Love in action… And Words of Advice

A few years ago I became a convert to the religion of love. I used to believe it was a gimmick to sell books, movies and red valentine hearts. Now I know it is real, and it is something beautiful. And it really doesn’t matter whether its source is chemical, emotional or spiritual. The real thing, if you encounter it, is earth-shattering and unsettling. And even though my story was not what romance readers would call a HEA story, it is still a positive one that inspired me to run a marathon, write a very bad Nanorimo novel, and post profusely on this blog. It also deepened my curiosity about a range of subjects from philosophy and meta-physics, to spirituality and religion, and literature and life in general.

I have come away from that experience a bit wounded, but also a bit wiser and more empathic. I am unable now to recapture the Love, as a noun, that expanded my heart to fit the whole wounded world. But in exchange I gained an ability to experience love as a verb, as an action that helps me get through the challenges of life. I love my teenage son, even when he is difficult, rude, or ungrateful. I find opportunities to love my colleagues by showing appreciation. I love the world by understanding its failings and limitation and acknowledging that I am part of it. I love my parents and family by being there for them and being kind. Some of this is hard work, but I do it, because it is better to act out love than any other emotion. It the glue of society and perhaps the universe itself. I write this with true conviction, and without sniffling or tears in my eyes, so I know that my love-outcome was positive, even after I packed away my love letters and quit looking at my older heartache posts. And although I did not leave the battlefield of love without losses, some of which have proven irreversible, I still believe that it was worth all the pain and the suffering.

It has been over a year now since I had my last (now I say final) intense conversation with the man I loved. It lasted over two hours, and it was one of the times when I told him I could not forget about him. He listened empathically. I remember him saying that if he brought this problem to the attention of wise people in his family, like his daughter, they would advise him to “cut loose”. I heard only what I wanted to hear from this. But I also suggested that he should write me a goodbye letter, I even drafted the text. He read it and said, that I wrote well. I never received that note or any other from him, and this again was misinterpreted. When I read these lines now, I smile at my naive self, but I also rejoice at the sincerity of the sentiment and the depth of my devotion.

I will send this note to myself now on his behalf, and do as I/he said.

Dear x. I appreciate that the feelings you carry for me are genuine and sincere. But I see that they are neither healthy for you nor helpful for me. I therefore allow you to let go of them without resistance. I set you free from any hold I might have unconsciously placed upon you by things I said or withheld. Think of me if you wish with fondness and compassion but release me from your heart as I will also release you in this life. Until the soul can decide where it will dwell in the next one.

Here are a few things that I learned from that experience. I would have liked to share them with the man who inspired them, but as I said, I already folded my unsent love letters and drafted my silent goodbye. Now it would be counterproductive to get in touch after months of silence just to say farewell. I am sure he will understand my silence for the goodbye that it is. It is possible that he will be even relieved that I finally cut him loose.

To all my girlfriends and women in love, you are important, so look after yourselves:

What you think he feels is irrelevant. Don’t try to interpret his messages, the jokes he makes, and the ambiguous phrases in his emails. If he did not spell out his feelings to you clearly, there might be a million different interpretations to the words he says. The interpretation you want is just one of them. Understand the odds and know that he might be only trying to be friendly, polite, joking, flirting or just humouring you. This is especially important to understand if you have been open about your feelings for him. If he is afraid to tell you how he feels after that then he has problems. You do not need that.

Take what he says at face value only. Never try to dig deeper or feel that you understand him better than he understands himself. Even if it is true, some people want to stay in their world of denial. It is not your job to fix them. Allow him to be what he believes he is.

If he is married, or in a committed relationship, always assume that the relationship is fine, and that his partner is a thousand times better than he will ever be. If he claims that his wife is not treating him well, always assume that she probably gives him the cold shoulder because he is an ass, and that he would happily kneel at her feet like a loyal dog if she decided to look at him kindly.

If you suspect that he is separated, divorced, or living in an open marriage, be bold and try to confirm this. Do not try to interpret the signs of missing wedding rings or removed family photographs. Most importantly, do not take his word for it. If any of these things are true then the partner or her friends would corroborate the story and you can take action accordingly.

If you want an affair you can do whatever you like, but it is also best to announce your intention so that the other person knows where they stand.

Remember: There are no rules. These are only guidelines for your own protection. All is fair in love and war is a correct statement but whatever you do, be aware of the consequences and take responsibility for your own actions. Do not blame the man for things you chose to misunderstand or misinterpret.

