In the last week, I have had brushes with two near-misses in my journey toward marriage.  It was an interesting experience for me and I wondered at two encounters in such a small space of time.  What could the Universe be trying to say?

The first encounter was really only news; but it affected me somehow.  I ran into a co-worker of my former boyfriend’s, and he quickly related the details of my ex’s new life.

Mr. CommittmentfPhobicNeverWantsKidsandWon’tEverChangeJobs quickly fast-forwarded from 1998 to 2012.  He is now married with a baby, and has had a major career change.  The man that was going to retire some day and live out his years nestled in the woods, has sold his home and moved several hours away.  The drastic contradiction between the person in my memory and the man he is now, is somehow an affront to my system.

When a relationship ends, and all ties are severed, I think the person with whom we had the relationship can freeze in time in our memories.  For almost a decade and a half, this man has remained in my mind, exactly as he was when I left him.  Now he has, and of-course he has, a new life; but it’s completely in contrast with the one in which I pictured him.  I have the strangest sense of having been existing in a parallel universe, where time went on beneath the threshold of my awareness.

The encounter with Almost Fiancé Number Two was much more benign, but equally thought provoking.  Walking through Costco with my daughter and husband, I looked up to see his familiar grin.  He had a baby boy in his cart and he greeted me warmly.  He looked exactly as I left him 10 years ago.  Not a hair had changed, except that he is now married with two children.

“That woman beside him was almost me,” I mused.  He was a man I wanted…tried desperately, even…to love.  I could easily have landed the coveted position of “Doctor’s Wife,” but I was forced to admit that he wasn’t the man for me.  It was a weird feeling to see his wife there; almost like the Ghost of Marriage-Future was showing me what might have been.   A rare glimpse into the life that never was.

The obvious question is, “Why does it matter?”

The answer is, “Truly? It doesn’t.”

But I do wonder….why do we move people who are part of our distant past into static memory?  I think it is because we have no new memories or information with which to replace the old.  The other reason would be because, emotionally, we need to relocate the memories to a tidy, safe compartment.  It is one that we won’t often open, but when we do, there are no surprises.  For relationships that were fraught with heartache or had painful endings, perhaps the only way we can finally move on emotionally is to create a rigid memory and put it away.

I wonder what place I hold for my past loves?  One of pain, or of pleasant memories?  Do they feel ambivalence, or deep affection?  It’s hard to imagine my resurfacing affecting anyone’s emotional equilibrium, but I suppose we all affect one another’s balance in positive and negative ways, each and every day.

That’s what makes us human…and I’m grateful for the capacity to feel these feelings.

All of them.