Goodbye 2018

Here’s a thing I bet you thought I’d never say – 2018 was a pretty good year for me. (If you’re having trouble breathing right now, I totally get you. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this weird piece of information, so please, take your time and soak it in however you can.)

I mean, if there were a heat map of the most uttered thoughts of my year, I’m pretty sure it would be a toss-up between “WTF, dude?” and “I don’t have time for this shit.”

I cried A LOT. I spent an unreasonable amount of time feeling hopeless about the future, and scared to make a move (any move), and also worried that all I’d ever feel is sorry and scared. Those moments aren’t completely over. I’m pretty anxious, and coming to terms with the fact that my current “treatment” plan of avoidance isn’t really going to cut it. That’s OK. I can work on that. I don’t have to be the best – I just have to keep working towards it in my own way.

But I also found pockets of bravery, when and where I least expected them. I was resourceful and kind, and I allowed myself to trust others to treat me as well as I try to treat them. Last year, I spent my birthday crying alone in my apartment. This year I had a birthday party with actual friends who love me in attendance. Last year, I spent NYE (you guessed it) crying alone in my apartment. Last night, I just went out with the resolve to trust myself and follow my own beat. Guess who had an amazing night doing EXACTLY what she wanted to do? I wore a cute outfit, got glittered up, had sushi, hung out with friends, visited my favorite bar, BOTH of my favorite poboy shops, and signed up for karaoke (even if I had to leave before it was my turn to sing). I even got a New Year’s kiss. It was a lovely way to ring in a big, bold new year.

Somehow (maybe multiple somehows), I was kick-started back to life this year. Here are some of the weirdest things that stand out to me as highlights of the year:

  • Finally figured out how to tell people they’re hurting me and kick them out of my life if needs be. (I’m looking at this as finally figuring out how to use my life preserver.)
  • 360-degree view of Fourth of July fireworks from the rooftop of a shed on top of a building.
  • Scoring a ticket to Burning Man (but not getting to go, sadly).
  • Going on a 14-hour long first date.
  • Being a nude art model.
  • A summer of breakfasts in bed.
  • 8-hour long conversation about Fela Kuti album covers.
  • Becoming friends with a tree (Yes, this is ongoing. No, I am not on drugs.)
  • Spending a whole day and a half with some of my best friends and not a single working cell phone between us. So much laughter. So much love.
  • Flying to Austin to attend a psychedelic rock festival. Getting asked by some dude in the crowd if the hand symbol flashed by Golden Dawn Arkestra was meant to represent the Illuminati or a vagina. Pretending to be confused that they weren’t the same thing.
  • Finding my own neighborhood haunts, places where everyone knows me and my preferences, and are usually happy to see me walk in. Knowing that I have a standing date at Tiki’s, and the catfish benedict at Who Dat will always make me swoon with happiness on a solo brunch date.
  • Reconnecting with friends. Rediscovering that I have people who REALLY love me, whom I can trust with my thoughts.
  • Starting to wear color and costumes again.
  • After 5+ years of gaining weight, suddenly dropping 25 lbs. with no activity, effort, or plan. I think it’s because I’m happy.
  • Collecting crystals.
  • Collecting cicadas from the neutral ground.
  • Selling my television, once and for all.
  • Making not one, but two, perfect green bean casseroles – one vegan and entirely homemade from scratch, the second with cobbled together ingredients purchased at Walgreens at noon on Christmas Day (Funyuns, y’all).
  • Really listening to my own needs and wants, and doing my best to attend to those desires first, even when it makes me anxious not to anticipate and preemptively carry out everyone else’s wants and needs around me.
  • Learning how to keep my own flame stoked. Realizing that no one else will.
  • Expanding my comfort zone with solo adventuring. Finding ways to be brave and make new friends along the way.

There’s so much more to learn. I’m not even close to thinking that I’ve got this shit figured out. But I made strides this year, and I intend to keep it going.

Oh yeah – that reminds me. If you don’t already, please follow me over on my other blog to find out what I’m doing in 2019 – I’m going to be posting on The Bold Life more frequently as a tool to help me transition into whatever magical psychedelic snow leopard creature I’m becoming.

 

Archaeology of the Self

The following was written a year ago, in December 2017, and has been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. In the celebration of my spiritual and emotional progression in 2018, I think it’s important to post this. I have no lingering memory of the Reiki session recounted in my post, save for having done it and feeling better in the days to follow. It’s interesting how simple measures of the past can continue to reverberate in our present lives.