And if you have a girlfriend or someone you care about in a situation of heartache and endless wondering, try to be the sound of reason. Do not be a “pick me” friend by empowering and validating the emotional high. If she makes it, and gets the love of her life, you will be happy for her, and she will be so overjoyed that she will forget your scepticism. But if things fall apart you will at least be able to pick up the pieces with her and support her. This will not happen if you constantly validated her feelings and encouraged them. You might even end up as one of the people she wants to forget, a symbol of the emotional and irrational state she does not want to return to.

Some Final Words: Not everything I wrote above is reflection of my own experience, they are just imagined scenarios inspired by what I felt. I have written perhaps hundreds of pages on the man I loved, on how he made me feel and think. Only a fraction of my words made it to this blog. I recalled every detail of our few conversations, phone calls, and text messages, trying to analyse them and glean some meaning. This was a huge waste of time and energy and my best achievement and best work were done when I turned this energy outwards and created something out of it. I swapped the unattainable for the difficult but achievable, and loved those who wanted and needed my love, including myself. Love is powerful and beautiful, it holds the universe together, but we are mere mortals with finite time on this earth (or in this life) so we cannot hold its intensity for very long. This is not a limitation, it is a function of us existing in time. The transience of our experience enables us to survive through the trials and joys of our limited time. Nothing, not even enlightenment and transcendence, can be held for a long time. In the biography of the late Ram Dass, he wrote about his experience with psychedelics and how he progressively increased the dosage to achieve a transcendent state of consciousness. And every addict knows this, whether it is a drug, alcohol or sex, the more you turn to them the more you crave, and the less effective they become. In a sense, for us humans, less is always more. We should crave the doses of pleasure that we can handle. Or as Alan Watts said, “if you get the message hang up the phone”. I got the message loud and clear, and it is time to hang up that phone.

Love rules.. Always. Acknowledge it, honour it, and experience it. If it doesn’t lead you to happiness, it will grant you kindness and wisdom.

.

Don’t Grasp …

The parting gift of 2021 for me was a little bit of wisdom and understanding. It did not come to me cheaply or quickly, but I still believe it arrived on time.

Intellectually, and from my pervious dabbling with mindfulness mediation, I already understand that life is only the present. Yesterdays are gone, and the future is an uncertain gamble, at best. Those who grasp at moments of past happiness are reconstructing remembered experience in hindsight from the viewpoint of the present. On the other hand, dreams of the future are sometimes just an escape from present discomfort. Living this way is a permanent sleep-walking state. We become completely or partly oblivious of the present moment, either imagining a future that might never arrive, or re-interpreting the past. In either case we are missing the point. Life is moving along in ever-changing patterns of good and bad times. All of them are temporary, and the point of it might not actually be where we have been or where we want to be next. The point is just the journey, the dance we perform and the music we play along the way.

In the past few months I was stuck in such a futile pattern. I came here, to the city of music and culture from a place where I knew I was happy. It was a place where I found love and glimpsed my own version of enlightenment. I missed Kenya. I missed Africa, the sunshine, the people, the coffee, the avocados, the simple uncomplicated life. I felt overwhelmed by learning about my new job, the challenges of raising a demanding teenager, the difficulties of adapting to a different lifestyle, and of simply finding a place for myself in foreign city. Most of all I missed the person that I became when I was fully embraced by my beloved Africa. So I tried hard to recapture that luminous phase of my life, and I grasped at everything I thought I have lost. When I went shopping I tried to buy the exact same tools and utensils I had in my previous life. When I lost my beloved chain bracelet I tried to order an exact replica. I looked for Kenyan coffee, to recapture the taste of sunshine and inject life-giving warmth into my cold mornings. I grasped with desperation at memories, at moments where I felt my heart expand to encompass the whole universe, when I reached out to receive the world’s loving embrace. I remembered how well I loved, that I became wholesome in loving, and the universe seemed to hold and lift me, even while my beloved remained aloof and silent. I desperately wanted all that again.

The inevitable failure of my grasping phase came in little pointers and signs. The replacement bracelet was expensive and underwhelming, not at all like the one I lost, and the tools and utensils became useless white elephants, unsuitable for my modern European apartment. The coffee tasted like cardboard, and did not live up to my idolised version of African coffee. Each little failure was another loss, and another reason to wallow in misery and grasp even more at the past. In Kenya, I thought, everything fell into place for me, whereas here, everything went wrong. My spirit suffered as well. My attempts at recapturing the spiritual heights I experienced through running, yoga and meditation were half-hearted to non-existent. My heart felt closed and constricted and no longer capable of unconditional loving. I regained my cynicism in matters of the heart and started to re-interpret my emotional experience more rationally.

