It’s you, not me

By Nick Dilonardo

Limits are important with people. I moved out when I was sixteen. I didn’t get along with my mom. We separated, talked little, and went our own ways. In the words of a friend of mine, she “did her” and I “did me.”

There’s a pressure people exert on reconciliation, I learned. There’s a stigma that can be put on you because you don’t feel the need to be rosy and happy with someone that hurt you. I told my friends that I was happier not living with my mother, but all they could say was “oh but are you still talking? You guys need to figure it out. You’ve only got one mother.”

Relationships are like this. You get together in all the intoxication of the new spring, stay together in the long shadowed days of summer, go back to school in the autumn and fall apart by winter, wondering what happened and where the time has gone. And after, there’s the question: Is it cool, and can we still be friends?

My football coach in high school Bengie Medure said “You have to hate your ex.” He said it because that’s how he is about the world: things are either black or white. Things are simpler that way. In the words of writer Albert Camus, for Medure, the dialectical choice was simple: take it or leave it.

Is it possible to stay friends with an ex? Is it possible in the age of Facebook? When we are inundated with images of them living their lives, failing, prospering, moving on, moving out – does this make it easier, harder or more strange?

The problem with staying friends with someone with whom you’ve been in a relationship and since moved on is the problem of envy, hurt and jealousy, no doubt. To maintain a “friendship” in spite of those odds seems difficult, if not fragile, awkward and daunting. It seems in life there are times for setting ourselves apart, breaking anchor at our point of departure and moving away from the people and places we’ve once known. If, in the words of Modest Mouse,” we are the people we wanted to know” and “we are the places we wanted to go” it seems part of coming to that realization is recognizing the limits people place upon you.

One can say “yes” to everything. They can make a movie about it. It can be moderately funny, bomb at box offices and show up on inflight cinema in a few weekends. We certainly know those that say “no” to everything. They won’t try guacamole because it’s lumpy and green, nor do they drink beer when in Amsterdam. They don’t try anything they don’t already like.

Life is not limitless. Life is first and foremost limited by death. Our life is limited by many things, but mostly by us. It’s up to us to set our limits. It’s up to us to decide who and what we put up with. An old professor named Mr. Gordon has a list of a few rules, the first of which is “he who cares least, wins” while the second is “people don’t change.” Establishing limits has to do with both of these. I don’t try and love everyone, but I’m not Christian. I don’t hate everyone, but I’m not Arnold Schopenhauer. Somewhere between my two least favorite words, always and never, lie limits.

The next time someone tells you that you really do need to reconcile with him or her or them, think about it but don’t feel compelled to be so nice. Some people don’t belong in our lives. Our lives deserve better. They deserve limits. “Creativity comes from limits,” Professor Fred Robinson told me.

Limits are like blinders: once you stop trying to see everything, you can focus on something. Once you get over trying to get that girl to like you, you can start enjoying the company of one that actually does. “We accept the love we think we deserve” as it goes. Accept that you deserve limits. My late grandmother always said “everything has a price.” Some prices aren’t worth paying.