Love is the Easy Part

On a day when everything in the city is closed for a public holiday, my son wakes up unwell. He screams words that spell out every parent’s nightmare : “Mom my legs hurt, I cannot walk !”. I try to swallow my panic and go through the motions of going to work. He is off school today, but I have to go to the office and the deadlines are piling up on me.  I instruct the nanny to give him some pain medication, then I leave for work after I help him out of bed to the sofa. I try to tell myself it is just a muscle cramp. At the office, I attempt to prioritize and meet my most pressing deadlines, and as the day progresses, I check on my son who reports the same pain. I am now really scared, so I call the doctor on his mobile. His office is closed for the holiday but the worry in my voice gave him enough cause for concern and he made an appointment for today. I take the hobbling boy to the doctor who gives him a thorough check, and cautiously calms my fears. Watch him tonight, he says, this is probably the result of the viral infection he had, and should clear up by itself with pain medication. If not, he would need to go into hospital for further tests including a spinal tab. Looking at my son I was inclined to believe him.  The boy was calm and did not scream at all when the doctor prodded and pressed his calves and legs. Whereas this morning he screamed at my mere touch on his legs.

When the panic passed and I had time to myself I sat in the courtyard of the mall, while my son attended music lesson. I let waves of exhaustion and self-pity wash over me. I always have to do it all, and there is really nobody to help carry the load. My only staff member is a meek little Kenyan woman who is more cowed than motivated by criticism. She drives me crazy with her defeatist victim attitude, and her fear of making mistakes hampers her judgement. I always have to tell her exactly what I want, and she gets stumped if there was a need deviate from the standard. It is often easier to do the job myself than to give instructions in such minute detail.

I am also away from most of my friends and family, and at moments of sheer panic, I cannot call on a mother or a friend who lives thousands of miles away, and sometimes in a different timezone. Such a call will only worry people I care about and will do little to help me. At moments like this I really feel the need for a true partner who carries at least part of the load.

Most of my male friends, including Aquarius, are allowed to under-appreciate their partners. I know of one whose partner, according to him, organizes his complicated life. This enables the man to work late, engage in sporting activities, and have loads of leisure time to spare for himself or with company.  Meanwhile, I steal the time to have a little jog from my son, who gets what is left over after my work is done. He protests bitterly when I have to work weekends or at a night. And to get my attention and care he sometimes steps up his level of complaining about problems, pain, hunger, and general bad moods.

During this past week I was received with problems the moment I stepped into the house. The sick child complained while the house-help stood helplessly silent, waiting for me to find a magical solution for everything that went wrong at home that day. I just wanted to crawl under some rock and escape from it all. The stress at work, with the help and with the sick child got to me so badly.  Never before had I wished more for a dependable boring but sympathetic and helpful partner. I would choose to love such a person, regardless of age, looks, and sexual prowess. This is preferable to an exciting but unhelpful lover, and definitely way better than my pseudo-lover.

Last week I finished listening to an audio book by Kim Wright, The Last Ride To Graceland.  Near the end of the book a character muses about his relationships with his very much loved, but now deceased, wife. He realizes belatedly that “there is more to being a good husband than loving a woman. Loving the woman is the easy part, the hard part is seeing her as she really is, and letting her be all those things, even the ones that are not particularly convenient…”.  The quote spoke to me, love is really the easy part, and while most of us women understand this, and are prepared to give support and freedom in equal measure to those we love, it is not a natural thing for men to do the same.

I was once a helpful and dutiful wife, under-appreciated and unloved. I carried my share of the load, I earned my keep, and I helped my partner achieve his dreams and got almost nothing in return. Many women around me do the same without thinking. Men are happy to take this support, the good ones try to reciprocate it with some support, affection, and/or material generosity.  There are men who are helpful and supportive in varying degrees, and those who allow their women some freedom, if they stand to benefit in some way.  But no man I know can aspire to the level of giving and support that women are naturally capable of providing. While men usually equate love to possessiveness, women allow their men to experience their lives in full. They wait in the margins, keeping all the tiny pieces of daily life in order. They give their men freedom to achieve bigger things, or experience more leisure. Unfortunately for me, the little chaotic pieces are the sum total of my daily life. If I go down, there is nobody to pick them up for me.

True love is having someone to lean on. And at times like this I can only turn to friends and family. I spent some hours talking to my mom, and to my best friend. I got some well-needed sympathy, and the proverbial virtual pat on the shoulder across thousands of miles and many time-zones. The women in my life understand how hard it is, they get me, while most men around me clearly don’t.


