“I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.” ~ Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets
Looking back, I was a stray looking for shelter.
As far as love is concerned, we’re rarely knit together perfectly. That emotional cardigan we keep dragging around is full of snags and tears. There’s all that crap we’re still processing from childhood (even if it is cleverly hidden under layers of forgiveness). We’ve got triggers from lovers past and expectations of lovers we haven’t even met yet.
I like to think that I was my own home when I met my current partner, but that is a grand illusion. I still craved validation through love. Of course I can see it clearly now, some 22 years later.
When my first marriage ended, at my request, a well-meaning (but disillusioned-in-love) friend told me: “Of course things turned sour.” She said I had too many issues and he had too many issues, (all Freudian, of course) and young people should not marry, because we don’t know ourselves well enough to engage in a balanced relationship.
I wondered then what that magical age was, when one knew themselves well enough to be mated for life? I looked back and saw all the work I had done to release old wounds—and then more releasing and more peeling back layers—wait a minute! This releasing business was a never ending cycle!
In the ideal scenario, we find a love that we connect to, and we enter into it with a clear heart. We know who we are, we are comfortable in our own skin, and we enjoy our own company most of all. Love is the icing on the cake, and our expectations are limited to experiencing our lover as he or she is, no modifications required.
Except that that’s not very realistic. We are endlessly evolving works of art. The odds that we will be in exceptional emotional and spiritual form when a love worth fighting for arrives, are slimmer than we would like to believe. And now I think that’s okay—to accept where we’re at and practice loving-kindness toward the present point of our journey.
Love is made better when we are kind to ourselves.
As a couple of strays, my partner and I bumbled through the early stages of love. Both of us scarred, scared and craving that lovely high that happens when one falls into another’s eyes and encounters a meeting of the souls. We knew that we were broken—nowhere close to being “whole.” Yeah, I’ll admit it—we were sure we would find comfort in cuddling up like two cold and shivering puppies; love would find us a home.
And it did. Not perfectly, because we’re still changing and growing, and love is more of a journey than a place that one arrives at. We’re still a couple of strays, finding our way day by day. Sometimes we eat from a plateful of nirvana, and sometimes we survive on scraps. That’s love. Imperfect, but damn worth every bit of energy one puts into it.
Everyone’s experience of love is different and valid. There’s not one prescription that will suit all souls, as much as a handbook would be quite handy. We’re left to find our own way into a lasting partnership, although to be honest, I think that we are somewhat addicted to happy endings at all costs.
I’ve learned a few things. I’ve had to. Strays are forced into resourcefulness.
Tidbits for Strays in Love:
Practice Loving-kindness. No one can love you like you can. And it is a practice. It takes time and patience and non-attachment to outcome or a timeline. Just love yourself as you are right now. In this moment, you are love. Love is not based on worthiness, deservedness or any other condition—love just is.
When I love myself unconditionally, I am open to seeing my lover in the same light.
I may never be completely whole, or ready, or enlightened. It doesn’t matter. Love is actually blind to all that. Love exists despite all things.
Practice self-awareness. I find myself amusing. All my little foibles—some not so little—I observe as I would someone outside of myself. I don’t judge myself, and I don’t call myself out. I just observe. When I observe, I am free to say: “That behavior is very interesting. It is not serving me well.” This allows me to laugh at myself and look for ways that I can move towards a healthier pattern.
If I am not ready and cannot make the shift, so be it. I will continue to observe and love myself until such a shift is possible. As long as we practice self-awareness with loving-kindness, we will not practice aggression towards ourselves by wishing we were something we are not.
I see myself. I am honest with myself. I do not blame my lover for my state of being. There is such freedom in that. Already, you are releasing your lover from having to be something you cannot be for yourself. Breathe.
Practice Letting Go. Let go of expectations that you (or your lover) will always know what to do. You might—or you might learn along the way. Practice saying: “I don’t know, but I’d love to find out with you by my side.”
Let go of the idea that your lover is going to grow at the same pace as you are. It if happens, wow! Focus on your own growth. Love them at their place in the journey. They’re doing the same for you, hopefully. It’s not a competition.
Let go of resistance. Resistance to what is happening in the moment leaves us unable to move through it. If your love is suffering because of words spoken or actions taken, allow for acceptance of what is. Once we accept what is—stop fighting what is—we can see the situation with objectivity and practice loving-kindness towards it. You might say, “Oh, this is happening. I will observe how I feel and love myself while I hurt.” It is surprising how quickly letting go of resistance progresses to a desire for making amends.
Let go of the illusion of perfect love. It may look like other couples have a perfect love. They don’t. If it’s good, it’s raw and turbulent at times, smooth sailing at other times. It’s fighting and making up—it’s sex, and it’s no sex. It’s f*ck you, and I love you—great love is messy and wakes us up in no uncertain terms. It’s not easy, even when it is. Because we’re not easy, even when we think we are. We’re real. And love should be real.
We were a couple of strays, but love found us a home.
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Author: Monika Carless
Image: Deviant Art/ JoestTargaryen
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Caitlin Oriel