Soul Mates, or What?

I spent my life hoping to find a soul mate, the one person who would feel like pure cosmic energy was zapping between us when we were together, even when we were apart, and still going long after death. I have been both blessed and cursed with many loves, and I always believed there could be many beautiful mates to my one passionate soul. I believe, you know, life is a river, always flowing and evolving, not an isolated lake. But that was all before I found him. As a woman in her mid-fifties, I have come to find that this one is definitely my soul mate. I am not sad it took so long. I am thrilled it happened at all.

Some part of me always knew, deep down, and sometimes declaring to the world, that the men I have loved have never been my true blue. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love them. It did mean I spent a lot of time wishing it was different in key ways. It did mean that when the chips were down, I was utterly alone much of the time. I don’t regret it. It was all necessary, I suppose.

It didn’t mean something was wrong with me. Although, there were lots of things wrong with me. It wasn’t about that. It was about the solid fact that I may learn a lot from this relationship, but we were not meant for an eternal time together. I’d still take a bullet for a few of them. Most of them meant something important to me.

It didn’t mean something was wrong with them. Although, there were plenty of things wrong with all of them. Being my soul mate has never required perfection, nor actually anything even close to that. Perfection is boring and repulsive to me.

It’s just that now, it is different. I don’t know if I found him so late in life because I took this long to love myself. A lot of people believe in that. I am confident you can find your soul mate long before you learn to love yourself, and I have seen it happen. Perhaps our soul mate helps us get there.

Yet, there is something quite lovely about finding someone when you finally understand that you are worthy of such an ecstatic love, a love that feels safe and constantly thrilling all at once. A love that will spend an entire day eating and lounging and playing and maybe even challenging each other, if need be. A love that you can just tell is never, ever going to ditch you, or betray you, or think you are embarrassing. A love that erupts in serious belly-aching laughter, in a vessel you can’t seem to stop touching. A love that takes dancing lessons for you. A love that feels exactly that same way you do about that love. The sort of love that makes you smile when they have a funny walk or stupid jokes or likes a song that sounds like a chainsaw.

A love that feels like you just came ashore after epic battles with mythic beasts. A love that is simple but never boring, even when you are doing nothing at all. A love that you just know can never be replaced, no matter how great other people can be.

If I lose this love, to another, or to illness, or to some dark fate, I will be done looking elsewhere. I would keep living, since that is my right and my duty, but to try to love this way again would be a great disservice to anyone new. It would be far better to find other ways to find joy than to spend a single hour searching for something I was blessed to know at all. It would be greedy. I am a realist. I spent a long time thinking he was possible, but knowing I might be karmically fucked. So now, I intend to treat him like a king. I will count that blessing every day, after he is gone, and thank the gods for the fact that I finally got what I had always hoped to get, for however long I could hold it. And for someone like me, a woman of raging fire and unwavering ice, that should say a lot.

Struggling to Love – Expected Flaws or Epic Fails?

In response to a friend’s question: How do I love my husband, despite his flaws?

No matter how much we love someone, they will eventually frustrate us to some degree. And if this is a long term, daily relationship, this challenge is likely to become a regular thing. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand what is a small annoyance, what is worthy of fair battle, and what is a deal breaker. Our love relationships are unique and personal and the variables are great. Still, there are some universal truths.

A wise coworker once told me that a marriage should be 90% fantastic and 10% challenge. I admired his marriage and could see that my own marriage was more like 30% pretty sweet and 70% horrible.

People have a lot more grace with divorce these days, but it is by no means an easy exit. It is rife with loss and a painful sense of failure, and yes, there is still judgment from others. Yet, with divorce and major break ups now a more common experience, I have learned that there is a big difference between what conflicts I know are almost nothing to what I know is seriously threatening our earnest promise to exclusive and lasting love.

Let’s begin with the obvious. If someone is living in a way that is soulfully damaging US, such as gambling to the point of unpaid debt, cheating sexually, or using violence to control me, I am out. Most people would agree that this level of behavior must have a hard line NO. Some people will stay due to the vows they made, but let’s all agree, the person destroying the relationship is not the victim. It is the person who first broke their promise to be your support, your ally and your protector, leaving you in this horrid position, forcing you to save yourself.

