With or Without You
by Jake Block
Someone recently asked me if there was anyone on this planet that I could not live without. The question grew out of a PM he sent me that told me his wife had told him she was leaving him, and he was almost suicidal, because he really didn’t think that he could live without her in his life. I told him that suicide was always an option, but to keep in mind that suicide is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem. “But no,” I told him, “There is no one on this planet that I could not bear to live without.”
Now, there are people that I would CHOOSE not to live without, if that was an option that didn’t strip me of my essence, my individuality of my personal freedom. There are people who I would miss greatly, at least for a while, but having lost people before, I would say that within a period of time, the emotional pain of their loss would diminish over time and I would fair better in the long run. There are people I love (and I use that word very sparingly), that would feel like part of my heart was missing… my lover, my wife, my best friend… those would be hell to lose, and if I had the ability, I would negotiate a scenario where they would be in my life as long as I wished them to be. But if that were not possible, and they were determined to go, the lyrics to the song “God Only Knows” written by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys in 1966 plays in the back of my mind.
“If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would livin’ do me
God only knows what I’d be without you”
I’m not one to trust “god” with my emotional security, and I do treasure those people who stand by me for “god only knows” what reasons, but I long ago learned that things and people change, and no matter how much you might care to, YOU can’t change that. We hope for stable loves and friendships that will stand the test of time, but people change and circumstances change and sometimes, when people come to a realization that the “you” they thought you were isn’t the “you” they see you as today, sometimes even love isn’t enough to keep them as close and as secure as they were in the past. It can be sad, but true. Friends and lovers sometimes just grow apart as they grow older. Even some families often can’t stand the strains of time and distance. People can become estranged for myriad reasons, and once that breach has been made, seldom can it ever be healed, although some degree of melancholia might remain. Sadness and depression at one’s loss is often times easier to contend with than the idea of staying close to someone for whom the emotional bonds have terminally frayed.
As we grow older, we lose friends and family through simple attrition. Lives are lost to war, to disease to self-destructive habits and vices, accidents and simple bodily failures. If you live long enough you will lose loved ones, so we try our damnedest to make the most of the time we have in our limited span. But also, we lose friends, family, associates, loved ones, etc., to non-lethal circumstances. The mobile nature of our culture and economy might have us relocate frequently, we might move for health reasons and lose track of one another, we could even consciously select the option of throwing away our previous existence to reinvent our selves and begin a life anew, forsaking everything and everyone we had known there before.
We sometimes have people in our lives who dangle their possible absence in front of us like a threat or a test of loyalty. In and in each of these instances, one would have to question why, if they are people who wish to be in our lives, why would they play at such cruelty with someone they claimed to care about. “If you loved me,” they say, “you would (fill in the blank,”) and if you balk at their guilt trip, one can usually expect emotional blackmail and extortion to follow. “Well, I thought we were closer than that,” they might say, or “Well, I expected more of you.” Perhaps a demand that you comply with their needs will follow, either directly or indirectly. “Psychic vampires” can be tricky to deal with, and even try to convince you that you need them more than you can know. Guilt can make their victims to strange things to appease them.
Normally, in such situations, I would say, “I’m sorry to disappoint you. Maybe I’m not really the man you thought I was,” and excuse myself from the situation. I’m simply not going to retain someone’s dubious friendship at the cost of my dignity, self or “soul.” I may miss them, and I might assume they miss me, but like the man who was seen hitting himself in the face with a hammer. When asked why he was doing that, he replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop.” When you stop, so will they, and then they will move on to another “best friend,” lamenting that they “really thought more of you.”
I’ve come a long way in life and have won and lost friends over the decades. But learned long ago that you just can’t try to keep someone around if they really don’t want to stay, and that sometimes you’re better off being alone than in the company of someone who wants to ensnare you and hold you in a jar or pinned to a card, like a specimen in their bug collection. It’s often easier and more humane to just wish them well and say goodbye.
The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God