On Letting Go (and Holding On)

My best friend and I used to squabble a fair bit. At the point in my life when we got close, during university, I was socially underdeveloped and incredibly oversensitive. My friend had street smarts but sometimes lacked empathy.

We’d squabble, but we’d always sort it out. It was never long before we’d be sharing jokes again because, despite our differences, we loved each other.

We still love each other, even though she’s living on the other side of the world and we haven’t seen each other in literal years.

She’s still my best friend (outside of my husband). She’d probably hate how soppy this all sounds, but our relationship is actually stronger now than it ever was back when we saw each other every single day.

But that almost wasn’t the case. 

After university, I moved back to Northern Ireland and my friend (Steph) came to visit. This was a massive thing for me. Most of the people I’d known in my life to that point wouldn’t cross a puddle for me, let alone hop on a plane to come see me. Steph was the kind of person who didn’t leave her house if it was raining.

The visit was super fun and I loved all of it. It was so great to be able to show Steph all of the places I knew growing up.

So far so good.

Then Steph visited a second time. I’m a little foggy on the details, but maybe a year had passed in between. Things between us up to that trip were grand (I mean, if they hadn’t been, it probably wouldn’t have happened). But that trip was really, really difficult. For both of us. We argued more than usual. About things that actually mattered. We both got genuinely quite upset.

I can’t remember how all the upset started but, as the trip continued, our attitude towards each other got worse. It was actually so bad, we’d both, separately, made the decision to just grin and bear it through to the end and then let that be the end – she would fly home and we wouldn’t be friends anymore.

There were a lot of factors involved which I won’t go into partly because they don’t matter now, partly because of how complex they were, and partly because I’ve simply forgotten them; but the crux of it was, it all came to a head. The tension peaked and we had one big, final argument.

We took ourselves to different parts of the house for a bit of space and we didn’t talk. Everything kind of hung between us in the atmosphere. Then circumstances (mostly the fact that Steph was staying in my house and it’s not a massive house) had us finally sit in the living room together watching a movie with my parents. We weren’t sitting close, still not talking, and my parents were oblivious.

As we sat there, we calmed down. There was a whole plot arc in the film about resolving differences or something. I can’t even remember what it was now but, when it was done, we shared a look and then went to a different room to talk.

That talk was so damn awkward at first. We were both still hurting. Both angry.

The talk was brutally honest, on both sides, and very much needed. For a while it made things even harder, but we pushed through. We talked about our Feelings (note the capital F!). And we sorted things out. The air was so clear afterwards, it was amazing. Totally worth all the pain of the conversation itself. I don’t honestly think we’ve had a fight since.

But why am I talking about all this now, several years later?

Because bust-ups happen all the time. I’ve just been involved in one of a very different kind, so this is all very much on my mind.

Anywhere you have a group of people, sooner or later you will have some kind of falling out due to the fallibility of those people. I’ve seen it in friend groups, workplaces, churches, and committees pulling together for important voluntary causes.

Each time I’m involved in one of these matters, I admit I get very emotionally involved. Part of me is still that oversensitive person I was at nineteen.

Things come to a head and I always have the impulse to say “fuck this, I’m done.”

Now, sometimes I give into that urge and sometimes I don’t.

As a person, I spend a lot of my time in debate with myself. Parts of my personality are completely contrary to others. Prime example: I can be very impulsive and also very stubborn. It depends on the circumstances.

Sometimes I have held on when I should have let go, and I regret that.

Sometimes I have quit when, in time, I have come to regret giving up so easily.

Either way, decisions made in a split second can have ramifications that go a long way.

Back when I was really upset with Steph, I actually went through and deleted the photos we had taken together that trip. I tore up a physical snap I had of us together. It didn’t matter, I told myself. It was all over. She would go home and we’d never talk again.

Naturally, I felt pretty foolish when we made up. (You know, as well as being majorly relieved.)

But then again, there are other times when I have let go and it turned out to be the complete right thing to do. Or times when I held on and am so grateful now that I did. It’s fair to say my friendship with Steph fits firmly in that last category.

The tricky thing is, so much of this only comes out in the wash. You never know if you’re going to regret something or not until it’s too late. Hindsight is kind of a bitch that way.

This all relates to my life at the minute in two ways. Personally and professionally, I am a crossroads – one much bigger than the other.

I’ve written this post to clear my head in the hopes that it will help me make a decision. I’ve already stated here that I’ve just been involved in a bust-up. What I do next matters.

I was on a committee within a group. When things got too much for me, on this occasion, I gave into my ‘fuck it’ impulse and quit not only the committee but the bigger group itself. This group has had bust-ups in the past, so I’m not the first to leave the committee, but I am the first to completely eject myself from everything.

I have mixed feelings about that.

In all honesty, now that I’ve calmed down, I’ve settled on two thoughts about the whole thing: I think I was right to leave the committee, but I am already missing being in the group as a whole.

Should I climb down? Should I crawl back?

Maybe.

I’m considering it.

While I’ve been considering it and this whole thing has been going on, I made a decision at the other crossroads I mentioned.

This is going to seem like a really random tangent, but follow me on this, it will come back around.

So, for a good long while now, I’ve regretted self-publishing my own work. I didn’t know what I was doing and the books were a bit of a disaster. I’ve spent years and years, and wasted way too much money, trying to fix said books.

Every time I would learn about something else I’d gotten wrong in making them, I would go through the painstaking process of bringing out a new edition with corrections. Then I’d find some other fault. Rinse and repeat.

With those books, I finally came to a pace where enough was enough.

With everything going on regarding my bust-up, I had a big clear out of things (physical and digital) that needed to go.

I wanted some headspace with fewer things hanging over me.

I took my books out of print.

Now I see, I should have done it a long time ago.

Now things are clearer, and I need to figure out what to do next. In terms of my writing, I’m really gonna chase after being traditionally published. Its where my dream really lies.

In terms of putting my ego aside for the sake of a community, I think that’s maybe something that needs to be done too.

Sometimes – just sometimes – you need to retrace your steps to move forward.

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