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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Love: field notes from outside the box

Della and Elliott, a couple I know who are blazing their own unique path in love! Photo by Andrew Kelly, 2010.
When…the people of Bahá undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God.” ~‘Abdu’l-Bahá

The friends of God must so live and conduct themselves, and evince such excellence of character and conduct, as to make others astonished. The love between husband and wife should not be purely physical, nay rather it must be spiritual and heavenly. These two souls should be considered one soul. How difficult it would be to divide a single soul! Nay, great would be the difficulty!" ~‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Eight years ago I fell in love. I do not fall in love often. To be honest, it has only happened once so far. Eight years ago I met a man that who made me stop throwing phrases like “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” around quite so flippantly. I did not need him, but I very much wanted his company by my side. He did not fall into the traditional definition of what my friends would call cute, but I did not have eyes for anyone else. He was not wealthy or super fit, and he insisted on clogging his arteries up with cigarette smoke on a regular basis. He had fears and idiosyncrasies and hang-ups. But he was my man. He had a great laugh that made his eyes sparkle. He always noticed the positive in me, and would point it out. I don’t remember him criticizing anything about my words or actions the whole time we were together, which was a first. He was studious and smart. He had a great sense of humour. He was good with computers and all things electronic, which, being such a dinosaur myself, I always appreciated. He loved his parents and siblings. He believed in God. And he loved life. So he was sometimes rigid. And being Catholic, I think he would have preferred it if I had belonged to a church, but he respected my faith. He had not yet begun his career, but I had a deep-rooted certainty that whatever he did, he would succeed at.

I am rarely certain about anything in my life. I cannot figure out what side of the world to live on. Or what I should do with my life. Sometimes I want to be a farmer, and other times I am convinced that I should be a novelist. So when I watched the man I was certain I would spend the rest of my life with close the door of my apartment firmly behind himself for the last time, shattered would be more than a major understatement about how I felt.

In the months after he shut that door, I pulled myself together, applied to graduate school, and moved to Canada. I did my Master’s degree, served my community and found my calling in agriculture. I went out on a few dates and attended friends’ weddings. Although I never admitted it to anyone, part of me thought that if I waited long enough, he might realize that he had made a terrible mistake, and come find me. 

It is going on eight years since that door shut. I have finally realized that he is never going to come find me. I have also realized that loss and letting go are great teachers, that the journeys I have had since then would never have happened if we had remained together, and that I would not give up the many experiences of the last eight years for any thing or one. I have changed a lot, and to be honest, I am really enjoying the woman that I am becoming! Although I could not see it at the time, in hindsight, having that door close when it did was a blessing, because it sent me on a wild journey that I would not have chosen to take of my own accord. 

I was reading a blog not too long ago that led me to a site called Green Wedding Shoes. I was intrigued by the playful image that the web site’s name conjured up in my head -- a bride in a white dress and bright green shoes, so I clicked on it out of curiosity. I was taken to a description of one couple’s very creative wedding celebration, and, at the very bottom of the page, to the most creative, fun-loving and heartfelt wedding video that I have ever seen. Although I have never met the couple in the video, I have come across the groom’s (Devon Gundry) music before, and really love the melody he wrote to ‘Armed with the power of Thy Name,’ and I have since found out through the grapevine that the bride (Golriz Lucina), is co-director of content for Soulpancake, an incredible source of creative projects that you will want to check out, if you haven’t already! What makes Golriz and Devon’s wedding video so inspiring to me is how it seems that their marriage celebrates their individual authenticity so completely. They are both completely present at every level, and they convey, with every means available to them: their facial expressions, music, creative endeavours, words, and even the people that they surround themselves with, a depth of acceptance of who each other is that is breathtakingly beautiful. Interested in what Golriz had to say about love, I went to her blog, and found this:

recently someone asked me if i believe in soulmates..i don’t believe that there is only ONE ‘the one’ out there for each of us. but i do believe that if you know what you’re looking for, and you’ve started the process of knowing yourself and are striving to be the best version of you possible, then you can find / attract your soul mate. someone who effortlessly adds more brilliance to your world. someone you can traverse this life with trusting that at the core of their being their priority is taking care of your heart. that person will be enamored with what makes you the only you on this planet. they will recognize your nobility and will not need to be convinced of your worth.

and when that happens it does feel like you have met your soulmate.

at least, that’s how i feel.”

I also found a quote that I love, by dr. Seuss: “you know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams” – dr. seuss

I decided a while back that I am not really interested in relationships that take away from, or undermine who I am and what I want to do with my life. I am full of energy and creativity and dreams and journeys and laughter. If I share this life with someone, I want that union to be a celebration of the fullest expression of who each of us is. I also want it to be about honouring each other’s authenticity. Walking together, side by side instead of one in front of the other.

I really enjoy coming across fun stories about relationships that capture the beauty in being your own person and creating your own definition of what it means to love. For some reason, I notice people share stories/thoughts/dreams and reflections about happy relationships less and less often these days, and when they do, I often notice eyes rolling, people fidgeting, shuffling their feet and looking away. I often feel this unspoken “oh please” in the room, as if we believe that no relationship could possibly be that much fun to be in. And if it really does seem like two people are truly happy together, there is always this underlying question of “I wonder how long that will last?” I don’t really know why happy stories or dreams of one day being in a fun loving relationship are so hard for us to digest. Are we afraid to hear about what we could be sharing with the person we already are, or may some day be sharing our lives with because it means we might have to contemplate that we are responsible, and very capable of shaping our experience of love? Because it means that we might have to make some rather radical changes in how we are thinking and/or relating to those around us? Because we might have to reconsider our cynical approach to love? I wonder. Because the reality is that whether we believe it or not, there are many couples out there that I run into, just like Golriz and Devon, who are truly, amazingly, undeniably happy in their relationships. Who, like Elliott and Della (see photograph at the top of this page), dear friends of mine who just married this past summer, are blazing new trails their own unique ways, and adding beauty, diversity and love to the world as they do.

For my part I am going to keep surrounding myself with such people and stories. Dreaming. Learning more about who I am, so that I know how to share that with the right person when he does cross my path.

What are some of the ways that you celebrate what is authentically different and beautiful about yourself and your partner within your relationship? How do you redefine love and make it your own story? 

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