The Ex-Philes

On the last day of 2008 I had a dream about an ex-girlfriend. This was someone I dated for about a year, some 20 years ago. It was an intense, passionate relationship and we were even briefly engaged. The romance fizzled after I took a new job and relocated out of town. In my dream, I ran into the woman, and profusely apologized for all the mistakes I had made in the relationship. The dream was so vivid and moved me so much that I looked her up on Facebook, and found her, and sent her a message.

Two days later I ran into her, in person. It was such a weird coincidence that I was literally left speechless — I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, and she didn’t recognize me so of course she said nothing either. But later on she did respond to my Facebook message and we’ve corresponded a couple of times since then, with a gentle, gracious exchange.

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago, someone else whom I had once briefly dated appears out of nowhere and friended me on Facebook.

Then today, yet another ex emailed me and asked if she and a friend could crash in our house while en route to Florida next month!

Each of these women had more or less dropped out of my life. I’ve been married for over 15 years now, which means I haven’t seen any of these three since 1993 at the latest. And while I harbored no bitter feelings toward any of them (I can’t speak for their feelings toward me), naturally the awkwardness of being “exes” had, in each case, worked against ongoing friendships.

But you know, they’re all fascinating, beautiful, intelligent women (I wouldn’t have been attracted to them otherwise). So, naturally, encountering them again revives in me an understandable sense of being interested in who they are. I’ve always admired people who have managed to maintain meaningful friendships with their exes. Perhaps all of a sudden I’ve been given the chance to cultivate some nice friendships along those lines?

My wife is the kind of person who doesn’t get threatened by stuff like this — we’ve got a great marriage and we both know it, and part of its beauty is the space that we each have to enjoy meaningful friendships even with persons of the opposite sex. Of course, none of these women will suddenly be major players in my life: two of them will at the most only be Facebook friends, and the third is someone we’ll just see for two nights while she’s traveling. Still, that they would all show up within two weeks is, well, kind of freaky.

In my Pagan days, I would have chalked this up to something going on astrologically or karmically. I don’t think that way anymore, but I still have a sense of kismet: as if I were destined to spend the first few days of 2009 checking in with some old sweethearts. Perhaps we live in a random cosmos, and this was just a complex coincidence that came my way — this, instead of some other coincidence, like winning the lottery (sigh). And perhaps there’s a lesson in here somewhere. And no reason why both of those “perhaps’s” couldn’t be true. But if there is a lesson, I suspect it’s about the importance of friendship, the necessity to apologize even for old mistakes, and finally the wisdom in letting go of the past, to allow the present to bring whatever surprises it entails into our lives.

Here’s to letting go and allowing!

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  1. Hi Carl–
    This is such an interesting thing. I don’t believe in happenstance or coincidence, but do believe in synchronicities, such as elaborated on by Jung. So the synchronicities, if we could see the pattern of your life from a 20,000 foot view…what would we see?

    Jena Strong just re-posted about Joshua Bell playing in the Metro…and how many walked by with bare recognition…stunning. What patterns, contrapuntal harmonies are we missing because of our agendas?

    Thanks for this, Carl. Made me pick my head up from the battlefield for a moment!

  2. judith collier says:

    Now they’ll know the real you and you had a chance of making ammends and them too and somewhere in the deep unconscious, healing and confidence takes place for all of you. At least that’s what took place for me but only you can figure it out for you. it is a gift.

  3. Liadan Giolla Brede says:

    Wow, your wife is a better woman than I. I’d be jealous, especially with a polyamorous past (present?).

    Good luck with that.


  4. zoecarnate says:

    “…I’d be jealous, especially with a polyamorous past (present?)…”

    The quote of the day!!! You old dog, you. :)

    In all seriousness, this is an intriguing story. I think you’d be quite interested to read my friend Dan Brennan’s blog. He’s about your age, and blogs about cross-gender friendship almost daily…in monastic and contemporary contexts. He has a book coming out soon.

  5. I had lunch just today with an old Pagan friend who asked me if I were still polyamorous. I said no, for the simple reason that my wife and I watched too many close friends have relationships suffer — and sometimes spectacularly fail — because of polyamory.

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