Over the weekend, I attended a conference that focused on relationships and the various ways we can engage both mindfully and heart-fully with each other. Lots of reasons to go. I am part of a far flung tribe of well loved friends that I call family of choice and I hadn't seen some of these folks in awhile. I also wanted to connect with new friends and invite them to become part of those overlapping soul circles that I treasure.
An overarching reason to walk through the doors was to gain some clarity on my own relationship desires, patterns and progress and where I wanted to take myself on this ongoing journey. My interactions over the years have been a juxtaposition of soul satisfying and what-the-hell-was-I-thinking frustrating. As a therapist, I don't always take my own wise counsel. I stumble and fall, feeling foolish and all too human when what I would most like to be is composed, confident and certain. Although I teach and write about this topic, I am still at times at odds with my own beliefs about what a relationship ought to be, as well as the roles of those in it.
After one of the workshops which was about soulmates, I sat with the facilitator (one of those friends I hadn't seen in years) as we talked for the next 90 minutes or so. She said some life changing words to me. I'm not sure she grasped the impact they had. She asked me what I wanted in a partnership; having been widowed more than 17 years ago and being primarily a solo act since then with a few overlapping relationships in between. As I expressed my wishes, her nose wrinkled. She held up her hand and said, "You have a lot of 'yes but' limiting thoughts about relationships and what they should and shouldn't be. I want you to make a list. of those."
This morning, following a tumultuous storm that flooded roads and brought down trees, I thought of my own tempests as I typed out these words:
If he hasn't shown up yet, he won't.
If he does, then he won't stay.
He may die.
He might look/feel good at first, but then will turn into a monster.
He will withdraw.
He will do the come close/dance away routine.
He will expect me to take care of him.
I will be inclined to take care of him.
He won't be able to hold space for deep exploration.
His family could create drama.
No widowed woman in my family ever remarried or might not even have dated afterward.
I am not enough or too much for a man to want.
I have been solo for so long, that I'm not even sure how to be in a relationship.
I talk a good game, but could I really step up and be ready?
Can I share space with a partner?
Am I too controlling and set in my ways after all this time?
Am I too visible and self revealing?
Am I too colorful and flamboyant?
Will I let him down?
Will I let myself down?
Can I trust myself to make a good choice?
Am I too wounded?
Is he too wounded?
Can I trust a man to take care of me?
Can I trust a man to be of support?
As I read these words back to myself, I feel tears welling up for the woman who has wanted and waited, wondered and felt totally bewildered at times. When I am feeling snarky, I think about people who are not particularly kind, loving, downright cruel and abusive, don't have relationship skills, don't seem overly appealing, who have loving and committed partners. I was actually having that conversation with a friend last night who wonders about the same thing. There seems to be no rhyme or reason and no absolute recipe for love to simmer and bubble over. As a friend once told me, "There is a lid for every pot."
Then Cassendre said, "I want you to start another list, of what you want in a relationship, beginning with this line: "He thinks I'm beautiful." At that, the tears spilled over. My father adored my mother and used to say that she was the most beautiful girl in the world. Can you think of anyone (man or woman) who doesn't want to feel that way or hear those words? I created the beautiful list as well and am keeping it close to my heart.
A third bit of certainty that she shared with me is this: "You say that you are single. You're not. More than just about anyone I know, you have a love affair with life." That made me smile in recollection of a conversation I had with my mom who passed in 2010. In one of our long distance (she was in Florida and I was in Pennsylvania), phone calls, she asked, "So how's your love life?" I responded, "Great. I love life."
And I am delighted to say, that it loves me back. We are quite a pair.