Then we have the other side of the continuum: The small stuff. Honestly, I have gotten to the point where certain issues are almost not worth a single breath of my time. Leaving crumbs on the countertops, toothpaste on the towels, and snoring. If this person is vegetarian and I love beef and pork, I just get creative. I mostly take care of these issues in silence. Why? Because I love too much about them to give a damn. If my partner tends to laugh nervously when we meet people, or they grow silent at dinner parties, I think my loyalty should override their idiosyncrasies. If my partner likes to watch football and I prefer a foreign film, or he seems more invested in hunting than playing with the kids, it is not a difficult thing to ask for what I need and establish what I can expect. If these are the sorts of things that bother me, perhaps I am overlooking the real problems. It seems like this level of complaint is either smothered by our love, or inflated by the fact that I don’t really want to be in this relationship to begin with. The small things can become big as a decoy from the scary stuff that is being ignored, avoided, deflected, or denied. If I am in a safe and loving relationship, these little contentions are easily resolved.

However, things are not always so big or little. There are subtle ways to threaten the harmony of a significant partnership, and over time can burn away the affection we once held. This grey, gone unchecked, is a growing cause of torturous angst. Perhaps this person misses work too much and spends hours a day sleeping; they’re not pulling their weight in the duties of the home and finances. Perhaps they overspend in unnecessary ways. Maybe your partner has emotional affairs with those who are attracted to them. Some partners hide their whereabouts, or become unreliable with mutual social commitments. One of the most damaging and elusive behaviors is sarcasm and calloused criticism, even the painful experience of being told you are unworthy of love; often these messages are only implied. Some partners grow possessive and accuse us of things we have not done. These grey areas can leave us confused, and we hope the deterioration of our trust and esteem will not ultimately ruin our love. These are the areas in which we wonder how long we must endure it, or if there is hope of change.

I would contend that long term experience with the grey can become unbearable and generate such a level of contempt that one begins to dream of one’s freedom, however that might occur. If we honestly approach them and our partner listens and agrees to change, then continues to do the very things that cause us pain, it is unlikely in today’s world that we will endlessly suffer. We know today that we can leave. We know that we have a choice; unfortunately, it will still come at a price. We spend much time and energy deciding if the price is too high, or if we are better off being half-content.

It seems important then to establish the spiritual nature of a love relationship. Love is not living under the same roof. Love is not having someone around so you don’t have to be alone. Love is not paying the bills and sitting at your mother-in-law’s table. These are the things that happen to support the love that is already there.

The spiritual nature of love is to honor something that occurs between two people, beyond the grave, beyond their choices, and beyond our petty desires. Love is an unconditional grace and resolve. And most importantly, this sort of true love must be matched by how much you love yourself. If someone is hurting me, I must love myself enough to assure my health and safety is first. If I love someone, I must measure my capacity for tolerance. If my partner does not honor my safety and trust, I must love myself enough to leave.

It comes down to these honest questions: Is this person I love doing their best? Are they sincerely trying? Am I also doing my best? Has it been made clear what is going to be enough? Is it clear what is not enough? If you don’t know where the line is, do not expect your lover to know it.

This is all that we can ask of each other in this messy world, and if his best is not enough for me, then perhaps I should step aside and let someone else love him instead.

Just Be Yourself, Whatever That Means

People often say, “Just be yourself!” Forgive me when I scoff at such a flippant remark! For there are great excesses of bold and subtle contradictions in this world. Who I Am is not only constantly changing, but sometimes straight up bad.

When people do a very bad thing, they say, “That is not really who I am.” And I argue that perhaps that is who you are, not wholly, but come on, partially, right? Our true nature is going to be capable of harm. The sooner we understand this, the more we will forgive ourselves and get on with the show.

Just be yourself. But, you know, not that part.

Just be yourself, but maybe just a bit better.

Just be yourself. But you will have to pay.

Okay, but additionally, can someone tell me who I am?

I am relieved to say that I have started to figure it out. And I conclude that in all my efforts to become a defined individual, I have arrived at the humbling fact that I am so much more like everyone else. That is a comfort. There are some unique fractions, sure. Yet, just being myself is basically recognizing that I am not as special as I once believed, and also, the only way to be my own snowflake is to sometimes lift myself up and away from all that society deems worthy, to defy the social constructs and admit in equal measure that the constructs are there for good reason!

So the search continues.

Let us begin with identity at the base levels, including labels and names and adjectives.

Typical American White Girl, privileged and yet honestly traumatized. Menagerie of European ancestors…Celtic, Nordic, German, French. Solid healthy Minnesota stock. Origins in the lumber industry of a river town. Also from a string of writers, artists, scientists, pragmatists, not always conforming, but not altogether oddballs either, passionate people, and plenty of educated smartypants.