Comparing my present state of mind with the past one I remembered was jarring and unsettling. Sometimes I felt like I fell from grace, and descended from paradise to earthly suffering. At other times I thought that I must have been floating on an opioid cloud for the past six years, and just sobered up now to cold reality.

Eventually, and perhaps with the help of a lecture I listened to from Alan Watts, it dawned on me that neither my emotional nor my rational interpretations were correct. I simply failed to understand one basic lessons. Life is a flowing river, and it is a bad idea to grasp at flowing water. The clenching fingers fail to hold a single drop, and the tense limbs are no match for strong currents. That lesson holds for some things in the physical world too, like trying to fall asleep or trying hard to float in a pool. Trying too hard is sometimes the surest guarantee of failure.

Today, I have decided to float freely and stop grasping. However, in doing that, I also want to remember that I should not try too hard. True acceptance after all, is the absence of resistance, and sometimes the pull of the past will still be felt, but I need to understand it for what it is, an illusion, a re-imagining of the past from the viewpoint of the present.

There will always be things that I can, and should, work harder at, like getting an exercise or practicing meditation. But the present experience should be the heart of the practice. I should enjoy the meditation session, the single run, and the yoga lesson. And while the end goal of running another marathon or getting fit and flexible in my middle age years could work as a motivator, the end goal is not as important as the present experience. My present moment is all I have, and I will make it count.

Unwritten

Time passes quickly, and things could change in the blink of an eye. It has been over two months since I broke one self-imposed silence, and two weeks since we all had to self-isolate. I am glad that I met him while I could, before the offices, and our shared coffee stations closed. And somehow it was a necessary step towards letting go and accepting.

It happened on a Monday, my second week at the office after returning from holiday. I went through my usual routine of looking him up, to see whether he was away, or had blocked some busy times for meetings. His public calendar showed that he was free for the next 8 hours. I opened a blank email message, stared at it for only a minute or so, then drafted a single subject line. Do you have time for Coffee today? Without hesitation, I pressed send.

I don’t think I planned it. It was just a normal day, and on a normal day I think of him at least a dozen times. Thanks to technology and social media, I always know, in the broadest sense, what he is up to. I had needed to know, sometimes, even while I kept the pretense of trying to forget him. By the end of last year, I knew that my attempts at forgetting were futile. I also dreaded the prospect of a chance meeting that will disassemble me anew, and painfully remind me of things I never forgot.

The year I spent away, trying to get over him, had served its purpose. First, I walked away with my wounded ego, when I felt that he rejected my open adoration. Then I was confronted with the layers of my pain, and by chance discovered that it all originated from a deep unfulfilled need. Because while I had a wonderful childhood where I was loved and unconditionally by close and extended family, things drastically changed when I became and adult. As soon as I grew into a woman, I was judged superficially for my appearance rather than my essence, and found that I need to work very hard for genuine appreciation and validation from others, all the things that I received freely as a child. The moment of realization came one late afternoon. I was complaining to a close friend and colleague about lack of recognition from my supervisor, then I found myself talking with bitterness and pain about the abuse I suffered in my marriage. Finally, I dissolved into tears when I remembered the final rejection from the man I loved. This meltdown sent me on a journey of self-discovery, where I learned to be kinder and more accepting of myself and others. I now know that I can always offer myself the love and compassion I needed, and I no longer crave as much validation from others as I did before. The journey is ongoing, but I have gained a better sense of my genuine self, and I realized that letting go of the ego, means less pain or at least less suffering.

My trusty therapist accompanied me on this journey. After ten sessions of talk therapy, she told me that I was now better, and perhaps I did not need her on a weekly basis. At the time I was going on holiday, and it felt right to have a break. However, one question she asked stuck with me and tortured me. She asked me whether I saw the man I loved again, and I told her that I have successfully avoided him after our last chance meeting some three months ago. During the calm time of the Christmas holidays, and embraced in the safe caring circle of my family, I spent long times ruminating about this problem. Does avoiding pain really equate to healing? How can I be over my heartbreak if a chance meeting would tear me apart?

