Ghosts. That’s a word whose immediate (and most frequently applied) definition has certainly changed within the last year or so.
When I was growing up, ghosts were mysterious and spooky apparitions that could both bring good (Marley, Ghosts of Past and Present in A Christmas Carol) and wreak havoc (title characters in Beloved, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Woman in Black). What I knew for sure was that they were not real. And figments of my imagination could only wreck my sleep, not my life.
Fast forward to today. While wraiths and poltergeists are still (for the most part) fictitious, what is very real is the person who connects with us, spends real and meaningful time, shares all kinds of experiences, and without notice, warning, or explanation, ceases to be part of our lives.
That, my friends, is a behavior now called ghosting. And it straight up sucks.
The lawyer in me needs to know the why’s and how’s of things. While I may not learn anything important from those, I’ve always sought the mechanics of what goes on in the world. And when I’m in my world, or my perception of the world, I need to know what actually happened so I can be wiser, smarter, listen better, and behave more kindly, respectfully, empathically in life.
This, my friends, is a hard fought and rarely, if ever, won battle when one seeks to know why someone went ghost.
When I was released from the hospital, I initially was – as I like to say – bald as a baby, skinny as a rail, and had barely a memory in my head. Talking and spending time with others brought me everything from solace to appreciation of others to happy anticipation to what seemed like a healthy means to cope. I made new friends, reconnected with old friends, met people with whom I’d eventually work, and dated at least one (or two, or more) guys that, I told myself, if the romance petered out we’d be friends. While I’ve always met people without much trouble, within the last few years making real friends has been something of a challenge. It’s safe to say that I attached more importance to each of these relationships than they merited.
Nearly all of these individuals dropped me like a bad habit. They didn’t warn me it was going to happen. They didn’t respond to my considerable (and sometimes embarrassing) efforts to reconnect. It. Was. Over. Full stop.
The timing of what felt like an abandonment was never particularly good, or so it seemed. I could have felt it worse than it actually was because at those times I was managing how we jokingly say now, “The struggle is real.” Whether I was justified in feeling like I’d done something wrong or I had been wronged was, and is, of little importance.
The truth about ghosts and ghosting is this simple: people will do as they wont to do. We have nothing to do with that. “Wont,” while pronounced like the word “want,” means accustomed to being done a certain way; it’s a habit, a practice.
Some relationships have expiration dates. As much as it would be really awesome if all parties identified those at the same time, that rarely happens. All we can do when we’re the one who is late to the ghost-hosted sayonara party is recognize the person for the positive role he or she played in our life for whatever time it happened, be grateful for what we shared, and recognize what we learned about ourselves.
What we learn about other people is limited, constantly changing, and not always useful or accurate. What we learn about ourselves sets us right and sets us up for long term abundance.