I think we hold on to ex boyfriends (or girlfriends) so tightly and for so long, long after they’re gone, because we consider them a part of who we are. Like an arm or a leg. Like a family member. We compartmentalize them and arrange our lives around their memory. They may even be like a lifeline to something that bears connection to something much bigger than ourselves.
For me, I kept journals all my life. Each journal was literally devoted to a different GUY. The eras of my life were broken into who I was dating at the time. It was how I categorized and moved through my entire history. There’s the G era, the R era, the D era, the other D era, the P era and so….Trying to get rid of this kind of ingrained classification system is almost like trying to erase big chunks of your history. It’s impossible unless you are willing to train your brain to think differently. Instead of associating huge tracts of my life with some man, I have started to associate other things within that timeframe: school, travel, work…And it helped. 1989 is no longer the H era, but the Paris days. 2008 was not the S year, but the year my Uncle died, and the year I got serious about my recovery. But even when I try to redefine my history, those pesky exs keep popping back into my memory and with good cause. That is who I was. That is how I lived my life for so long. I cannot erase my history.
Also, I used to hold on to old letters and memorabilia from ex bfs. Boxes upon boxes of letters from inconsequential guys telling me, “you’re hot,” or “I love you.” I saved them because I envisioned others finding these letters when I was dead and gone. They would read the letters and think, “Wow! She was truly loved by so many…” But what silliness!
More realistically, my great-grandchildren would find those letters they’d think, “Grandma was a slut.” Or “She sure did get around.”
Definitely not the legacy I want to leave behind.
So now, it’s all about slash and burn. I no longer feel validated by those letters. They no longer define my worth. If anything, they burdened me, and so they all got tossed. Interestingly, I used to feel such a deep sense of loss at the thought of throwing the stuff out that I never did it. But now I feel as though the empty space is more of a gain. I feel free.
So…how do you hang on and how do you plan to let go? Write it out. Talk about it. Do you physically hold on to memories, or do you hold on emotionally. What do you think will happen to you if you let go? What are you afraid of?