a minute or for years – to show me something I needed to know at that time. Sometimes it was found in a book that appeared on the shelf in front of me. Other times it was heard in the casual remark of a person in line behind me. And then there were those chance encounters that produced significant new friendships. It often wasn’t until years later that I gained enough perspective to see that during that first moment of contact I was being thrown a life-line.
I love going back and tracing the arc of that kind of friendship. “This” led to “that” and so on and so forth. If “that” hadn’t happened then a whole list of other things wouldn’t have occurred. These were the synchronicities that required my recognition so that I would be able to take advantage of the experiences that were waiting for me. There were definitely lessons to be learned from these relationships.
But as it turned out, these have also been the friendships most vulnerable to change. If and when the reason that brought us together was no longer operational or integral to our involvement, gaps started appearing. Suddenly we were engaged in distancing maneuvers. Whatever had needed to transpire had done so and it was time to move on.
A Season…Some of The Reasons became Seasons. Some friends stayed with me through developmental stages – attending schools, raising children, choosing career paths. We learned from each other, shared with each other, and held onto each other for various periods of time. When the “season” ended, so did the relationship.
A Lifetime…Family and lifetime friends. They can leave too, but usually and sadly they leave through death. These people have presented me with life lessons learned over the course of many years.
But even when I understand why I’ve been drawn to certain people, and why it’s time to let certain relationships go, it’s still difficult for me. I would love for everyone to just skip along together merrily until the end of time. That way just feels more natural. But because I do understand the meaning of the quote, I’ve been working on my ‘letting go” skills.
First and foremost, I have to let go of blame and regret. If a relationship has outlived its usefulness or built-in expiration date then those are the facts; it wasn’t meant to be a life-long experience. That’s not to say that I won’t treasure what was, and miss that person, but there’s no use trying to prolong it. Secondly, I need to understand what it was that I gained from the relationship – whether it was helping me get through a tough time in my life, or teaching me to see humor or beauty in the world, or simply giving me the opportunity to give of myself to another.
Letting go of the people who have been with me for a lifetime is my hardest challenge. Death is a very final goodbye, but it’s part of what we’re here to do and there’s no point in denying that. Here, too, I believe that I will be most successful in transitioning if I appreciate what I was fortunate to have and/or what I learned from the inherent challenges.
It’s amazing that we can experience, and hopefully enjoy, so many different kinds of connections in a lifetime. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could utilize each one for the highest good of everyone involved.