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“I don’t have the energy to write anything of elegance; please accept my apologies. My head feels empty. It’s a relief, and I plan to take full advantage of this mental silence by falling into a deep sleep five minutes from now. It occurs to me that this is how Dumbledore must feel, just after extracting memories and dropping them into the pensieve.

Tonight I visited a Reiki healer for a complimentary session, just to get to know her and find out more about the process. I’m going to work with her to balance my chakras. If you know me, you’ll know that half of my brain just went “Yay for hippie dippy woo woo!” and the other half went “Why not just set your money on fire, for all the good it’s going to do?” I’m putting the negativity to bed for the evening, though. I’m feeling far too calm and happy to let the fear take over tonight.

After meeting with the healer for a chat about my life and thoughts, I laid down on her table, closed my eyes, and started to concentrate on my breath. She observed my energy. Once, I started to laugh – I felt like I was being tickled, but not physically. It felt like it was inside, dancing across my liver. I was compelled to chuckle. Later, I started to sob uncontrollably. I remembered a friend, and couldn’t stop remembering him. I was surprised that this particular friend would be the only person I could think of, and grieve for.

After that part of the session was over, we talked, and she told me what she’d found. The laughter happened when she was taking a look at my Sacral chakra – tied to my inner child. The deep grief happened when she was examining my Heart chakra – tied, of course, to love. Every time I’ve lied and told people that I didn’t fall in love with him has only served to hurt me. It does no one good to hear my feelings, but I shouldn’t keep lying to myself, at least. It occurs to me now that there aren’t enough words in English for love, loving, falling in love, being in love. What is the word for falling in deeply in love with someone’s manner, expression, spirit? Not with the man, himself, but rather something older that lives within him, maybe? Is there a word for adoring someone like your long-lost brother, and knowing that coming to terms with that is only accepting that he has been ripped from you time and time again?

There are no words, and the only ones I can find sound insane and obsessive, when there’s really nothing further from the truth. If I were to write a fictional history, we were brothers in the trenches during WWI, and he died in No Man’s Land while I watched, helpless. He was my baby daughter, run down by a carriage in the streets of Rome. He was my older brother, murdered in the Cultural Revolution for knowing how to play Western music on his violin. I was his grandmother, cold and stiff in her bed one morning, eyes still glazed over with the shock of passing.”

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This was written in the wake of a particularly painful breakup, during a period when I was feeling so heartbroken that I had trouble getting out of bed every day. My entire life was off-balance, and in the midst of the turmoil, the emotional toll of other old relationships started getting dredged up to the surface. Two years before, I’d met a friend while taking a spiritual pilgrimage through Spain. Nothing about our meeting seemed to be of chance, and we connected immediately. It felt like I had grown a brother overnight, and it broke my heart to be separated at the end of the journey. The Reiki session brought those realizations up to the surface and evidently helped me deal with them, as I still keep in touch with my friend, but am no longer feeling bereaved regarding the physical distance between us.

 

Playing Doctor

…Frankenstein, that is – muahahaha!

It occurred to me tonight that it might be fun to take all the best parts of the guys I’ve dated and try to concoct the “perfect man.” I’m putting that in quotations because of course I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as a perfect person (of any gender identity). But it sounded like a fun exercise, and something a little Halloween-y, so let’s give it a try, shall we?

Rather than hop around from characteristic to characteristic, I’m going to put the guys I’ve dated in order, starting in college. The names of the innocent have been protected, but now they’re all just a number, lol. In order:

