“But I will miss you so much.”
I cried to my partner on the day I was supposed to leave our home and move to an art residency for a month.
I knew I was lucky to have the chance to go to sunny Portugal and focus on my art practice during the darkest time in the UK—but I didn’t feel like that.
When the day of the departure came, I cursed myself for making such a silly decision.
That’s not typical me. I am an adventurer. I have lived in three different countries and been backpacking on my own on several trips. But in the last couple of years, something had changed.
I became afraid to be alone.
In the six months prior, my partner and I had been together every single day and night. We lived together, we worked together and we spent our spare time mostly together.
That’s a hell of a lot of time together.
During that non-stop girlfriend-time I lost the connection with myself and started to become dependent on my partner—both emotionally and financially.
He was the one pointing it out first, and I, of course, denied it. “Me, dependent? Sorry, but I am born and raised to be a feminist and I would never…” And another argument went on.
A bit reluctantly, I dried my eyes and headed to the airplane off to Portugal.
And boy, did that trip change me.
I could almost hear my self-confidence galloping toward the real me.
I fell in love with myself again. I started to write poetry. I spoiled myself with moist pieces of berry cheesecake and Port wine. I read Buddhist philosophy and carried Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in my bag wherever I went. It became my bible.
I loved my space. My desires. But most of all, my time.
I was the one deciding when to work, what to eat and where to go. If I felt like staying up and typing until the early morning hours, fine. Ex tempore trip to Spain tomorrow? Why not?
Soon I started to realise what went wrong in our two-and-a-half-year-long relationship.
When I came back home, something had changed. My partner and I appreciated each other’s presence on a whole new level. We got the spark back. We had forgotten it between picking up the other person’s dirty socks on the floor and talking about how tight the budget was for the rest of the month.
To avoid that situation again, I try to keep in mind this advice from the Buddhist and Feminist masters:
1. Take some time apart.
As the Buddhist master Rinpoche Dzongsar Khyentsen points out in this brilliant video, spend some time apart from your sweetheart. Try not to text your girlfriend or boyfriend all the time. Give them space. I think that’s the best gift you can give to each other.
2. Devote a room/space for yourself.
This is a wonderful tip both by the feminist author Virginia Woolf and the creative author Julia Cameron. Make yourself a corner or decorate a desk that is only yours. Make your magic happen there, whether it’s making photo collages, reading or meditating.
3. Don’t forget your friends.
This is a tip from my cousin who is neither a feminist nor a Buddhist. But she’s great and happily married, so I believe her. Friends come first. Don’t ever forget them no matter how much you love to cuddle up with your cutie pie on a Friday night.
4. Be financially independent.
Virginia Woolf, the mother of the first feminist movement, is still right. Her basic statement in A Room of One’s Own is, “Women must have a room of their own and a financial independence in order to write.” Because without money, you won’t survive. Full stop.
5. Take Risks.
Call me a spiritual hippie, but I’ve got a feeling that the universe rewards the ones who take risks. Not only did I start to write again in Portugal (I used to work as a journalist before but hadn’t published a word in a year), but I also got offered a position with elephant journal at the same time.
That’s no coincidence.
And the best that says it all:
“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” ~ Dalai Lama
Author: Sara Kärpänen
Editor: Toby Israel
Images: Courtesy of Author