We tend to be intelligent but neurotic. What can I say, it’s an uphill battle to overcome ancestral anxiety. Plus, we are largely brave, expressive, and sometimes overconfident. Knowing this about myself can help me to negotiate the crazy part of me, the part that suffers because of Who I Am. I giggle a lot, but sometimes I cackle.

Who I Am is also fluid. I am lazy when it comes to errands, procrastinating when my gas gauge is on empty, or there is little real food to eat. God help me if my tires are low. Seriously, if I were a billionaire, I’d have my own personal errand runner at my beck and call. Errands feel so meaningless after all.

I am highly motivated to charm people into doing what I want. Should I embrace this under the umbrella of being Who I Am?

When I wonder about others being who they are, are they refusing to behave in ways that are inauthentic, saying one thing but hoping for something else. Do you agree to things that suck your soul? Do you even understand what depletes you? Are you trying to laugh when you know it’s not funny? Do you work hard at playing to everyone else’s needs?

Sure, Being Myself can elicit humor, silliness, creative beauty, a thoughtful choice of fashion. There’s got to be something original and heartfelt in there. Yet, always I am toning it down so people will stay in the room.

Be Myself? Huh. I’m not so sure you know the ramifications here. If I am entirely Myself, people will experience a lot of curt replies, a shocking level of brutal truths for which they will likely retreat. And I will tell you things you won’t want to believe, like how I have this psychic ability, and I don’t care if you agree.

Being Myself will, in effect, annihilate half the relationships I hold dear. Because my true self is fantastically insensitive, impatient, and exhausted a lot of the time.

I know My True Self is capable of unconditional love, a fierce love, and a impenetrable loyalty, but also a senseless and grueling war. Deep down, I wish people would completely accept me as I am, but then they would have to understand that half the time, I know what I am saying is absurd. I don’t even totally believe everything that I say, since my brain is already considering the alternative. I wish to be given credit for seeing all of it when all you hear is half of it. I am not saying I am full of untruth, just that I am fully aware that my truth is flexible and I like it that way. You would need to allow my eternal right to change my mind. I’m only saying, when you suggest people should just be themselves, be careful. If you profess that you are capable of accepting people as they are, be prepared.

Mirror Magic: Attracting One’s Tribe

The day I turned 50, something important happened which had little to do with my age and a whole lot to do with how I was living. One of my closest friends, a person I had loved and respected for many years, had posted a message on social media that was intentionally degrading toward me.

In light of my shock and dismay, I phoned my friend. This “friend” was quite unapologetic; in fact, she was emboldened and claimed several others felt the same. She claimed I was “arrogant”, as in self-involved, too big for my britches, superior, narcissistic, full of myself. Through the course of the day, I came to learn from a couple people involved that I had been the target of some fierce hate for the past couple months. These women had collectively determined my value as a human being. Apparently it was quite low.

I had lost my core network overnight. This event became a gateway into more tragedy; the death of several family members, my son’s month-long psychotic break, the abduction of my cat, and the epic finale: my fourth husband’s demand for divorce.

It was a shit year to turn 50.

I spent that year watching the tower of All I Believed reduced to ash and rubble.

I didn’t pick myself up and get better like in the movies. No. I gave up on the love and life I thought I had. I stopped caring. Caring didn’t seem to bring good things. Caring only seemed to bring more pain. Instead, I turned in on myself and raged, brooding in a silent and eerie calm for the next few years. Think Maleficent. In some ways, things got downright twisted.

But there was still a tiny spark that seemed to eventually grow: The Spark of Curiosity. You see, I was a thinker. An intellectual indeed. And the only thing greater than my relentless, vengeful ideation was an honest wonder at my own part in all this. I knew I had been wronged. There was no doubt about it, but I couldn’t figure out why. Were these people really just cruel? And if My Best People were this cruel, how could I trust anyone ever again?

So I hired a very expensive shrink. And I paid her to be my friend for the next 2.5 years. I mean, I paid her a lot. After all, I was 50 and there wasn’t enough time to mess around, but there was still a lot of time to make it worse.

I didn’t figure out everything there in that office, but I figured out a lot. Meanwhile, I got spiritual in a big way. I mean obsessively. I read, practiced, discussed, sought teachers, listened, meditated, took a dark journey of the soul, deep shadow work, made sacrifices to the gods, mixed potions, stomped to moonlit drumming and warrior cries, drove alone across the country, subjected myself to mystical trials, and slowly built a whole new tower.

