One intense Bali Valentine’s Day afternoon, I laid in my teacher’s arms, weeping from a deep sensation of purging romantic love from my system. Not love for one lover or another … the whole fucking concept. In my body, it felt like cells both gleefully jumping ship while others clang on for dear life, begging me to save them. Will the flavor ever be the same? Can the drug of “falling in love” truly be felt with equivalent intensity within me and only me? I don’t know for sure, and it seems quite risky to give it up without knowing. But maybe on the other side of this, the flavor is even sweeter? And should “the high” even be the thing that I am most concerned about? Am I addicted to the chemicals? The sweet romantic notions? What about the deeper tides, the knowing, the compersion, the heart-bursting joy of loving so big, just because I can.
Unraveling … unlocking … the mysteries of waking up to me … in love. Self-devotion seems crucial. How do I show up for myself with the deep presence and unconditional love that I shower upon my friends, lovers, and students? There are simple answers and deep unanswerable questions in this quest. Is self-devotion putting myself first, doing only what I want? Holding space for my raw emotion without the help of others? Energetically spooning myself to sleep? Does it mean I won’t love others? Or forever forfeit the pleasures of falling in love or receiving love? Do we ever fall in love with another, or just the particular reflection they show us of ourselves? If love is so truly universally available, why am I so attached to it in specific forms, even as I feel its vastness in and around me?
My mind scrambles for a way to outsmart the system … how can I have both? I want to fully wake up and, I want to fully fall in love and feel deeply loved by others. Is it a matter of just becoming a giver of love and relaxing any need to feel loved in return? That sounds potentially expansive and potentially painful. Is it just a matter of saying no to anyone who isn’t a hell yes? What will I be saying no to? What will I be saying yes to? Will that be more or less painful than just loving the way my heart naturally leads me? Can I relax enough to not let pain-avoidance determine my actions?
Will people read this and think it’s just about not finding the right person(s)? Will they get the depth of this inquiry? This isn’t about monogamy or polyamory. My body strives to understand where and how love lives in this process of waking up. My body yearns to release the propensity and desire to seek out specialness in others, my special reflection bartered in exchange for theirs. It also yearns to feel loved so deeply that all question marks fade into the soft gaze of my lover’s eyes … my eyes. Now you, now me.
Is it both? Can we see a romantic relationship for what it often or possibly always is: an awkward dance of highs and lows, of endless idealization, projection and reflection.
I was a substitute teacher for a year once. It was an interesting experiment to teach every grade from K-12. But wow, how I hated the 3rd and 4th graders. They wore their humanness so awkwardly. They played out social power dynamics and sexuality like clunky caricatures. The obviousness and unconsciousness of how they mimicked the adults in their life was so difficult to watch. From here, I see how fascinating it is. This learning-to-be-human thing. This learning-to-love thing. But how does that fit into waking up? Who am I mimicking now?
Another teacher of mine gave me a brilliant shortcut to know if I really love someone. Can I discern what I want from my partner and what I want for my partner? In fact, there is no love in “wanting from.” In “wanting for,” infinite acceptance reveals itself; possessiveness melts, agreements even seem ridiculous. And as I sit here yearning for a particular lover … am I yearning for me? I remind myself that all human longing is for the same thing … to self-realize. To wake up in the realm of inner, unshakable peace. This paints every desire in the universe so beautifully; it almost seems shameful to allow any flavor of it to die in me.
Breathing in … I feel myself … so alive … so full … so complete. Breathing out … I feel you … your unique human essence, and the place where we connect in oneness. That place might be a bridge called “love,” or love may just be the sugar coating of something much deeper. I’m ready to find out.
And what does that look like? There’s nothing to do about this but to be aware and curious … to keep asking questions, relaxing my tension and observing the moments when these questions cease to exist within me, if even only for a few minutes at a time.