listen to Paul McCartney’s mother and let it be

There are loves we forget about. When we are young, we often feel a deep attachment to an idea or an object, such as the idea that we will find out that we can shapeshift into a unicorn at age twelve. Often American children have comfort toys, little fuzzy stuffed elephants or lambs that they were trained to use as a substitute for their mother. When we develop into adults, we may have other loves, such as a guitar hobby we pick up because we think it’s our destiny to become the next rock musician of the century. What we love can be small or large, human or non-human, but at some point in time, we felt an incredible connection to it. Then it fades, and we might regret that we weren’t able to hold onto it.

The nature of love is something people dispute about. In this day and age, we most often associate love with romantic love, but the concept of romantic love didn’t really take off until the industrial period when the number of potential suitors rose significantly for individuals, and they could be more picky about who they paired off with. For most of human history, our concept of love wasn’t defined as a particular feeling, but rather a social obligation and connection that mandated action. It doesn’t sound as fantastical as being proposed to in the rain, but there is a strong case for love in this light because it means the people we are close to aren’t there because they always admire or like us. Instead, the people we love and who love us stick around because they value the connection itself (Granted,  one of the basic premises for that definition of love is the assurance that both people are working at the connection value and respect each other; sticking to an abusive partner out of ‘obligation’ isn’t something I think anyone should deal with).

However, the fact remains that connections still go out. We have all had people that were fantastically important to us at a point in our lives. Sometimes we have to let those people go, and it can feel wrong even when we know the connection isn’t the same as it was. It’s the same story with the little loves we have, such as an obsession with a certain musician or book. Even when we’re “over it”, it still feels like we are letting a part of ourselves go. Or, when we look back and are reminded of something we used to value highly, it can hurt, as a sign of time passing.

What I want to say here is, “Be grateful for all the love you’ve been given and had, even as it passed away, because it meant something.” However, on its face, that seems to be a sort of ambiguous opt-out, a meaningless hippie saying you might hear a barista in an indie coffee shop say to their poet friend with dreads. Still, I mean it.

It’s hard to be grateful, and moving past something can hurt in a way that’s indescribable. Both of those things are feeling-based, and how can you make yourself feel something you don’t? Most people can’t just summon gratitude on a whim. Instead, what we often need to do is do something physical. For example, forcing ourselves to write down three things we are grateful for. You might not feel grateful in that moment generally, but if you remind yourself about specific things, it can revise your mood on the whole. When it comes to moving on, people often find it helpful to get rid of the things attached to the memories, such as giving away the guitar you haven’t touched in decades in a garage sale. Other times we may feel like we can’t give something away because it matters too much. In those instances, we might be able to transform our feelings. Instead of keeping all of your childhood shirts in your drawer, turning it into a memory quilt blanket.

At the heart of it, our experiences are something to appreciate. It’s something we didn’t have before that we were given and now can learn from. By moving on, we are allowing ourselves to experience something new, giving ourselves the chance to find something else to love, and that’s really amazing.

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