“”The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.”—Deepak Chopra

It is kind of sad when you realise that someone to whom you one meant something has moved to a different place in life, and you’ve moved from being a valued part of that person’s world to a space where you’ve become incidental.

I suppose this happens to everyone and it is ultimately the nature of allowing other people to occupy space in your life; friends fall out of touch, relationships end, acquaintances move away, people who once found you intriguing are over it or vice versa. I always take it more to heart than most people, yet it seems to happen more frequently. I am fortunate that I have a very loving and supportive network of people in my life, including many who have been in my life through all the years, all the various phases and lifestyles, all the places I’ve called home. They’ve listened to me complain about every heartbreak, every disappointment, every friend who stabbed me in the back, every sucky job that didn’t work out, every idea that turned out to be incredibly stupid or unrealistic.

On the other hand, I have a revolving door of people with whom I was once very close, and then things changed. It is a side effect of a lot of things, from frequently changing social circles and personal ambitions, to years of polyamorous relationships. I remember once upon a time, someone who once mattered a great deal to me and is no longer a part of my world, explained it this way: “Everyone shows up in your life for a reason and when you need what that person brings into your life the most. When people move on, it is often because you already learned and experienced what you were meant to via that person. There is a difference between love and attachment. They do not always go hand in hand. One expands your heart and the other breaks it.”

Of course, this person was a very insightful Zen Buddhist, and at the time, I became very angry at some of the things he said. It is difficult when you consider yourself an important part of someone’s life, and he constantly talks about non-attachment and solitude as the natural condition of people. I made the mistake of taking his philosophies on life personally, a remarkable reflection on my tendency to make virtually anything about me once my emotions get involved.

I will never see the world through the same looking glass my friend did, but I’ve come to see he is right. Love endures many things, and continues even when a person is no longer in your life. Becoming overly attached to everyone who affects you on some deep level is a recipe for a consistent feeling of dissatisfaction with the human race, and eventually, an unwillingness to invest in anyone at all. I have more than one friend who suffers from the side effects of this “for most people, no attachment is permanent” mindset, and can come off as hurtful and insensitive. The truth is, they are this way because, being too sensitive and caring too much, the world has consistently let them down. Sensitive people are often forced to become harder on the outside, more self-protective. Whenever I meet a jaded, somewhat misanthropic person, I know that 8 times out of 10, I’ve encountered a sensitive human being who has been hurt.

I am shocked by the way most of the world seems comfortable with creating and breaking personal attachments to others. It is ironic, because I’m always the one who is dispensing advice to less worldly friends; “Just because you slept together doesn’t mean there’s relationship potential”, “Friends who only call you when they need things or want to talk about their own lives are not your friends”, “If someone treats you like an option, you’re not getting the love and respect you deserve”.

Yet, although I know these things, it is more difficult when it happens. My attachments to others don’t happen as often (I don’t find a new best friend every week because I am bored, or develop a new infatuation every time I come across an interesting person), but when they do, are less easy to discard. I don’t let my guard down for everyone, and so it affects me when I start to feel as if I invested in the wrong person, the kind of person who didn’t care that much and found me disposable.

Of course, life is not that simple. Attachments and emotions and life choices are messy. Someone becoming less attached to you is not always a reflection of apathy, and it’s strangely taken me all these years to learn that. Not that it matters, of course, since it doesn’t change how you feel about that person no longer being such an integral part of your life. Sometimes, the change is temporary, and other times, it isn’t. It’s all very convenient to dismiss someone who has decided to no longer make you a part of his or her life by saying, “That person obviously sucks, and never cared about me. I’m an idiot for not seeing that and caring in the first place, and for still caring”.

But, while a convenient way to detach from others and convince yourself the attachment is not worth missing, it simply isn’t true. As painful as it is, few attachments are forever. The ones that are tend to go through phases, and are frequently very complicated.

As much as I would like every person I ever really invest in and genuinely care for to be part of my life forever, and to make the effort to show I am important to them, it’s an ideal. It’s an ideal that, when it happens, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

However, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I purposely choose to get close to those I believe are sensitive, substantial, and see something in me that’s worth keeping in their lives for the long haul. When it doesn’t work out that way, it saddens me. I have a history of investing too much in others, and keeping attachments in my life that no longer really bring me joy or help me to grow as a person (Meyers-Briggs claims this is a common ENFP trait; we have a hard time just letting go and moving on.) But because I don’t always make the effort to bond with others in a meaningful way, I also don’t see anyone as expendable. I’m never that person who ends a friendship or relationship with a “respectful” e-mail, simply stops calling, or makes one person less important to me because another person has become important. I’ve never been that person who passes through town without visiting, or forgets to send happy birthday wishes, or stands people up because something came up at the last minute. Sometimes, I fight with people in my life, but I don’t threaten to discard them unless that is what someone really wants.

Unless someone really hurts me in some way I can’t get past, once someone means something to me, it means until we’re 80 and sitting on rocking chairs in the nursing home watching Matlock.

I suppose there’s something to be said for those who allow more people to pass through their lives with less attachment, but I’ve had enough acquaintances for a few lifetimes. When I am old, it is not those people I am going to remember, but those I actually allowed myself to love and attempt to understand, no matter how “complicated” it all got.

Life is certainly easier if you don’t believe much in attachment, and virtually everyone is replaceable. Perhaps we’re not all wired to live a life that is easier. I know I don’t seem to be, and I don’t even wish I were, most of the time.