By instinct I knew that avoiding my almost-lover was useless. I always criticized others for trying to run away from themselves, yet here I was trying to avoid my soul’s deepest desire. How could I ever think that I could leave him, when he has never left me? But this had been a recurrent pattern of my life. My intuition and heart were always way ahead of my mind and intellect. So on that day in January, I let my heart lead my fingers as I typed the email asking to meet him.

When I sent the email note, I did not know that he was in the middle of one of his usual work crises. It took him some time to reply but when he did, he accepted my invitation without hesitation. Later he commented on my timing and how I caught him at the worst possible moment in his working life. I seem to have a knack of doing that all the time. He never asks himself why it is so, but I know that my soul must be very close to his that I feel his distress.

We did not meet for long. He bought me coffee and I filled him in about the most important events of the past year of my life. I filled him in about my trip home for example and the reason for it. He told me that he thought I had left, since he never saw me on the street. I said I was still here, but did not mention that my departure was still a possible future outcome. He did not say much about his life, preoccupied as he was with the immediate work concerns. I tried to point out that work was not everything, but he was quick to counter that it was a bad time for advice.

I did not need to tell him that I was still ‘weird’, I felt our connection just like before. I still looked at him in the same way, and he asked me, like he usually does, to stop staring. He said that we resembled an old divorced couple, and he joked that he did not remember the middle bit, just the divorce. He said it would be nice if we met again, every quarter, then left to resume his professional battles. I finished the rest of my coffee, alone but for the warmth he left in my heart. I knew that I still loved him, perhaps more than before. The pain was still present, but I would live with it. Neither of us could change what was and would perhaps remain between us. We were just one and the same. Time and space meant nothing when we were together.

I meant to write that love letter then, to tell him how meeting him, and recognizing him as my twin soul was one of the most unsettling and challenging events of my life. It was, and continued to be, my greatest learning experience, and the catalyst for my ongoing spiritual growth.

Before him, I was hiding inside my protective shell of cynicism and apathy. I saved my love and affection for only a few select people, and avoided the rest of humanity. Then he found me and eventually broke the artificial barriers I built around my heart, to shield myself from disappointment and pain. He broke through my defenses because he knew me, and I was not prepared to love so selflessly, to relate so completely, and to look into the mirror of my soul. The ego resists and rejects experiences of true love, because they threaten the boundaries we keep between the self and the other, between what is wholly ours and what belongs to God or the universe. But as love destroys the ego, it offers the clearest passage to enlightenment. I finally understood what God was. God is love, and love is where he is, in my heart.

I remember the only time I held him. In a hospital room, I told him that everything will be Ok. We will be fine. Then, I looked into his eyes and said: “You will learn something”. Undoubtedly it was my intuitions speaking even then, because -unbeknownst to my rational mind- my heart had already opened up to the spiritual journey, that our twin soul is destined to to take.

I never managed to write this letter, not on the first day we met, after such a long time. I still had so much to process. But I thought I would write it later here to celebrate his birthday in February.

But his birthday has now come and gone. I sent him a greeting on the day, even though I knew he was away, and invited him to a celebratory coffee a few days after his return. A day before the appointed time. His message ringtone chimed on my phone and I was dumbstruck at first then delirious with happiness. That ring tone has gone quiet for over a year, and I could never assign it to anyone else. For the past year, it had always unsettled me whenever I heard it from a stranger’s phone. The shock could hit anytime, in the supermarket, in the cafeteria, or worst while boarding a plane, and I would be back to the twin thrill and disappointment of hearing it, then knowing it was not coming from my phone. This time I was to keep the thrill. His text adjusted our meeting time, and I was drunk on my own happiness for almost 24 hours in anticipation of a small meeting over a cup of coffee.

That meeting was a bit longer, and he was more relaxed. He talked to me about his business trip to a desert kingdom, and his real and imagined adventures there. His real escapades included skydiving and bar-hopping and what I suspect some less important socializing. The imagined ones included running away to live with the Bedouins in the desert, and I said that I would join him for that.

While we were talking I thought I misplaced my phone and looked for it for almost a minute in my purse before I realized that it was sitting there next to my coffee cup. He confuses me this way, whenever he sits opposite me. He said that my forgetfulness reminded him of a movie he saw “The Notebook” where one character was suffering from dementia. I reminded him that I was not a movie person, and he said, that it was a nice love story.

