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AULD LANG SYNEEvery year around this time, just after the New Year’s celebration, I wait. Because I know it’s coming. Like the graduation invitations you can expect to arrive in the mail at the start of spring, every year I lose a crop of my best female friends to marriage. This year is no different.

I don’t know if it is the romance of the holidays or coming into a new year where people are looking to change but the voicemails and emails start trickling in. Some excited, some a little worried about not being around anymore to look after me, others with that slight fear wondering if I will pick up on it and save them from a desperate decision. But to each I always give the same answer. Congratulations.

Whether I think of them getting married is a good or bad choice is irrelevant. Once someone has said yes, it becomes a bond to a set of life experiences they have to walk through just as I did. And since being close enough to me to even call me a friend means they have probably spent at least 2 or more years hearing my mouth first hand, by that time, they know me so well that there is nothing I really would need to say. And I have usually helped them to see themselves so clearly that if I hear that hesitance in their voice, I know that they already know they are making a mistake but choosing it anyway. So I let grown folk do what grown folk do. Even the ones who got married and still haven’t told me. I simply adjust my way of dealing with them to respect the other person and let them live their secret for whatever reason they choose to keep it.

As you grow older, time creeps up on you. You begin to realize that you will spend less and less of your life truly enjoying the company and companionship of someone dear. There will be no 50th Anniversary for you and so you begin to decide what battles are worth holding to. Some of us mellow out of weariness, others out of loneliness or desperation, but the wise ones grow into a humility of understanding that what they once prioritized as important was actually blocking their blessings.

When it is a wisdom of humility that fosters the decision, I am quietly proud of the strength that each has found to embrace it because, while I am humble about a great many things in my life, the calling upon my gifts does not afford me the luxury of much compromise. And that is the very reason that my friendships prepare more women to be with other men than me even though we love each other dearly.

I get my share of relationship opportunities each year and I eventually get accused of being too picky when I politely decline. My response is always that I am not picky; I am just trying to be fair. I know me. I know the demands of being with me. And I know when it is best to spare someone the stress of trying to live in my world- a world that cannot easily change to accommodate them even in areas where in any relationship the same considerations would only be fair. Eventually I am thanked for not giving in because the friendships turn out to be quite special and the women grow to understand me in a way that would have been bitter had we tried to be more.

I have traveled a long way to finally being me. And I lost two women who married me who deserved to know that the direction of my life would outgrow what we would be capable of remaining. If I had known that, I would have never married them. But had I never married them, I would not be the man that those experiences have taught me to become. Therefore all things do work together for the good when choosing not to live in regret. And so I raise a New Year’s toast to my friends who are the loves of my life- even those who, in the past, have tried to be that for me. May joy and happiness fill the waters of your sea of love, may the crosswinds of doubt never fill your sails, and when storms come, may your anchor always find the crevice of the Solid Rock with which to hold.

-Neo Blaqness