When does someone know she is in love? Is it just a level of caring that overtakes her softly and then sideswipes her over and over again until she wonders which way is up? Or is love a combination of waves crashing on a beach, sometimes soft and lapping other times thunderous and raw? Does it matter if the other person loves us back?
I have read every relationship book ever created. I have read The Rules, and It’s only F*cking Dating, He’s Just Not That Into You, Ignore the Guy and Get the Relationship You Want, Rory Raye, and Bruce Bryans, The Key to Getting His Heart, How to Be the Girl Who Gets the Guy…just to name a few, and I feel I have found the common thread that links them all together. It is about loving myself first. Unfortunately, this is the tough part, and these books aren’t entirely helpful in explaining how a person does this. One suggests “circular dating”, and another is more keen on buying something that the person who is a successful relationship would own. This way you are already materializing the good things you will have in the future. There are visualizations and experimentations, drawing clear boundaries, and feeling your emotions. It’s all pretty exhausting.
A few months ago I went to the 2017 Flower Show at the Convention Center in Philadelphia. I decided to go alone. I was going to take advice from one of my countless advisers: Just date yourself for awhile. As I walked among the myriad flower displays, a cold loneliness washed over me. It was surreptitious at first. I had fooled myself into thinking that I was totally having fun weaving in and out of the vendors, closely studying the beautiful displays. It was right around then that I started to notice couples everywhere. They were holding hands or kissing under arbors, snuggling up to catch a selfie, and I felt the bottom drop out. I texted my mom.
Me: At at the Flower Show
Mom: That’s great, Honey
Me: I am on a date with myself
Mom: Oh, that’s wonderful
Me: I just realized something
Mom: What’s that?
Me: I don’t even want to date me
Silence. It was at that moment that I realized I had run into a wall. If the truth was that I could not even have a good time with myself, then what was I expecting on the other side of all of this. I realized with sudden clarity that it was not love I was seeking, but a body to fill the void and keep me from me. But why? Why go to such lengths just to avoid me? It would be in meditation that the answer was found.
In the silence, I remembered. I remembered being that sad, little girl sitting in her room, ignored by the adults around her. I remember my dad laughing and telling people that he could always hear me talking to myself. I was alone so much. A child of divorce and a father who worked seven days a week…there wasn’t much time for me. The thought of being alone catapulted me back to that moment if I wanted to go there or not, but then I remembered something Eckhart Tolle had said, “Our past is merely an interpretation of events.” The loneliness certainly didn’t feel fabricated. It felt very real and I resented those adults who didn’t care for me. Either way the past was sitting in my lap during my meditation and I allowed it. I gave the pain and the loneliness space to be. I did not deny that little girl the feeling of her loneliness, but I reminded the adult me, who was coming to realize that she was already whole. I tried gentleness as opposed to an egoic tug of war with myself. I allowed it to just be. I wish I could say that it all dissipated and at that moment I was free, but any student of meditation knows that it seldom works that way. My little girl self returns with a vengeance or sometimes a gentle tapping, but she always returns for the compassionate reassurance that she is not alone.
So going back to love…I feel that the best is on the mat, deep in meditation and silence. I go within when I am overwhelmed with these emotions, even if going to the mat means I stop in a public place to catch my breath. Currently, I am in love with a man. I am trying not to let my white, hot loneliness take over, but I am filled with fear. I want to nail this down, figuring it out, give it a title, know that it is all going to work out, but I have to go back to my mat. I need to recalibrate and focus on what is real. Love from Source. Love that is already me.
Trust. Trust. Trust.