Coffee with a lot of Heartbreak

In a relationship like mine it is easy to feel isolated and left out. Apart from our coffee my pseudo-lover is almost never there when I need him, and it does hurt.

At the very start of our coffee dates, Aquarius texted me once suggesting lunch at our usual spot. Since it was a cold and wintry day, he thought that we might change the outdoor venue. He asked where I would like him to take me, and I answered “Out in the cold is fine. I am used to it”. I added a wink emoji for good measure, because even that early in our acquaintance, less than two months after our first meeting, I felt that I will be figuratively left out in the cold in this relationship. He missed the double meaning of course. I was also wrong, I was not used to it, and I don’t think I will ever be.

When he is out there working, playing, socializing, or keeping a low profile on social media to ensure his free time is not hijacked by intrusions of officialdom, I am the first one to be left out in the cold. I know this and I expect this, and I normally never impose on those times when I know he is busy, at play or with family.

There are times, however, when I desperately need a kind word. When I need to share some fear, concern, pain or triumph, and  I cannot even reach out to the person I care about most. Last weekend was such a time when my son was down with a frightful upper respiratory tract infection that left him feverish, nauseous, and in a lot of pain. We were both sleepless for two nights. I spent most of my time administering medicine and water, cleaning up after messes, and encouraging a child who kept proclaiming “the worst sickness ever” and “how can something so small bring a human to his knees?”  – his exact words. By day two of this, my courage was failing, and I feared the antibiotic was not working.  When one evening Aquarius sent a message telling me of his latest feat, I responded with my normal positive tone, and told him in passing about my vigil next to my child’s sickbed, I was desperate for someone to care. He never responded or even saw the message and I felt so alone. I did not expect a callback, just a quick note in reply. This came two days later, stale like everything else in my life, when he finally had the time.

I spent one of the worst weekends in my life and if it weren’t for my parents who asked regularly about my son I would have felt desperately isolated. I know this is what it is like to be the other woman. But I am not truly the other woman, I am just a coffee date. And sometimes I question what am I really getting out of this relationship except a little coffee and a lot of heartbreak.


It’s a Cold and It’s a Broken Hallelujah

I love most of Leonard Cohen’s songs, but I recently discovered the tabs for his very famous song Hallelujah. It is one song I could play and comfortably sing along on my ukulele. My voice has a very small range, and it is lower in tone than most female voices, so it is easier to follow on Cohen’s bass rendition.

I admit that I choked a few times while singing it, because now I completely relate that love is not a victory march, not someone who saw the light, it is a cold and broken Hallelujah. My voice sometimes also breaks with the pain of it.

It has proven very difficult so far to bend my crazy heart to reason.  The emotional turmoil is somewhat bearable when I have the prospect of seeing him every day, when I know that we are waking up to the same sunshine, or rainstorm, when I hope, that perhaps today we will meet, and put on just a little bit of eyeliner and lipstick in enthusiastic anticipation. It could turn out later that he is busy. He might text me saying that he has all-day meetings, or indeed ask me to join him for coffee. Whatever the outcome, I just live in anticipation of a coffee chat, a text, or a chance meeting (which has never happened apart from the first two times we ever saw each other). Yet even in his almost constant absence, he is present in my heart, as the last thought I close my eyes to when I turn in to sleep, and he is the first person I think about when I open my eyes to sunshine, or to another bout of insomnia.

It is so much more difficult when he is away. We never speak or interact over weekends either, but I learned to manage that absence, especially since we catch up on Monday or late during the week. But when he leaves town, it is torture.  He left a few days ago on a family trip, and he will be away on a working trip right after. The day before his departure we had our usual coffee and laughs. It was fun, until it was time to take my leave and say goodbye.  My voice broke over “I will miss you”. I felt as if a giant hand was squeezing my heart and a lump formed in my throat. I was close to crying especially when he said sotto voce that he will miss me too. For him this is unusual and it brought tears to my eyes as I left him carrying my heavy heart and the lump in my throat. We never embrace and we hardly even touch in greeting. I know my feelings for him are too combustible for such closeness especially at a moment of goodbye. This time his absence will be measured in days, not even weeks, but I cannot help the disproportionate amount of sadness that envelops me. I always feel keenly the pre-programmed loss of our connection. One day he will leave, or I will leave, I am going to lose him forever perhaps sooner rather than later. How will I handle missing him forever when I cannot even take his absence for a few days?

