There was a period between early 2006-2007 in which I lost a great deal: my home, my circle of social acquaintances, friendships, relationships, lovers, financial security, freedom, even things as basic as my reputation and sense of myself. It was a particularly trying time, and in retrospect, one of the most important in my life. Many people say there’s a point in one’s life, usually in the late 20′s and early 30′s, where one is confronted with life in such a brutal way that it marks the transition to adulthood. Usually it happens due to the death of a parent, illness, an unexpected child…something that makes you look outside yourself, grow up, and take some responsibility for your future. It teaches you to start looking toward the future, not just at today, as so many younger people do.

My life-changing crisis happened a little earlier than it did for many of my peers, but it affected me in the same way. It turned my world upside down, and for an extended period of time, I wasn’t sure how to make it through or what to do with myself. Looking back, I see it brought as many gifts into my life as painful experiences. For every loss I endured, every struggle, there’s something meaningful I likely wouldn’t have in my life now if things hadn’t worked out in the way they had. It often takes life-changing experiences where you wonder if anyone in the world understands, is on your side, is able to help you through, to learn exactly who you are and stop taking time to “find yourself”.

I learned I’m much stronger than I think I am. I’m much more capable–emotionally, mentally, practically—than I generally consider myself to be, and thus, much more so than I let on to the rest of the world. I learned that for all my drama and histrionic scenes and inability to cope with emotions quietly and rationally (something I know now is a combination of a highly sensitive personality and long-term suffering of anxiety issues), I am resilient. I don’t always feel like I want to get back up again…but I do. I sometimes feel so devastated by circumstances that I don’t know how I’ll cope…but I always do. Underneath the layers of emotion and over-sensitivity, often mistaken for weakness, is a survivor. To a certain extent, that survivor is even pragmatic, self-protective, and able to adapt to change. I learned that part of myself, while often invisible to all but those who know me well, is what has kept me safe and resilient through a number of negative situations. It defeats my self-destructive tendencies every time, tells the masochistic side of my personality, “Hey, I am stronger than you”. (Freud would have a field day with me.:P)

In any case, this period of my life brought losses of other types: in particular, five friends and/or lovers (of varying degrees of closeness) passed away during that time period. Not one of them was older than 45, and I saw clearly that I wasn’t the only one in my circle of friends and acquaintances that was regularly challenging the inner self-destructive demons. I wasn’t the only one haunted by things nobody ever talks about. Not everyone has an internal survival mechanism that’s strong enough to win, despite what life throws your way.

I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, in a variety of ways, to the extent where it’s a lesson to me: nothing and nobody will be there with you forever. There is no forever. Even I, myself, am not even necessarily promised a tomorrow. I attempt not to focus on that knowledge, because it brings out the pieces of me that are cynical and self-destructive. But, the only promise people cannot make is the one I need the most: the promise that that person will not abandon you. I know that better than anyone, and therefore, abandonment hurts me more than anyone…even if it’s just a friend who no longer wishes to be friends on Facebook, or an ex whose wife won’t let him be in my life anymore.

Why does all this sad, depressing reflection matter? It matters because recently, I hung out in an area I no longer spend time, because it reminds me of someone, and the reminders are sharp and painful. They are often euphoric, and painful at the same time, the ultimate in emotional masochism. I thought I could handle that, until I realised our car was driving past the place at which my friend passed away, and 30 seconds later, I was crying behind my sunglasses.

I told myself it should not have mattered; that was a different life, a loss I’d mourned a long time ago. But, The Guy I Am Currently Dating, either not aware of how touched I was by the situation or not knowing what else to do, parked in an area that required me to walk by the building. I stopped for a minute, and as soon as I did, I felt my heart beat in my throat, too fast. I couldn’t breathe. Everyone told me it was walking in the cold when I’m ill, and the strain it put on someone on the combination of medications I’m dealing with…but I felt like I was going to collapse. I just stood in front of the building like I couldn’t move.

This week, at night, I’ve been seeing that place when I close my eyes at night, and I cry. I haven’t made peace with a loss I’d closed my heart on and moved past and think about once or twice a year, because I can’t not think “This is the place where someone I loved faded away forever.” I can’t not think about where that place will be for me.

Moving on with your life doesn’t mean forgetting, and coping with the past doesn’t mean it ever stops hurting. I tried to talk to this with both a very close friend and The Guy I Am Currently Dating, but nobody’s interested in engaging discourse about something so sad and personal. There’s no need for me to call up the loss and pain others carry around because I was recently confronted with mine.

Part of me wants to go back to that building, and curl up next to it, and cry…because I never did. I never went back to that place, never returned to any of the spots in which we hung out together, never wondered who lived in the old apartment we’d made memories in. I just refused to think about the existence of any of those places and moved on.

Of course it’s natural that I’ve been crying, listless, depressed, overwhelmed by loneliness this week. Of course it’s natural that I’ve been questioning my relationship….which has been fraught with miscommunication and lack of simply being on the same page, particularly since I got sick. I believe that we have many different soulmates in our lives (a huge part of my basis for an essential belief in non-monogamy), people who come into our lives to open our eyes to different things, teach us about different parts of ourselves, understand us in a way few others are able. I do not believe in the traditional idea that this is one person who will complete you and you’ll love unconditionally and with perfect understanding forever. I do, however, believe there are many who touch us in an essential way that forms who we are, who we become along the way.

I have been quietly mourning the loss of one of mine…although I know nothing is forever. I do not know when I’ll feel at peace with goodbye. I did what people do; I laughed and drank and spent time with my friends, and tried to forget how much the experience of walking past that space affected me. I didn’t talk about it, because nobody could understand.

I am a highly emotional, intuitive person…and I don’t know how to explain the experience, except I felt something, and it was magical, and overwhelming, and devastating, and I wish I’d have been in a situation to experience it alone. Because more than anything, I felt I needed more time; more time just to *be*, to be close to the memory of someone you’ll never hold again.

Sometimes, I see this friend in DreamLand, and it reminds me that emotional memory is both devastating and of great comfort, at the same time. All I know is that since that day, I’ve constantly wanted to cry—whether from joy, sadness, fear, loneliness, anger, anxiety—and I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why I feel so misunderstood.

Today, I do. You never stop missing those that claim a piece of your soul, no matter how long ago.