By the time I was 21, I had moved 21 times. As a result and a need, I learned how to make close friends fast. At the same time, I learned how to drop people and never look back, just as fast.
Most of our moves were somehow okay before I was 13. Either I was too young to get too attached, or I was closer to my family, or maybe moving seemed like a valuable adventure. In any case, at 13, that changed. My family moved half way across the country. Not only did I leave my loving, supportive Grandmother, my extended family, my home, and my state, I also left the best friend I had made so far in my life.
I was in the ninth grade, just starting high school. Although I would somehow make it through the days in our new town, by the time I came home, at some point I would cry uncontrollably for hours. My parents worked in the evenings, so I was also starkly alone in my loneliness. However, one weekend, my mother found me crying and asked what was wrong. I could only say that I missed everyone. At that point, my mother offered to let me call my friend that I had left. Of course, long distance calling was expensive, and so it was a big deal.
I immediately took my mother up on her offer and called my friend. My heart sunk when my friend did not sound anywhere near as excited to hear from me as I was to call her. In fact, instead of being excited I was calling and wanting to know how I was, she went on and on about her new friends. She had moved on. I had not.
Over the next days, contemplating what that meant to me, feeling like my pain was unwarranted if my friend did not care about me, I steadily, and militantly, closed my heart.
I was very efficient and diligent at watching myself, to make sure that I never opened my heart in quite the same way again. Effectively, I had trapped all of my pain inside of me, stopping any chance for me to truly heal. Stopping any chance for me to truly love or be loved.
In my twenties, one evening I was watching the local news. There was an appalling, yet compelling, news report out of Sacramento. I don’t remember the name of the groups, but there was a man who was the head of a Ku Klux Klan type of group. His son, who was 21 at the time, had been the head of a similar group for young men. This was shocking enough that in my time, my generation, there were still people that lived their lives guided by hate (I was naive), but there was more to the story.
The young man had fallen in love. He told his father that he wanted to quit being in this group. His father, in response to his son’s betrayal, did not kill him, but had him beaten, nailed to a cross and left for dead.
His son reported that he had fallen in love with a girl, and in that process he realized that he could not love if he hated. He realized that love and hate could not co-exist in his heart at the same time, and he chose to love. He said that he saw that his father and he and been wrong.
I was so moved. First, that someone who was raised, and had been himself, so extreme in his beliefs had changed completely. That the power of love was that immense. It touched me so deeply, I wondered how it pertained to me.
Not long after meeting my teacher he asked me, “Sivan, will you be my friend for the rest of your life?” Of course by that time, I was tough and had adjusted to my life decisions about my heart, actually quite unconsciously.
In an effort not to hurt his feelings, I replied, “Of course.” But, inside my head, my automatic reaction was, “Of course NOT! I have never been anyone’s friend for all my life?!!” My inner reaction startled me. I saw part of myself agreeing with this response. But, another part was questioning it.
If I was undertaking this monumental spiritual path, to heal myself and perhaps one day help others, then why wouldn’t I be friends with him and others for the rest of my life? Why wouldn’t I value friendship? Why didn’t I feel I was capable of maintaining friendships? Why did I feel that being able to drop people from my life in one instant, indicated strength? I clearly saw that it really was just me trying to manage pain, trying not to be hurt. I then made a commitment that I would be his friend for the rest of my life.
Over time, I saw that the only way I would heal all of the pain of loss, rejection and betrayal, was to open my own heart. I saw that any part of my heart that hated or was closed, tainted ALL of my heart. I saw that as my own love to others began seeping through, it was healing me at the very same time.
I cannot change the years I was closed.
What I can do is love now. Offer friendship now. Offer healing now.