Love is a cold and broken Hallelujah, indeed.

Easy (and not so easy) Ways for Falling out of Love

Since my accidental fall, I have often asked myself what triggers falling in love, and what indeed if anything makes you fall out of it.

Since last week I have managed to identify a few mood-killers when it comes to loving feelings. I did this revisiting my handful of failed relationships, and the only one I still treasure in memory. Each person will have a different set of emotion killers but for me the biggest interference comes from duty and guilt. Other big factors are the behavior of my love interest. My New York relationship was killed instantly by his excessive control and a pathological mistrust, that cast doubt on my integrity and principles. In my marriage, on the other hand, the loving feelings bled out slowly by insidious emotional abuse. My ex was a master at making me feel unworthy and inadequate. He even made me believe at some point that I was the dead-weight preventing him from reaching the heights of his destiny. It took me almost a decade to get a backbone and meet my destiny instead of languishing at his side. He turned out to be the dead-weight I was carrying.

Duty and guilt featured strongly in my two earlier relationship. My first innocent love was crushed against my duty towards my faith (as idiotic as this may sound to my current middle aged agnostic persona). I still cherish the memories of that first love, because my offense against my faith or my creator remained a victimless crime, and there is really nothing wrong in loving an atheist, I have almost become one myself.

In contrast, I have blocked all memories of my first boyfriend. We lived our love in secret away from the harsh judgment of society. Hiding away at my side was his last attempt at avoiding an inevitable marriage to his fiance of many years. Duty caught up with him in the end, and guilt drove me away. I felt guilty over my lies, that I wronged the other woman, disgraced my family, and went against my tradition by loving someone from outside my “tribe”.

I remember when I recounted the stories of my disappointing love-life, one of my girlfriends pointed out to me the prominence of guilt in my life. For all the guilt I needlessly carry, she said, I should have been a catholic. And indeed, some people can sin guilt-free while I invariably end up with sin-free guilt. And this is where I have ended up with my current strange relationship. Last week I decided to put the crazy twin of my Gemini personality in her box. My relationship with Aquarius II should never have left the friend-zone, and if I felt stale, guilty and cheap from a throwaway comment he made, then I know that I would completely hate myself if the relationship ever went to the next level.  I now know that it is not going to happen, ever, not in 2019, and not on my next decade birthday. It is simply not going to happen this lifetime.

Words that were said last week did not change the way I feel. I still carry the same desperate and hopeless emotion in my heart. And I also know that there was no ill-intent behind them at all. They served as triggers that flummoxed my crazy half and woke up the reasonable one. After some thought, the latter strongly expressed itself, and decided that it was unfair to continue stoking the emotional fires, and indulging an impossible hope. I know that part of me will remain crazy about this man for a long time, but our close friendship has become very important to me, and I would rather keep it for the long-term than trade it for a temporary tryst that will make me lose him forever.

So for now, we will continue drinking coffee, but the invisible shadow of his partner and my son will sit next to me at the table. The content of the conversation has to remain appropriate for our invisible audience. This is the only way I can shake off my guilt. In time, I will be ready to introduce real audience to the table and bring this strange connection back to the friend zone. Will this make fall out of love with Aquarius II? I have to wait and see.

Reason Intrudes

Something you said last time we met fell flat on my soul. I am not even sure whether it was one phrase, the setting, or the events of our meeting. The presence of my son intruded on our meeting, he phoned me several times needing something, as children do, this very second. I brushed him off as gently as I could saying that we will deal with it later. You made some offhand comments about this which did not bother me at the time. The feeling came after we parted. We exchanged a few messages and you had to delete them. Maybe the allusions were too strong this time,  and again the mention of my son intruded.

I turned to my work, as you turned to yours with a quick message “got to go”, and soon a feeling of utter dejection came over me. Time passed and I had to drag myself to the gym, I missed the yoga class, which on this day I probably needed most. Instead, I forced myself up the treadmill, hammered my feet on the rubber in a dull and disheartened rhythm, without the usual uplifting music in my ears. I spent the whole session looking at the beady-eyed picture of the Hezbollah leader on a news channel. I only mildly registered my dislike to his person, and the falsehoods that flashed on the news banner quoted from his speech. In the end he was just an image I fixed onto, black turban, grey beard, and insincere eyes, it definitely added to my somber mood.

After a less than successful round on the circuit, I headed home. I had a tension headache and I lay on my bed. Struck with a wave of dejection and apathy. I kept thinking back trying to feel the source of my disappointment.

