My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet’s the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.
Lately I’ve been thinking about bridges that have burned over the years. I don’t have a laundry list of mortal enemies, or anything, but a handful of personal and professional relationships in my adulthood have ended badly.
I have no regrets about cutting off contact with some of the abusive characters I’ve encountered in my life. Some of my severed ties, though, just leave me feeling a little sad. I’ve had a couple of friendships disintegrate because of disagreements over money. My “righteous indignation” led to some harsh words on my part, as well as a lack of tolerance for my friends’ (and my own) shortcomings. I’m not proud of the way I acted. Turns out, being “right” can carry a pretty hefty price tag.
There is one incident in which I was the sole architect of a friendship’s demise. Deep in a blue melancholy, I deliberately shut out a friend whose happiness over her new relationship was too much for my bruised heart to stand. My heart and I eventually recovered, I was appropriately embarrassed over my selfish, self-pitying behavior, and I offered a humble and sincere apology to this lovely girl.
She was unequivocally gracious and compassionate, which humbled me further. However, despite our most conciliatory intentions, after a year of hurt feelings and neglect, our friendship is not–and will likely never be–the same.
One of the defining characteristics of maturity, at least as I see it, is the understanding that some things cannot be undone. Some of our words and actions forever change the landscape of our lives and relationships. I learned this lesson the way I learn most of my lessons: the hard way.
Unlike Dorothy Parker, I find no sanctuary in the isolation of bridges burned. The older I get, the more certain I become that sanctuary will only be found in forgiveness: for others and for ourselves.