The woman had fruit and the gatherings of what will eventually be a salad in her basket. Latched onto her left leg was a toddler on the verge of a complete breakdown. Tears were welled up. The muscles in his face were contorted and strained. His little arm muscles were squeezed around her leg. Any minute now, his small knee caps will buckle and he’ll be on the floor in a complete wreck.
There it is.
His cries could be heard all the way to the bread aisle. He was done.
The mother simply looked down at him, looked up at me and said, “It’s time to go.”
I wished to myself while examining the squishiness of a lime that life would always show us such clear and evident signs of when it’s time to go. It would save a lot of wasted time, energy and anxiety if it was that simple. You are lucky if, like packing a suitcase, you have clear boxes to check off and when you’ve checked them all off you know you’ve arrived at the moment when it’s time to go.
I have found life to be a little more murky that than when it comes to “the big things.” Things like when it’s time to leave a relationship, a job, a friendship. Social media has made it even more complicated because now we have to decide when it’s time to unfriend or unfollow or unsubscribe from someone. Layered into all of this is the guilt you feel for “giving up” or hurting someone else’s feelings.
But then, I sent out an e-mail and my feelings on all of this changed (it resulted in me crying on an Instagram story; that’s how powerful my revelation was, people.)
I have a list of e-mail addresses. To me, it has always been like collecting sea glass: I collect e-mails of people I enjoy, admire and want to work / communicate with. [Pst… if you want to be on this sea glass list, subscribe here]. As I punched in their e-mail addresses into the list, I assumed [my error] that these people wanted to be in someway involved with my work and me since they had provided me their business cards or scribbled their addresses on the back of napkins. I also assumed [my error] that these people would remain interested regardless of the passing of time [Silly Rabbit. Being unchanging is unfair and unrealistic].
So, I sent out an e-mail to my sea glass list, my precious collection of people. I watched as 1, 2, 5, 11 people unsubscribed.
Their choice to unsubscribe to me immediately hurt me. Whoa! They don’t like me anymore? They don’t care anymore? They can remain subscribed to silly retail stores but unsubscribe to me, a real human being with a heartbeat?! What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong?
The mental spiral went on for… fine. I’ll say it… weeks. I doubted myself, my work and my life’s purpose.
Stuck in a complete shame storm, I reached out to a friend and told him what happened. That’s when he said: “They aren’t ready to go with you where you’re going.”
His statement irritated me more than comforted me. Why not? I think where I’m going is great! I thought I was pretty great!
Weeks go by and I thought I had healed, but wasn’t sure. I hadn’t received any clear signs that I was “over it.”
I send out another e-mail. Right away, two people unsubscribe but this time it didn’t sting.
“They aren’t ready to go with you where you’re going.”
I heard my friend’s voice say. I immediately remembered the little guy at the grocery store. He was just, plain and simple, done. How had I forgotten such an important part of the human experience and condition?
People can just be done or not ready yet and it may be time to go.
The way you “go” will look different for every scenario: a physical exit, an unsubscribe/unfollow/unfriend, hitting “next,” hitting pause, a divorce, a move out, a cold-turkey quit, a conversation, packing.
The way you deal with someone else going will look different for every scenario: crying, re-building, re-claiming, cleaning, eating, seeking help, moving on.
But [take a pause] here before you start planning your exit or your acceptance of someone else’s exit.
Let’s practice gratitude.
If you are the one taking the exit, breathe and repeat:
I am thankful for the time, energy and presence shared.
I am thankful for recognizing my time to go and following through with it, gracefully.
I am thankful for what I have learned from this person or this situation.
I am thankful for the option to choose whom and what I engage with on my journey.
If you are the one dealing with someone else’s exit, breathe and repeat:
I am thankful for the time, energy and presence shared.
I am thankful for recognizing that you aren’t ready or willing to come with me where I am going.
I am thankful for where I am going.
I am thankful for life weeding out who is not ready, so that I may focus on who is here with me now.
Life is full of moments of when it’s time to go. To arrive at something, you must leave something else. To leave something else, you will arrive at something.
You want the people ready and willing to be present and engaged with you here, now. They will make up your new world. Allow for people to take their exits and make their entrances with no attachment to your personal worth. Life has plans for them and for you.
When I think back to that little guy in the grocery store, I see myself and the people around me in him. He knew he was done. He knew it was time to go. And even though tears fell down his cheeks, they went. Sometimes, that is how it is. It can be difficult to practice gratitude in those moments, but how wonderful it is to know it’s time to go and go. How wonderful it is to watch someone else make that choice and go.