There was a lighthearted bet that you made with yourself that day, that if you accomplished something that evening on your first try you will be with me. Those weren’t the words you used, and at the time I did not cringe too much at the crude utterance, I even laughed at it sitting there bathed in the sunshine and heat of your eyes. It only felt stale later. I could have told you right then, that you will make it that evening, but not the first time. I somehow knew and never took you seriously. We always attach almost impossible conditions to the event that we both know is highly unlikely ever to happen.

Still, it felt so trivial and random to link our coming together to a sporting accomplishment, a game really, and to express it so crudely.  I think you liked to picture me there cheering for you to make it on the first try, where in fact I could not care less of the outcome – although I expected it. When your message came telling me that I made it the 2nd time,  it added to the insult I belatedly felt. You sounded so excited that you won your game, and if you only had me in the bargain it would have been even nicer. I felt like a supplement, a postscript to a gaming victory. I texted you that I was relieved you did not make it the first time and it was a sincere sentiment. For me it is not a tossup whether or not to sleep with you.

I constantly struggle with the monumental weight of wanting you, where I know I shouldn’t. And if ever I made the decision to surrender to this emotion and try to borrow you or steal you for a time from your life it will not come lightly.  It would be a final gift, when my mind eventually surrenders and accepts that it failed in swaying my heart. It will be just the once, before we go our separate ways. We might meet again, as friends, but never as lovers.

The two halves of my Gemini soul are always at odds over you. Emotions and reason wage constant battle inside me, and they have only come to a temporary truce with our regular coffee meetings. My mind is trying to indulge the whims of my heart, but it still watches and bides its time and will never stop trying for a coup,  a change of heart. While my eyes tell you how much my heart needs and misses you, my mind is the one that makes fun of your snobbish personality and crazy hobbies. It keeps looking for the ways we are so different. It also brings in calls of duty, my duty towards my son, and my principles to avoid hurting the woman you belong with.

Today my mind has scored a point, when my son and your wife featured strongly between us, along with that crude bet. The fingers of cold reality and reason have touched my intoxicated heart and the chill has spread into a disappointment. It is a small one, and my heart still trusts that the words were said only lightly, and in jest. However, the doubt has crept in, and my tricky mind will keep playing on it.

I have no control over who wins this battle between my heart and my mind, but the track record has always been in reason’s favour. Perhaps this is why my mind is quiet, silent and waiting its time, while my foolish heart still indulges in the distant hope that there is a first time for everything.

Unexpected Rewards of Love

As I continue to wrestle with the inconveniences, and the occasional sadness, there are some surprising positive aspects of falling in love.

I have started strumming my ukulele more regularly. Maybe it is a good thing that its bright and happy register does not lend itself well to melancholy, but I occasionally manage a thoughtful chord progression. Most of the time though I can strum a happy tune that conveys the emotional high.

My meetings with Aquarius II are still full of laughter, sometimes induced by our conversations and other times by the happenings around us. A few days ago, we witnessed a close encounter with one of the resident cheeky monkeys, who tried to steal someone’s lunch, but was fortunately frustrated by a combination of sturdy packaging and a quick-thinking bystander. The incident is probably somewhere on video. But even without the monkeys there is never a dull moment at lunchtime. I replay the conversations in my mind and the memory brings back excitement and smiles.

I have a lot more energy. I am a regular customer now at the gym. On dry days I go out for a jog and I am slowly improving on my pace, distance and time. If this continues I might run an ultra-marathon one day.

During my jogging/running sessions I started listening again to Arabic music, the rhythm of slower Arabic songs matches my tortoise pace. And nobody does love and heartache quite like Arabs do, and in my devotion to Aquarius 2, I am wholly and totally Arab. In the tradition of classical lovers of my Arab ancestry, I have done the sleepless nights, the sighs that melt the stone and the rivers of salty tears. The cheesy words I scoffed at most of my life finally make sense. I do worship the ground he walks on, and when he is away my heart flutters painfully like a dove with its wing caught in a trap. I can go on running listening to these painful images now, but once when he was away a particular song touched me so deeply I had to stop at my gate and have a good cry right there. The tears are not necessarily a bad thing, I now know. I have developed a healthier sense of compassion with the pain of others. When the time comes I am sure I can lend a hand (and a big ear) to my son, my girlfriends or anyone I know who experiences heartache.

