02/14/2012 11:42 am ET Updated Apr 15, 2012

When My Past Love Met My Current Love

You know that moment when you run into an old love? Not just someone you used to sorta date, but THE one ... Emotions come quickly, making you confuse strong memories with thinking you still love them or should be with them, swiftly followed by the flood of pain and hurt. Images of your ife with them play out before your eyes and in your heart all over again. Seeing a past love is like seeing a ghost.

I have one old flame that has haunted me off and on for the past six or so years since we finally broke up. I craved him like heroin; Even though I know he was bad for me, I just couldn't stay away, because when I was with him, it felt like we were euphorically one with the cosmos. And when he wasn't around, it was the worst come down you could ever imagine ... the pain was unbearable (not that I've ever done heroin, but this is what the movies make it seem like). But I did it anyway. I've spent many hours in anguish and heartbreak over this past love ... confusing the memories with the reality. Confusing the rush with true love.

But it wasn't true love ... at least not my definition and understanding of true love today. And I had a profound experience the other day which really let me see this when, by a funny little trick of what I'll call fate, my current love got to meet my past love.

It is such a surreal experience to witness the guy who, up until this point, has been the man I considered to be the love of my life meet the man who is, now, unequivocally, the love of my life. I thought I saw him out of the corner of my eye but figured it was just a look-alike. I hoped it wasn't him. The heat started to rise in my body. The shakes started to overtake me. It was him. Quick, what should I do? Ignore him? Run? Hide behind a bush? No, I couldn't. I would be a grownup and hopefully my ex and my boyfriend would all be grownups too. Hopefully we could all just get along.

And we did. Or at least we pretended we did. But I'm not gonna lie. It was awkward. The moment when the man that at one point in my life I thought I was going to marry jokingly asked me "so, where's your hubby? ..." The moment of recognition when my man now realized who it was I was introducing him to ... the ONE I had told him about. I wouldn't have wanted to be in his shoes. But he was cool ... even when a moth dive bombed on his shoulder and died there, perhaps in a suicide mission of solidarity. (I nonchalantly picked the dead insect off of his shoulder and placed it on a nearby table). It was fine, it was civil, it was done.

Once the shock wore off, an amazing feeling of peace and calm overtook me. I was standing beside the only two guys I have ever loved that intensely and passionately. Trippy. But I think this happened so I can see that I am now exactly where I'm supposed to be. There is no need to wonder, there is no "what if" anymore with my ex.

My definition of love, my definition of the "one" has changed over time since being with him. I think this happened so I could see that all of the heartache was worth it, because it's gotten me to the place of truly being able to be with the "one." Of getting to the place where all the agony and tears and confusion turned into a process of self-discovery, self-growth and self-empowerment, where I learned that you can't be with the "one" until you are whole and complete and ONE with yourself.

It was ten years ago when I met my ex-love. And my understanding of love and partnership has grown and changed since then. I have grown and changed since then. What I wanted then and what I thought a partnership was is completely different from now. Standing there, in between these two men, I got to see two different versions of myself ... I got to see how far I've evolved -- from a woman expressing neediness to a woman with sovereignty over herself. From a woman who placed all of her value and validation in being in a relationship to a woman who feels validated now by just being who she is, with the relationship being the result of her self-worth -- not it's source.

I can truly go forward now with gratitude for our memories and for what we learned and experienced with each other, but knowing that the love we had is a different level of love than the love that today I understand and am capable of. Now, I am able to go forward with my current love, free from the hold of the ghost,and build from a foundation that's pure. I am able to go forward, free from the hold of the past, without a doubt in my mind that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be with exactly who I'm supposed to be with.

We all have pasts ... we all have ghosts. But we must differentiate between the ghost and the memory. We can carry the memories, lessons, and experiences with us, owning what we learned from past loves and acknowledging how they helped shape who we are today without carrying the ghost with us. It is not until we can separate the person from the memory that we will cease being haunted.