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Unseized Potential - Musings on the Ones Who Got Away

A black and white image of a dandelion full of wishes and potential.

I wrote this in December of 2020 as part of a writing activity that a then acquaintance, now friend, had come up with. As I move through the grief of my mother’s death, I have found revising older works that I kept to myself has allowed me to trace the ways grief was already showing up in my life. What I saw as unseized potential in 2020, I now see for what it was and still is, grief.  Grief is layered.  It shows up in a thousand small ways, but it seems to be that only the big moments of grief, like death or a global pandemic, actually can stop us in our tracks and make us re-evaluate where we’ve been, where we’re headed, and why.     

The prompt my friend thought of in the isolation of our first holidays with Covid was “Who got away”.  I still have the same thoughts now that I did that December day in 2020. I now have a better understanding that what I’m feeling is grief and it’s just as valid as the grief I feel for my mother, for the life that was before Covid changed our plans, for all the things left unsaid.  Grief moves through our lives like water, sometimes quietly, and other times crushes us.  It’s only when we’re willing and able to name it that we can start to swim instead of sink in it.     


December 2020 - Who Got Away 

It’s the eyes—they always get me. They are little windows into our souls and I enjoy gazing into them. I had a partner once with the blackest eyes I had ever seen. No matter how hard I searched I could never see inside of him. There was a wall between the two of us. Despite our chemistry, we both agreed we were better friends than lovers. He wasn’t the one who got away, we’re still friends and check in with each other every couple of months. His eyes never could pull me down into them. Maybe that’s why most of my lovers and crushes have blue eyes. Because I need to sink, I need to drown in their essence until I discover that it’s killing me and pull myself out.

I don’t consider any of my lovers or emotional flights of fancy as ones who got away. More like sinking ships I was able to escape from either unscathed or with another unhealthy coping mechanism, and far less trust in humanity. When those relationships or connections end or shift I’ve learned it’s not the person I’m mourning but the potential.

Every relationship, be it platonic, romantic, or sexual has potential. It’s that potential that keeps us up at night and draws us to text back with lightning speed. It’s that potential that leaves us in tears or running through every conversation with trusted friends.

There are some missed connections, to pull a phrase from ye old Craigslist, that still give me pause. Eyes that haunt my dreams. Waves of memories, both real and imagined, that pull me under and drag me out—I get lost in these. The adventures we could have had, the places we could have gone to emotionally… physically… spiritually.

These moments sometimes get stuck in my head on a loop. They come like waves and I have to sit with them because they were moments that I knew were life-changing and the choices I made in those moments can’t be undone.

There’s the time I could have thrown my car in reverse, got out, and said “I love you” in full-on ’80s/’90s coming-of-age movie style.  Instead, I pretended I didn’t see you in the parking lot with your head down balancing your checkbook. Why were you there that day? That was so out of your routine. Why didn’t I seize my moment? What lost potential floats abandoned over the lives we now lead?

There’s the crush that settled into an intellectually pleasing friendship that required me to tolerate a lot of excuse-making and to carry the brunt of maintaining the friendship. I stopped chasing them and we haven’t spoken in ages. I sent a text, but there was no response. No response is a response. I miss the deep conversations we had while walking nowhere and everywhere. We were going to go skydiving. The relationship crashed before the plane ever took flight.  I miss what could have been, which gives me tunnel vision for what it was.  

The list goes on. Eyes I no longer can gaze into, the potential I can no longer build dreams around.

Are they eyes or oceans? Depths of pain swirling and pulling. Potential lost. No one gets away. We don’t lose people because we can never fully possess people.  What gets away is the potential and the version of them, and them with us, that we create in our minds to help us do the hard work of building interpersonal relationships.  When those connections end they haven’t gotten away.  Instead, the potential of who we could have been nestles deep into our minds. That lost potential swells up from time to time and reminds us that -

We need to speak.

Take a chance.

Live without fear.

The swirling memories of unseized potential remind us that rejection leaves scars and that we must lick our wounds and soldier on.

Who got away? No one and everyone—eventually.

Copyright(c)2024 Rayven Holmes

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