This month marks the one-year anniversary of a loss for me. I would like to share it with you.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I often include links in reference to past posts or to sites outside of my own that illustrate a point. But never, to my knowledge, have I link to another post that is “required reading” before the current post will be fully understood. Today, I’ll need to do exactly that. Please allow me this diversion from the norm for the sake of telling my story today; I believe that it will be worth the small amount of extra time invested.
That said, you’ll notice that this post is called “déjà vu 2.” As you may have guessed (or remembered), that is because nearly three years ago I wrote a post called “déjà vu.” Please click on the link to read (or re-read) that post before continuing. I’ve added another link to the bottom of the original post, so that you can get right back here in a jiffy when you’re done.
Now let me tell you about this not-so-fun anniversary I mentioned at the start of this post.
One year ago, I saw Dave for the last time. After two years of what seems like a great friendship, I got blindsided. One Wednesday, I saw the first seeds of jealousy and control issues regarding our mutual group of friends (the first I was willing to accept for what they were). Within days of this, Dave pulled me aside and told me that he didn’t like parts of who I am. He threw mud on everything from my character to my motives. He told me that he knew me better than I knew myself. He even went so far as to tell me that unless I listened to him, let him “fix me,” and hid parts of myself around his friends, I was no longer welcome in his circles.
I thought he just needed rest and was maybe going through a weird period. He had young children, one an infant. He had told me not long before all this that he hadn’t been sleeping well and that stress had been mounting. Nonetheless, he was adamant, assuring me he was in his right mind. He even went so far as to claim that in his prayers, God told him he was right about me and that I was deluded. And how does one argue with “God”?
Still, I asked Dave if he’d be willing to meet up with a couple of mutual friends to talk about all this and share his thoughts. Maybe get some feedback. I told him he could pick any two people who knew and cared for us both, in fact. I asked three times. Three times, he adamantly refused, telling me that he didn’t need anyone else’s input because he knew he was right. (After all, God doesn’t lie.) He was unwilling to change his opinions or his stance.
I felt confused, a little angry and sad. I even cried.
I had really come to love Dave. I had begun to consider him one of my closest friends, in fact; and yet, in a matter of days, he’d become someone I didn’t even recognize. In short, he had proven my previous déjà vu to be true. I had decided to trust again, despite how much he reminded me of a hurtful relationship in my past; and he had betrayed my trust in almost exactly the same way.
I made it clear to Dave the last time I saw him that I still wanted to work things out and be friends. I have not heard from him at all since a year ago this week.
This all got me thinking. Was I wrong in my original post? Should we allow history to teach us a lesson where new people are concerned? Are there actually patterns to look out for that should make us live with more skepticism when someone seems similar to a hurtful person from our past?
To tell you the truth, these questions are purely rhetorical, for the sake of effect and causing you to ask yourself. But I already know the answer. And the answer is no. On all accounts – no, no, no.
I remember talking with a friend about some scam going around the Internet years back, claims that (for a small price) you could learn to home in on choosing the next winning lottery numbers by using odds and ruling out patterns of digits that had appeared in the past. I won’t rehash the whole sales pitch, but let me simplify the principle. The writer claimed, essentially, that if a number appeared many times before, it becomes less likely to appear again soon.
If we were talking dice, it would be claiming that if I toss a six-sided dice and get a one, and then roll again and get a one, the likelihood of getting a third (or fourth or fifth) roll of one gets increasingly lower.
Let’s get even simpler and flip a coin. Let’s say I flip heads. Next flip – heads. Next flip – heads again. Wow, that is not likely! So the odds of getting a FOURTH heads is lower and I should call “tails.” Make sense?
Why the sudden shift to lotto scams? Well, the fact is, the underlying logic of the scam does not actually make sense. It’s purely emotional, fueled by a mystical belief that we can control the uncontrollable, mixed with a strong desire for the untrue to be true. The statistical fact is that no matter how many times you flip a coin – and no matter what the previous toss produced – the odds of getting heads is exactly the same: 50%.
If I rolled four ones in a row with a die, the odds of my next roll being a one – don’t change. It’s still exactly a one-in-six shot.
But don’t we play this kind of relationship roulette in it’s converse form – believing that if X happened before, it is more likely to happen again now? Whether we believe odds become more or less likely — it’s all scam logic.
So my friend of five years ago took advantage of me. Abandoned me. Still, I was willing to “roll again” and trust for a good outcome.
My next friend, who reminded me so much of the earlier friend, betrayed me. Turned his back on the friendship. Never spoke to me again.
But the wonderful truth is that, for every friend like these who has walked away, another has stayed for 10 years. Or 15 years. Or 20. And I would not have these rock-solid people in my life if I had decided to close myself off after the first time someone hurt me during my formative years as a child or teen.
Are there sometimes patterns in relationships that we should look for? Sure. Looking back, I see that I ignored certain early signs and warnings. Am I sorry about that? Not really. It hurt to lose a friend, but I’d rather have erred on the side of thinking the best than the worst.
Now, if we find that we consistently choose to be with people who disrespect or abuse, that is something we can choose to change. Or if we notice patterns in ourselves – perhaps that we are critical, inflexible, negative, manipulative or that we tend to sabotage relationships – yes, these are predictable patterns within our control to change. What I’m saying here, however, is that we should not ever assume from the outset that because two people share some things in common, they share everything in common. If our last abuser was a Country music lover, we should not panic and run from the next person who turns up the radio when Lee Brice comes on.
We’ve all been hurt before. Likely more than once. But the number of past hurts doesn’t mean we should live in dread of tomorrow’s possibilities.
It all comes down to choice. I choose to live with an open heart, without fear or regret, expectant of good things around the next corner.
What will you choose?