My feelings have also inspired me to put my thoughts into words again. As you can read, my writing has not improved profoundly with the eruption of passion, but I still write from the heart, and with feeling. And for better or worse there are things I want to commit to memory for later years. I might yet translate some love poems that speak to me or I might try to describe my love as I see him. There are things that I am still shy to write, the erotic images he provokes that bring my inside to melt.  Most of the time, however, I think that he does not need to try very hard because even the innocuous image of him walking barefoot in the sand or interacting kindly and lovingly with his child is enough to sear my heart.

And of course there are always, always the things that I yearn to express beyond words and looks. I constantly fight the compulsion to reach out and touch, with my hand, with my fingertip. In my mind I venture further to touch my lips to the crown of his head, his brow or to the fuzz around his lips. I know he likes to be kissed near his ear, and what I would give to do it.  I rarely dare to picture a forbidden kiss on the lips, because I still remember one chaste kiss he planted on my forehead as I lay on a hospital bed. On the right side of my forehead it was, the cool touch of his lips burned me then and still does in memory.

I keep thinking that in contrast to all my previous infatuations and love interests, it seem as if my heart has chosen Aquarius II in defiance of my mind. My heart simply responded to what it read in his eyes, real or imagined, and made the leap that my mind was never ready for. I tried to fight it and change it. At times I was angry with myself and other times I was just sad, but at the end I let go and resigned to it. Once I surrendered and accepted the joy and pain of this attachment, I found a surprising source of peace. I have cried less and felt less anger at the universe, my luck and my foolish heart. This peace that comes with letting go and accepting has been another lesson I take from this strange relationship.

Where he is concerned I  am neither jealous nor resentful. And while I am usually impulsive and reactive I try to let things happen and go with the flow. There is a certain wisdom that I am gaining from this, as I practice the ability to tame my passion, and bring it down to earth before it soars and burns me. I now appreciate the eastern practice of meditation and breath control.

Here as well I am coming back to the Arab wisdom of traditional proverbs. One that comes to my mind very often these days is a saying from Damascus, not my native Aleppo.  People of my native city are stereotyped as passionate and emotional. They wrote the most melting and heartfelt love songs to the music of traditional religious hymns. Damascene people, in contrast, are known as the better negotiators, politicians and mediators.  So this particular saying about patience will come more naturally to a cool Damascene than a hot-headed Aleppean:  كل شي دواه الصبر إلا قلة الصبر ما لها دوا = Patience is a cure for everything, but impatience has no cure.

Time in the end heals everything, I will give it time.

Going with the Flow

It has been only four months since I met you and I still cannot explain how you have become so important to me. How my world has shrunk around getting drunk on your eyes and getting high on coffee and our conversations. You would meet me whether rain or shine and we would lose the minutes playing out intimate encounters in our mind after we roughly outline them with words. There is never too much detail, we just imagine the place, and the time, the rest plays out in our heads and I leave you drunk on the imagined pleasure and burning with longing for what is impossible to attain.

I told you once to have a heart that I have spent more than five years in celibacy. In truth though my 66 months of abstinence were never a hardship until now. I never even counted them or felt their weight until this slow-burn of pining for you.

I now live on two competing hopes. My rational mind wishes for this to fizzle and die, that I will move on to something more plausible or go back to my carefree and man-free existence. While my heart and my soul entertain the notion that perhaps this is the real thing, and it will last and deepen. Then, perhaps, in a year, two years, three years, someday I will be able to borrow you once from your life. That for once I will be able to feel, what it is like to love and be loved in return, no past, no future, just the one moment that I will commit to memory instead of living it in imagination. I have a feeling that this hope will sustain me for a long time.

I have never felt anything so deeply, and although I keep second-guessing my mental health and sanity at least twice a day. My heart and my intuition tell me that I will belong to you for a long time, even if I will never own you myself.

And even through this roller-coaster of emotions that are unsettling my mind, body and soul. There is an element of peace to letting destiny unfold the way it will. I tried to fight my strong feelings for you before, I tried to cut you off and break off contact with you, and it nearly killed me. I will not fight my emotions anymore. At the same time I will not try to initiate a situation where we take this relationship to a level we will both feel guilty about, ultimately regret, and then be forced to end.  So we defer even our first kiss to 2019. One or both of us telling ourselves that maybe then the universe will tilt the other way, and we will turn into innocent and crazy friends, simple coffee buddies, once we have tamed the fire of our mutual attraction.  Maybe if one, or both of us believe this it will turn into our new truth.

In the end things will happen the way the are supposed to.  There is no fear in my heart nor worry. I just take the moment and hope you stay in my life, on any terms.