After seeking the counsel of about five strangely powerful people who had no need to destroy me, they each suggested something that would change me forever; it is this: We attract people who will treat us exactly how we treat ourselves. We are mirrors for each other. If you don’t like yourself, you will commune with people who do not like themselves as well. They will mirror your self-evaluation. I had built my old relationships on an idea that measured me poorly. It is true that I loved them, but it is also true that they would make jokes at my expense and I was always compelled to laugh it off to prove that I was not too “full of myself”. Yet, as my self-esteem rose, the people I had known for years did not like it very much. They resented my newfound self-love, my bigness, my confidence and my glory, and they wanted me to stay put in the little dirty box from which I came. Therefore, when I got too big for their comfort, they exiled me. They demonized me. They ruined me. Some people passively stood by. Others never spoke to me again. They might have simply talked to me, but that would not have done the trick.

The only way to heal from that is to start from scratch.

I was afraid I wouldn’t find any real friends, and it took a while. Slowly, one or two emerged and I held that loosely. I didn’t want a big circle anymore. It was too risky. Just a couple maybe’s was plenty. But the new circle grew anyway. These people were interested in something that ironically humbled me. They wanted me to win. They wanted me to shine. They cheered me on when I succeeded and they held me when I was sad. I had a new tribe now and mine was filled with people who didn’t feel threatened by my power. They felt that my power matched their power and together, well, the combined power was magnificent.

I’m not sorry about any of it now. Had I known I was meant for more, I’d have sought it out to begin with, but I didn’t realize I was meant for so much love! I had found a love that was not competitive, nor mean-spirited, nor cowardly. And I intend to spend the next 50 years loving all the golden-lit souls that come my way. I will not ask them to snuff out their light. I will sing their praises just as loudly as they sing mine.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: The Part 6 Finale – Goddess of the Hunt

Artemis is the mysterious goddess of the hunt. She doesn’t even try to be nice. She demands her place in the world, and she refuses to ever be married. Marriage is too constricting for her. She protects children, her own right to her body, and also the animal kingdom. Yet, she is known to kill when it suits her. Artemis scares me. She is so unpredictable. I suppose, one could say she personifies real love.

I revere her capacity for independence, but come on! No commitment? I’d rather eternally push a boulder up a hill than not want intimate attachment! I am not superior to love. I long for it.

Listen, I was raised for twelve years in a house of women only. I have never been a stranger to earning my own keep, nor having the drive to promote my own career. Nobody washes my dishes but me. I was raised on Instant Breakfast and sensible shoes. I know how to do the whole illusion of I DON’T NEED A MAN. Still, I always found it too black and white, too inhuman, and honestly, a lot of silly bravado. If I were a lesbian, I would feel no differently about wanting a woman. I certainly don’t intend to marry again. I just want my own God-given significant other to grow old with me, thank you very much!

Choosing to never stop the world and melt with a man just makes me sad. I may never be Artemis. But wow! She looks amazing in that super sexy get-up with a bow and arrow. I bet she gets a thrill seeing her own reflection in the local pond. She is known for hanging out with wolves and deer. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be that?

Maybe Artemis sees that the civil union of marriage denies that real love is fluid. It changes and it morphs. It is viable and it is generous. And sometimes real love, even with enduring trust, means letting people grow up and straight out of one’s life. Letting go can be the bravest act of love. I guess if I cannot find the man I want, at least I can love myself, my life and the people in it. I don’t have to attach myself to just anyone. Plus, my true love may be plowing through some of his own stuff before he can get to me. Right?

I do not regret dating online. It was not a waste of time. Epic levels of self-love came from it, clarity about what I am seeking, what I need, and who I am. Suffering in the Land of Singledom is a garden of spiritual lessons, and I am stronger for it. I am proud of the courage it took to go online, willing to risk heartbreak and the baffling, unsettled moments. I am grateful to the men who jumped in and taught me well.

Spiritual matters require a deeper look at the gains.

After six months of online dating, I admit it never felt natural to me. It often made me feel neurotic, robotic, hypnotic. I might do better with someone who earns my trust and friendship naturally, for a good long while before I let them in romantically. Love is horrible and chaotic and the best part of being alive. I am madly in love with love!

For now, I’ll be turning my will over to the gods. I intend to accept my fate. I can still laugh and commune with others, and simply be among the living. I can be lovely and lovable. But I do believe he is out there. I have a knowing of it. I just do.

Maybe I am more like Artemis than I realized, an unmarried, defiant goddess of the hunt.