Today my high school boyfriend announced his engagement on Facebook. I’m guessing several of you reading this know who it is. And I have feelings.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I immediately typed out, “OH MY GOD!! I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!! Truly. WOW!!!!” I am thankful he knows I mean it and wrote it for him, not the Facebook audience, though I’m pretty positive his attention is somewhere else.
I meant it with (almost) all my heart. Because you know what? I know just enough of the story behind the story because I saw him several times in the last ten years to be able to genuinely celebrate.
Here’s the thing. My history with this man is long. It absolutely includes my 16 year old’s broken heart. But it also involves an adult me handling and navigating reconnection.
Ten years ago when Facebook exploded, forty year olds like me were in shock and awe. If this was true for you, too, please share your story and experience! But I think I can speak for some of us that finding people after knowing nothing for 20 years felt surreal and scary and…what else? Tell me what it was like for you. I would really enjoy that conversation.
Back then, Facebook would tell you when a friend of yours became a friend with someone else. So when…let me see if I can write this coherently…when one of my close high school friends saw this ex boyfriend and I were now “friends”, she messaged me three words.
“Well, that’s bold.”
It was bold at the time. But I’m so glad I did it.
Ten years ago, my church culture was scrambling to figure out what to do about this new reality of being able to easily find people from our past. Couples got joint accounts. It would say something like JOHNMARY SMITH (the man’s name came first, of course). And, not surprisingly, sermons began about marriages falling apart because spouses were finding exes online. Kirk Cameron was smashing his computer in, “Fireproof”. God (no pun intended), I hated that movie even then.
So instead I took the bold route. Not just with The Ex, but with several people where the outcome was unpredictable. Like the kind of life I want to live, not all went well. And actually, one reconnection did go terribly, terribly awry. But even that, while so heart wrenching…I think I cried over it for two years…brought my foster son back into my life which made it worth it.
I can’t remember the specific conversation Todd and I might have had about reconnecting with people on Facebook. I will say, when we married in our 20s, he wasn’t the jealous type and that hadn’t changed 15 years later. I worried, though. I worried that my heart would get carried away and caught up in something I couldn’t control and I would get myself in trouble. And the trouble I was worried about? I was worried that my heart would wake up. That I would have FEELINGS I wouldn’t know what to do with.
I have been afraid of my feelings for a really long time. They can feel so strong and powerful, like the South Yuba River in the spring, that I don’t dare let them out of this tight place I construct. Religion really did give me a lot of advice about how to help me keep them quiet. But even now, I still try to keep them underwraps. I’m doing it right now!. Here’s the deal, though. Trying to control feelings is exhausting for me and it doesn’t really work. They always come out somehow. Nor, I believe, does keeping them quiet serve who I’m supposed to be on this earth.
There is one tidbit I will share about this process of reconnection. I do it because it does illustrate the potential danger others would have warned me about.
Again, thanks to Facebook, during one lunch with even another high school friend, the ex boyfriend came up in our conversation. At one point she asked me,
“Was (this ex boyfriend) the love of your life?”
I won’t tell you what I said. But here’s the thing. Here’s the real thing. I thought a lot about that question.
Here’s my question for you, especially if you’re from the church culture I was a part of. Do you think it is healthy or unhealthy for me to spend emotional energy on that question?
I can hear some of you; I have heard all the warnings. I know my philosophy about navigating these kind of questions and explorations may be very different from yours. You might question the value in my asking these kinds of questions at all. But what I want to share today is that I have no regrets. I actually believe my regret would have been choosing to stay safe and doing nothing. Even though, if I’m honest, his engagement for me is bittersweet despite my utter celebratory and heartfelt Congratulations to him. Yes, I now have new memories I will carry close. In other words, I have FEELINGS.
I am human. I love…most days…that I’m a complicated human, certainly more than I did before. And when I don’t feel my feelings, they come out in anger at those who love me. I get sick. I live with pain at the base of my neck. I eat too much. You get the idea.
When I got married, I believed the best marriages were built by people who had no past. I was ashamed of my adolescent past for many years as a Christian. But now I can honestly say, after 25 years of marriage, I am so thankful I had that past.
I’m thankful because I don’t have to wonder. And I am absolutely the kind of person who wonders about these kinds of things. I don’t think I would be able to be in a long term marriage and have had no other experiences with other men. Never had my heart broken. Stayed safe. I honestly believe my regret would be that I had not done what was bold. In high school and at forty.
Oh, the voices, friends! So many voices! I think of that Bible verse from Proverbs I heard often as a child, “Can a man take fire to his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” —Somewhere in Proverbs.
Religion keeps us safe. Many, many, many of you might think that absolutely should be our goal. And yes, I agree about a part of this. Safe is really nice. One of my often repeated sayings is, “Ignorance is bliss.” I do not have bliss a lot of the time because I do question things. I choose to wrestle with questions like this because in my experience they come up anyway. All of us have to live with these kinds of questions. We can squash them. Control our thoughts and feelings to the best of our ability. Or we can ask them even if we’re afraid of the answer and, in my opinion, experience life much more freely. Which is a good thing.
I can’t believe how much finding so many of you ten years ago changed the next ten years. So many of us reconnected through Facebook. I’ve met up with you in several states. Special shout out to Seattle as I connected with three different friends “from my past” there. We had crazy and honest conversations and I learned so much from you. I’m tempted to tell those stories, too, but I’m not sure I could be cryptic enough. 😊
What’s a question you think you should or shouldn’t ask?
FYI…my commitment right now is publishing here once a week. You can also find me Saturday mornings on FB Live and on Instagram in stories several times/week. Let’s have some deep conversations.
Are there people you’d want to share this with? Please do!