We were “museum incompatible.” Years after our break-up, that’s the breezy reason Sean and I decided was the key contributor to our relationship’s demise. His penchant for reading every god-damn placard in a museum, and my corresponding annoyance, was easier to explain than the true reasons.
It took five years after our uncoupling before we could even sit across from each other and have an honest conversation about those reasons. But after we did, I watched any stale anger and resentment that was hidden in me quickly evaporate.
That conversation wasn’t an effort to dig up the past or rekindle something. It wasn’t even so much a post mortem, as an opportunity to listen and understand – something neither of us were capable of at the end of our relationship. Our conversation was about unearthing a lost friendship and honoring it. And it reinforced the important lesson that forgiveness requires way less emotional energy than holding a grudge.
Maybe I cling too tightly, but I’ve never been good at entwining my life with someone – romantic or not – and POOF, watch them disappear. As if we were never best friends. As if we didn’t share transformative moments. As if they didn’t forever change me. What are you supposed to do with the empty space and open wounds they leave behind?
In the spirit of my “39 things,” and reflecting upon this decade’s influential people, I asked my museum-incompatible friend to hang out. (Our outing remarkably fell on our eight-year “break-up-versary.”) As friends do, we spent a rainy afternoon sampling cocktails at The Lynhall (which would be one of my regular happy-places if I still lived in Minneapolis), and talked about suits, 90s music and what happens when those open wounds heal.
After sufficient doses of gin and campari, we wanted a change of scenery and went to – wait for it – a museum. We walked around the Minneapolis Institute of Art where he schooled me on art history and showed me his favorite pieces for the millionth time. We even begrudgingly visited the chair exhibit, and agreed it’s the lamest room in the museum. A museum thing we agree upon!
I joke about our museum-incompatibility, but it’s rooted in gratitude and admiration. Throughout your life, people enter your orbit and smash into you like asteroids. If you pay attention, you’ll notice and be forever changed by the impact they leave.
I have a Sean-shaped crater that reminds me to slow my pace. He’s the type of person who always insisted on taking scenic byways and spent extra time inspecting and marveling at tiny details in every f-ing thing we encountered (ex: museum placards). Since I keep a more “efficient” pace, it often drove me crazy. But I’ve increasingly gained an appreciation for slowing down. I recently described “My 39 Things” as taking the scenic byway to 40…a notion inspired by Minnesota road trips with Sean.
When people disappear from your orbit, the wounds can take a bunch of years to heal, and there are some scars that never fade. That’s ok. Scars are reminders. Scars hold stories.
Whether or not you want to admit it, these asteroid people have shaped you. They’ve taught you to be better versions of yourself. They’ve shown you what you refuse to tolerate. They’ve introduced you to new foods and the music you still listen to today. It’s remarkable really. We are each a museum of perfectly curated scars. Wounded and smashed works of art.
Sometimes the only thing that remains from someone are the scars they’ve left behind. But if you’re lucky, you’re left with beautiful scars AND a friend who wants to slow down and admire them with you.