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I remember once seeing a viral article that made the claim that every member of the human race—across the board—will only fall in love three times.
The person who they thought was right, the person they wished was right and, finally, the one who truly was right and would last forever.
Okay, first of all, I get why something like this was wildly popular. It is so tempting to try to make sense of the chaos that we refer to as our life and experience on this planet. A lot of times we feel so out of control with what is going on around us, that it is almost impossible not to try to find comfort in anything that we can shove into a pretty box and tie a bow around.
I suspect that even those who adored this treatise and posted it on their page with the ubiquitous caption, “This!” might even, in the deepest reaches of their hearts, have trouble believing it. Not so much because the theory is random or arbitrary, but because anything that tries to predict something as tumultuous as love for each and every member of the human race—which by the way is about 7.5 billion people—seems to be taking on a bit more than it can possibly chew.
Last weekend was unseasonably warm in New York—nearing 70 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. It was a perfect opportunity to take my four and seven-year-old girls out to play in the park. As much as I was able to stay content and “in the moment,” there were instances where I would notice all of the other “intact” families who had the same idea to bring their children out.
I will give myself a little credit, though. When I went through my first breakup involving a child, this sort of thing would plunge me into the depths of despondency. Today, with nearly 10 years of sobriety and not a little bit of self-awareness, it was simply a wistful observation—a bittersweet pang of longing.
When their mother came to the park on Sunday afternoon to retrieve them, it would have been easy to allow myself to float off into the delusion that I should do everything in my power to try to work things out with her. She’s beautiful, she’s a wonderful person, and sometimes, to be painfully candid, it really sucks to be alone.
However, part of that self-awareness that I mentioned includes the ability to accept the uncomfortable fact that we work so much better as super tight friends who co-parent. We are both so set in our ways with regard to what we are looking for in this life, and it is so misaligned, that any other option is off the table.
Fred Rogers once said that “Love isn’t a perfect state of caring. It’s an active noun like ‘struggle.’” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now. These are poignant words. When I came across them, I realized that my lifelong endeavor to learn how to truly love another human will, most likely, not look the way it appears on television or, for that matter, in most other people’s experiences.
After meditating on this for a while, it dawned on me that my first real soulmate was a guy I knew when I was in my early 20s. We were in a band together, we lived together, we rehearsed, wrote, and recorded together every day for years. When we performed live, I would sometimes do these elaborate and dramatic songs that completely ignored any tempo and time signature and yet, he knew exactly where I was going before I even went there. It was as if we were always breathing in sync.
Being a heterosexual male, this obviously was not a romantic or sexual relationship—but it was, in many ways, one of the closest relationships I ever had. Sometimes it seems to me that my ex-girlfriend is my soulmate in much the same way.
Western culture has always tried to dictate what soulmates and twin flames look like from their outward appearance and it tends to confuse most people. At least it did for me. Every romantic podcast I listened to, every piece of fiction that mentions the beautiful woman, the tall and handsome man, the kiss in the rain, and the dinner by the lake, marginalized me just a little more until I began to feel so distant from the rest of humanity.
Realistically, it is that stuff that is separate from most of humanity.
My relationships with both my musician friend and now my children’s mother, don’t just exclude sex. They transcend it. Don’t get me wrong: it’d make for lousy television, but it makes for a rich tapestry of life.
A life lived well.