A few months ago a Grenobloise friend of mine sent me a link to a long talk by a Québecois psychologist. I watched the talk — navigating through the ravaged "a" vowels of Québécois French — and came away with a number of helpful insights. The one that has stuck with me is this: "A large part of suffering is due to not accepting that which is" ("une grande partie de la souffrance est dûe à la non-acceptation de ce qui est").

It is well more than a year since I dragged my bleeding psyche out of Grenoble and headed home to Berlin, devastated by having lost the friendship and respect of someone I loved, in some ways most particularly because I had not had a clue as to why things had ended so horribly. I mourned this loss in much the same way as I grieved for the death of another important friend, Barbara, much earlier in my life. My Grenobloise friend kindly acted as a liaison and was able to furnish me with some reasons for the rupture with the lost friend. I didn't like the reasons I heard. I had a hard time accepting that my over-the-top behavior had turned me into someone too difficult, too toxic, for this friend to deal with. Despite the hard truth, I honestly shudder to think where I might be today if this kind friend had not intervened. Ignorance is not bliss — not at all.

I have gone through so many mental conversations, mental apologies, appeals to untoward circumstances (my being clinically depressed, etc.), recognition of various incompatibilities between us, rationalizations about the unlikelihood of a continued relationship even under the best of circumstances… and all such pretend conversations with the lost friend have been quite fruitless in mitigating my feelings of failure and regret. I am not capable of changing the situation. I cannot fix this. It is possible that the passage of time may prove me wrong, but for the foreseeable future, this friend is lost. I am dead to her, buried alive, a voice she cannot bear to hear, a writer she cannot bear to read. Accepting this without continuously beating myself up over it has been very hard.

But if I have not arrived 100% at acceptance, I am a lot closer to it today than I was before. Learning to practice self-compassion, forgiveness, coming to terms with an ugly ending in a way that does not promote bitterness, that does not require me to find fault with my lost friend… sigh. This episode was such an unexpected event in my life from start to … current finish. Some amazingly naive part of me thought that at my advanced age, there was little I didn't understand about relationships and friendship and caring — and about myself. Mon frickin' Dieu.

I owe much to several people, among whom are Mr. Mo first and foremost; to my American confidantes, "Ms Arizona" in particular; to Oldest, whose advice to "let go of the narrative" has been so helpful; and to this Grenobloise friend. After a few months of letting me vent, she finally lost patience with me, and understandably so: she is dying of cancer, and quite apart from whatever discomfort she may have felt by finding herself between me and the lost friend, she seemed to find it unbearable that I should waste so much precious time and energy stewing in my regrets and mourning someone whom I had to let go of — for my own sake, if not for her sake and for the sake of others dear to me.

Letting go takes a lot of effort, especially when what we want to hold onto seems so precious and irreplaceable. But hanging onto something hopeless makes it hard to hold onto what we still have that is equally or even more precious, and makes it very hard to reach out towards new experiences and possibilities.

I still have times when I wonder if I will ever truly get over what happened. Past experience is indicative that yes, I will. It will not be today, it will likely not be tomorrow, and possibly not for quite a while yet, but the passage of time does indeed help. If life allowed for do-overs… ah. But it does not. So forward we go, forward I go, grateful for all the good people and things I have in my life, less and less prone to look back with regret at the people and things I have lost. Accepting what is does, in fact, help to mitigate sorrow… Gott sei Dank.