Friday, October 10, 2008

What A Summer….

So much loss, for myself but mostly for others. Three loved ones of friends dead, suddenly and too young; one long-time feline companion dead, suddenly; one relationship dead, one friendship dead that probably should have died a long time ago, and then…boom….in the midst of it all, I found it: the love I’ve been looking for.

Holy crap.

I've always been cynical about constant seeking. I know there are people who spend their entire lives trying to find the thing that will make everything okay, whether it's a particular religious teaching, a spiritual guru, a physical discipline, or a philosophy. The closest thing I've had to this is my self-help work, and even this I've mainly given up because, after years of self-improvement, I decided I'm fine the way I am and always have been. Even though I think we should all strive to learn and grow and be better people, I think too much seeking and focus on self-change is unhealthy and takes us away from the present moment, where, if we paid attention, we'd realize we are perfect the way we are. It's the same with constantly seeking happiness. I don't believe there is a place called Happiness. We can learn the habits of being happier and more content, but we’ll never reach a permanent place called Happiness. On the other hand, I realize I have been seeking something my whole life, and that thing is Love, with a capital ‘L’. A place no less mythical than a place called Happiness or a place called Truth.

As a serial dater, I’ve always had a vision of what I wanted out of a relationship; it’s never been so much how my partner looked or what he did for a living, although I've always had my assumptions about those things, but it’s always been more about a feeling I would have when I found that person I was supposed to be with. During the times I’ve been in relationships, I’ve always spent way too much time being anxious and worried when I haven’t felt that indefinable feeling that I’ve decided means I’m in the right relationship. Looking back on it, I realize I was making mountains out of molehills, most of the time worrying about things I shouldn’t have been worrying about, and occassionally not worrying about things I should have been worried about. The one or two times I’ve been with a man who could have made it work with me, I’ve been too judgmental and not mature enough to make it work. During every relationship I’ve ever had, I’ve always spun off into doubt, always spent time wondering if this was “the one”, even though, intellectually, I don’t believe in “the one” or soul mates and all that. And I’ve always managed to find a way to make it not work out, either by virtue of choosing someone who could never be a healthy partner, or by my fabulous ability to mess things up with the right partner. This is how I ended up 38 and single.

And then, right in the midst of doing it again, I just dropped all of that. All the rationalizing my own fears and apprehensions, pretending my reasons for not loving this fabulous person in front of me were valid and logical. I realized that I was being stupid, or at least immature, and that if I didn’t act fast and open my heart to what was right in front of me, I’d be sitting alone again, regretting, once again, that I had missed out on the opportunity to experience what I’ve been seeking all these years. So, on a walk in the park on a windy summer’s day, I did what my heart told me to do, ignored my head, slid my arm through his and embarked on a new adventure.

And then, a funny thing happened. I started to feel the way I've always wanted to feel. Not stupidly in love the way the Hollywood movies say, and not completed, because I've always been complete, but more balanced and stronger, more willing to step up to the plate because it's not just me, anymore. Safer. Less bored. More aware of the things I shy away from, and more willing to go there. And, paradoxically, more comfortable in my own skin.

And right now, in this moment, I feel I’ve found Happiness and Truth and Love, all in the same place. Not the fairytale kind, where nothing bad ever happens ever again and the knight on the white horse vanquishes the dragons and ogres to win my hand, whereafter we retire to the castle and the screen goes black; not that kind. The real kind, where monsters rear their ugly heads and we deal with it. Where we have moods and sometimes say and do the wrong things, where we have misunderstandings and fears and anxieties, where there are zits and farts and nosehairs and old baggage and family weirdness and jealousies and work and practical matters to consider. But where, at the end of the day, we fall asleep in each other’s arms and wake up there, too, just glad to be together, and more or less confident that we can deal with the stuff that comes up.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted, and if I had slowed down earlier in my life to see how my own neuroses were contributing to my unhappiness in relationships, I may have found this earlier. But that’s OK, because if I had found it earlier, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Happily in love with someone as complicated as I am, in a grown-up relationship with a wonderful grown-up man, looking forward to all those grown-up relationship things that someday I’ll probably complain about.

Maybe that's what grief teaches us: to pay attention to love and happiness.

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