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  • Missing someone that were close tobecause theyve had to go to another country,  

  • or are up in the north on a course or went  on a hiking trip with their friends - is such  

  • an unpleasant emotion, it feels peculiar to  suggest that it is also, at a profound level,  

  • an extraordinary achievement and an important  marker of emotional maturity. It is in no way  

  • simple for a prototypical adult to be  able to miss anyone and we are often,  

  • almost without knowing it, engaged in complex  manoeuvres to ensure that we resolutely won’t.

  • Small children - for better and for worse  - miss people a lot. They show us - without  

  • compunction or defences - what missing looks  like in its rawest, most unbounded state,  

  • and it is not always a pretty or relaxing  sight. The wails can be heard across the  

  • street. ‘Don’t leave me,’ a small child  will scream with heart-rending intensity,  

  • as we implore them to understand that we just  need to pop out to the shops and will be back  

  • in ten minutes. ‘Why do you need to go?’  they beg, as they hold onto our sleeve,  

  • their face streaked with tears, and we watch our  plans disintegrate in contact with their despair.

  • Eventually, a child grows up to feel ashamed of  their early hysterics. Somewhere along the line,  

  • they give in to the many lectures they receive  about the need to be reasonable and let others  

  • get on with their lives; something in  them can no longer deny the logic that,  

  • yes, it probably does make some sense  that the people we cherish have to be  

  • allowed to abandon us, perhaps for long  stretches, like quarter of an hour,  

  • or god forbid, a day, even a month  or sometimes (heavens above) years.

  • It sounds like progress - but it should not  obscure the dangers involved in growing up to  

  • be a very good little man or woman who everyone  can be so proud of for the quiet way they now  

  • play with their toys when those they cherish  vanish from sight. The risk is not merely that  

  • we become a bit more forebearing but that, in  the name of reason, we cease to be able to feel  

  • anything much at all; that, in the process  of growing up, we lose our capacity to love.

  • We may grow so allergic to the pain that belongs  to genuine attachment, we barricade ourselves  

  • behind a range of defensive manoeuvres. We may  - for example - reconfigure who any person who  

  • leaves us can possibly be - in order that their  absence might perturb us a little less. On the  

  • eve of a departure, we may abruptly realise that  - whatever we had once assumed - the absconder  

  • is in reality horribly disorganised, they chew  their food in a maddening way and they never  

  • have anything too interesting to say about  the latest novels or scientific discoveries.  

  • It doesn’t appear that we really have any  particular cause to miss them very much,  

  • for why would we lament the absence of someone  who was not especially worthwhile to begin with?

  • Or we may go through the outward rituals of  absence while privately not fully registering  

  • that anyone has actually really gone. When they  call us from another continent in the late hours,  

  • we may find that weve just remembered that  there’s a crack in the ceiling we need to get  

  • on to in the morning - or an email we have  to send to a supplier at work. We may find  

  • that it’s impossible to accord them too much  thought given how angry we have become about  

  • a dispute with a neighbour or how worried we  are about an odd new twinge in our left knee.

  • It’s an immense achievement to be able both  to care for someone and endure their absence,  

  • to feel a wound without resorting to numbnessrage or an affair, to miss someone without  

  • reinventing what the missing person means to usWell have begun to accede to genuine emotional  

  • maturity when we rediscover the courage to be  hurt by those we love - when we can acknowledge,  

  • with some of the honesty of our younger selvesjust how much it hurts when someone we adore  

  • crosses an ocean - or has the impudence to go off  to the shops for an afternoon with their friends.

Missing someone that were close tobecause theyve had to go to another country,  

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