Oh my, she smells good, fresh and free of baggage (which is, of course, a fragrance infused with my wishful thinking, but I’ll savour it anyway).
Several years ago, I decided to take a year off from relationships and dating. Another relationship had ended and had failed to save me from my wounds and from whatever inner work I needed to do to heal those wounds.
Not long after that relationship ended, I was meditating in a large circular room when a geyser of emotion erupted from some old pipes in the cellar of my psyche. Anger and sorrow took turns flushing and scrubbing and wringing me out. It seemed like more than just the pain from the loss of a relationship; it felt like the dam holding back a lifetime of relationship pain had burst open.
When it was over, an epiphany dropped into my lap: It’s time to take a relationship-fast, it’s time to fall in love with my own broken heart, it’s time to commit to myself. I’d certainly had periods of being single before, but had never used the time intentionally—to learn, heal, grow and answer the deeper calling of my life’s purpose. With trepidation and determination, I set out to do just that.
Leaning against her feels like leaning into heaven. It’s all I can do to keep an eye on my heartache and remember my relationship-fast. Where did I put my resolve?
I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and, let me tell you, there are some beautiful, vibrant, inspiring, and wonderful women there. I could have adopted all kinds of strategies to avoid connecting with women, but I chose to make friends with women and be upfront and honest about my relationship-fast. It was quite a challenge, downright painful and a little crazy-making at times, but it was one of the most important things I’ve ever done.
We hug and my heart aches, the longing swells and ripens like low-hanging fruit, begging to be picked before dropping to the ground. It’s a familiar ache that enjoins me to throw caution over the cliff, to cross my fingers, dive in and hope that a beautiful woman can save me. It’s all I can do to turn toward the ache and let it know that we’re in this together. “You and me, my dear old lonely heartache, together we are going to fall to the ground and bruise and rot and compost into something new.”
My highly uncalculated and unconscious strategy in the past was to fall head over heels in love and plunge into relationships, dreaming of a happily-ever-after, in which the bliss of romance sorts everything out for me. This dream was so strong that I tried the strategy a couple of times, even after I became aware of what I was doing (well, maybe half-aware). In hindsight, the tough, deep down, grubby truth is that I was hoping a relationship would take care of me, heal my wounds, open the ground of my being and replant the self-acceptance and trust that was uprooted many years ago. But I did not realize the extent of my wounds, and I had no idea how to heal them. Unfortunately, because I didn’t have the skills and knowledge of taking responsibility for healing my wounds, I would blame my girlfriends for the pain I felt when those wounds were inevitably opened. Oops… Cringe… Regret…
Although it seems obvious now, I didn’t think that befriending women I was attracted to while remaining single would bring up so much heartache and inner conflict. It’s been a slippery path into an inner world of confused and entangled parts: The past and the present, fear and intuition, love and longing. But it’s a change from the confusion and entanglement that happens within a relationship. By sticking to my relationship-fast and sitting in the discomfort, I can let go of solving anything and just feel and listen, listen and feel. Presence has a way of putting things in their right place. When I sit on the cushion to meditate, or connect with an empathy buddy and embrace what is arising, the past, fear, and longing sift upwards, and I can see them more clearly and feel them more deeply, and then give them the embrace they’ve been waiting for. Grieving. Lots of grieving. “It’s about time,” my heart says, with tender exasperation. Who knew that grief, when fully embraced, opens to so much sweetness, beauty, and creativity?
I’d love to tell you that the determination I felt at the beginning of my relationship-fast remained strong, but lately I’ve been bumbling and fumbling, grasping and groping. Wavering. My heartache seems always ready for another round. But there is a beautiful shift happening too. The old hope for an ending, for a final break-through to whatever I thought I would become (someone who is happy and composed all the time) is dissolving. Certainly, it’s not always easy to feel and embrace it all, but there is always something magical and beautiful, exquisite at times, when I don’t run away. And, wouldn’t you know, I’m writing more songs and playing my guitar more often and singing more freely. I’m running and hiking and biking, and my work is more meaningful than ever. More and more, I move through a wide and colourful range of emotions, rather than live within the confines of ‘fine.’ An old memory of what it means to be truly alive is slowly surfacing.
With longing and fear straining to constrict my throat and tie my tongue, I tell her I’m not available for a relationship. My body relaxes. I can trust myself. I make another date with my broken heart.
Excerpt from the introduction to Eric Bower’s book, Meet Me In Hard-to-Love Places.