The other day I was confronted by a photo of an old boyfriend/crush. One of my Facebook friends still keeps in touch with this guy, and had posted a group picture from a recent event. I have to tell you, he looked good. He got taller since high school, for one thing, and he’s obviously been working out (it’s summer, so no shirt in the photo). He grew into a nice-looking man. I found myself feeling a little regretful and wanting to post a comment on the picture where he would see it.
This sort of thing happens to us all the time, whether it’s somebody popping up online or whether you run into him at the grocery store (of course while wearing your grungiest sweatpants and with spinach in your teeth). Or maybe it’s not an old flame but a former friend who did you wrong, or that girl who always beat you at everything from classroom grades to homecoming court. When people we had strong feelings about in the past resurface in our lives, it can bring up a lot of those old feelings. How do we respond when these situations arise?
First, I try to practice satya, or truthfulness. When I saw that photo, why did I feel regretful? Where did the impulse to contact him come from? Well, thinking back, he was the one who broke things off with me. Part of me wants him to see how well I’m doing, see how great I look, maybe feel a little regretful himself. See what you missed, Mr. Blast-from-the-Past! But that’s kind of vengeful, isn’t it? And when I examine that impulse to get in touch with him, I have to question what the motivation is. Hello, happily married now! I obviously don’t want to date him again. From what I’ve seen, it looks like he grew up into a genuinely interesting person, someone I would have liked to have had as a friend, but if I try to think about it realistically, that would be pretty weird. There are plenty of other genuinely interesting people out there whom I’m also not friends with, and it would probably be better all the way around if I tried to meet some of them if I want a new friend. Plus, I mean, I really like my life. My life isn’t missing anything by the lack of this person’s presence.
Now I’ve examined my feelings and I see that, although the feelings themselves are a valid response to the situation, there’s no need to act on them or reach out to this person. The next step is to practice non-attachment. I’ve recognized that I still have some feelings bound up in my past relationship with this person, and maybe it’s time to let that go. I’ll never truly know how he felt about me back in the day or what, if anything, he thinks of me now. That’s okay. I might selfishly wish to know that, but I accept that I never will. I need to try to let go of my attachment to the things that occurred in the past. At the time, I wasn’t happy with the outcome, and I would have liked to change it, but looking back, the things that happened all those years ago led me to becoming who I am today. If things had gone differently in the past, I might not have ended up where I am now, and that would truly be something to regret.
Once we let go of the past, we can try to let go of our attachment to results as well. For me, I don’t ever expect to contact this guy or to hear from him. That’s a part of my life that’s over, and I do wish him well. Instead of feeling regretful when I see a picture of him on Facebook, instead I can decide that I’ll be glad to see him looking happy and enjoying his own life. Namaste, dude. Maybe you’re in a similar situation, but after examining things you decide you will reach out and contact the person. At that point, you can let go of the results too. Maybe he or she will write you back, and maybe they won’t, but you did what you needed to do and now you can move on. Employing some yogic philosophy can help us deal with these situations more maturely and come away feeling more satisfied, not just with the situation itself, but with our own behavior too.