This time I told him that I was waiting for news about an application I made to transfer to another duty station. He asked me when I would know the outcome, and I said, perhaps it would be a month. We parted, and I told him I was giving him a virtual parting hug.

That second meeting was tougher on me than the first. I felt more, and I feared saying goodbye soon. After I left, I shed some tears in the privacy of my office. Later at home, I realized that I had seen the notebook in December. My parents are TV addicts, while I only enjoy televisions programs as part of family time with them. I watch with half of my attention, while knitting or crocheting. Most of the time I listen to improve my German, but sometimes the story sucks me in. I was only half-watching for the first part of the movie. Two young people in love who end up together despite the obstacles. The second half seemed unrelated at first. An elderly man visiting a care facility and suffering the rudeness and maltreatment of a woman resident. He is often berated by younger visitors that he is wasting his time. At some points, we the viewers find out that the elderly man and the woman are the same lovers whose story we saw earlier. The man is retelling to the woman, through letter, or through this notebook he kept. He visits her all the time waiting for the one rare moment she returns, and recognizes him. I cried my heart out when I saw the movie. I cried again that Thursday evening, because that story was a metaphor for how I loved him. I was just waiting, never abandoning the distant hope, that one day he would, maybe, recognize me.

Since that second meeting that left me in tears. I reached out to him twice. Once near the end of February. He answered me that he was going to be unavailable for the next three weeks, on short leaves and then workshops. Then last week I wrote to ask him how he was doing with the self-isolation, but that email is not yet answered.

Perhaps my third love letter will remain in my heart, unwritten. But anything I write will not come close to the simple beauty expressed in one of my favourite Arabic songs, “The past is only what time has managed to change. But neither time nor space could make our love a thing of the past.” I have decided to embrace the truth of what he is to me. In this lifetime I will work on my spiritual evolution, to find myself. If he was the twin soul I think he is, then I will find him too. And if he wakes up, to his genuine essence, then he will recognize me. When he does, this lifetime or the next, I will be waiting.

Hope Dies Last

I did not make the 100 days mark. Today it has been 98 days since I last saw my beloved Englishman, and I had to see him again when he texted me to have coffee.

Over the past few months, and especially during my holiday, the pain of missing him gutted me. When I surrendered to my longing and texted him he sounded off, unhappy, worried, or even apathetic. In our acquaintance, it had always bothered me that so many things were left unsaid, and although I am sure he knows how I feel about him, he never really heard the full story. So I wrote a simple love letter that I sent as an attachment through a messenger application. Whether he reads or not, it is his choice.

The last time I saw him, we met at an LGBT event where I gave him a rainbow flag. This love letter is my proverbial white flag. I am done with hiding from him, deleting his contact and blocking him on social media. I am also done with meeting him frequently over coffee as normal friends do. In my letter, I just made the simple plea that he write to me or text me every once in a while, to let me know how he is doing. I promised to see him a few times every year, if he wanted, because I feared that my heart could not handle more of these public meetings.

We exchanged some texts after I wrote the letter. He knows that I sent it, but I now doubt that he will read it.  When I arrived back, I told him that I had a little package of chocolates for him. He texted me today to ask if I would have coffee, and I acquiesced because the pain of missing him and worrying about him was greater than the risk of unsettling my heart again after meeting him. My heart was already unsettled over his strange and melancholic texts.

So we met today, and we talked. I did not pass out, I did not cry, and I did throw my arms around him. I deserve credit for at least that. I lost control over my train of thought and speech a few times, but I managed to demonstrate my capability for restraint. He talked about his expensive hobbies (good ! I disliked his acquired snobbery), and his family travels and activities with his wife and daughter (also good, keeps it real). We lightly touched on emotional issues, which were apparently all mine. Perhaps I will finally believe this?

I have done my part. I loved this man for the past year, and I loved him well. I cared enough to let go. I still love him, and will miss him for some time in the future. This time, I am not promising to cut all ties with him, I will leave the lightest of connection between us, just in case the longing grips me again by the throat.

There is a Spanish proverb that goes: Lo ultimo que muere es la esperanza – Hope Dies Last. A tiny flicker of that treacherous sentiment still resides deep in my heart. My beloved found me once when I did not want to be found. And although this event unleashed deluges of tears and many days and nights of emotional torture, I am grateful he did, because ultimately he helped me find my true self, my heart and my capacity for love. Perhaps one day he or someone like him will find me again, if by then I still did not mind being found.