  1. Not much is salvageable from this one. He was a real turd, overall. However, to date, he was the only man who was genuinely interested in taking me out to fancy dinners. He bought me my first sushi, and bought me a steak at Smith & Wollensky, and for that I will be eternally grateful. My monster will be excited to go on culinary adventures.
  2. He was passionate about writing, with an encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies. My monster will love to curl up and watch horror flicks with me. 
  3. He spoke French, and introduced me to foreign language music and film for the first time. My monster will be enthusiastic about exploring and sharing other cultures.
  4. Absolutely nothing of value.
  5. I’m cheating a little, because this is someone I dated in high school but saw again (very briefly) in college, and the things I’d salvage are from when we were kids. My monster will walk me to the front door, and will kiss me passionately in the rain.
  6. He made me a good mixtape that I STILL listen to (and this was like 2002). My monster will have eclectic and far-flung tastes in music.
  7. God, where do I start? He was a wonderful human being. Sure, he screwed up some big things (like managing to stay alive), but he will always be one of my favorite people. He was effusive and kind, with a Camino soul. He was Italian, and loved to feed people – mangia! He took the time to really get to know people, and listen to what they were saying. He was the first person to teach me the meaning of consent, too. My monster will walk in kindness, and be a gracious host and true friend. 
  8. I liked this one a lot, too. Still do, even though he’s kind of a dick. I can’t blame him for it, though – we’re just so similar, it hurts. We were born on the same day, and that does funny things to a person. Never date your sign, and especially not your birthday. My monster will have a dry wit, fantastic taste in clothes, and will let me drive his car without batting an eyelash.
  9. Handsome as hell, but not the sharpest crayon in the box. My monster will be easy on the eyes. 
  10. I loved this one with an intensity that echoes through to today and still makes my heart ache. He – we – had magic. He is a very talented musician and sculptor, and when we were dating, he put everything that he had into his music. I haven’t seen him in years, but I hope that he’s found a way to balance his life out a little more. Either way, his intensity was inspiring. My monster will be passionate about their gift(s), whatever they are, and will put in the effort to bring their best self to the table.
  11. So smart – the first thing that comes to mind is how analytical he is. His sense of humor is legendary (at least to me), too. I also love how goofy he gets over animals and children. He’s definitely someone’s keeper. My monster will love animals, and be really good at math/computers/puzzles in real life situations.
  12. Jesus, he was weird – but I kinda liked it. My monster will be confident in his oddity. 
  13. We wrote and sang songs together, and I miss his friendship, if not his caustic nature and self-destructive streak. I really liked making music together. I’ve never found anyone else to sing with like that. My monster will sing with me, and will encourage my musicality (especially when I’m terrified to get on stage).
  14. Ugh.
  15. Double ugh.
  16. Yeah, can’t see anything worth salvaging in this one, either. Glad I didn’t get stuck with him – that would be seriously disappointing.
  17. OK, so this one was a trash human, but…My monster will have an adventurous streak, and take me along for the ride. 
  18. This one had a great many positive aspects, and that’s why we dated for nearly a quarter of my life. My monster will take care of things around the house without being asked, will often dress well and normally be clean (and not overly groomed), will love his family fiercely, will make me nachos, will always do his best to be good to me, and will call me an adorable pet name. 
  19. He does yoga, contributes to worthy causes in meaningful ways, and loves adventure travel. He runs marathons and climbs mountains. My monster will love nature, and want to travel with me to spend time in the outdoors. He’ll also be interested in helping the world, actively looking for ways to give back.
  20. This one had a lot of great traits, as well. There’s a reason he stuck around for so long. My monster will slow dance with me in the kitchen, and give me foot massages just because. He will get excited to talk about theories and film plots and the deeper themes behind all sorts of things. He will hold me when I cry, and never be ashamed to discuss his feelings with me. 
  21. I loved that he was searching for deeper meaning, and doing his best to shed the bullshit as he went. He was also patient, a fantastic cook, and very giving. He understood the meaning of teamwork, and could handle complex relationships without being overly dramatic. My monster will be a seeker, like me, and we will go looking together. 

So, what do we have? A monster who likes going out on adventures, but also cuddling up at home with a good movie. Someone who is intelligent, but always still excited about learning and discussing and growing. He has a practical side, and can take care of himself, but also knows how to contribute to our team. He’s good at what he does, and takes pride in a job well done. He’s an adventurer and traveler, and wants to spend quality time on the go, outside in nature and in exploring foreign countries and cultures. He likes to cook and make music, and wouldn’t be embarrassed to put on a record and dance with me and be goofy. He loves animals and his family (with “family” being defined however he needs it to be), and is a welcoming host and good friend.

Y’all, I think I just built a pretty solid monster. What do you think?

Thoughts Re: My Last Birthday

I had a great realization today. In just a couple of weeks, I’m going to turn 37. A few months back, realizing that I haven’t had a vacation since November 2016, I asked for my entire birthday week off. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do something extravagant, but just getting the chance to not go to work is HUGE. After some finagling, I figured out a way to use various rewards points and an unused flight credit to get a free round trip to Chicago to visit friends – I’m beyond excited to go back to a city I love, and to see some of my favorite people in the world.

I’ll be back in New Orleans in time for my birthday, and I’ve planned (sketched out, really – planning makes me anxious, which is ironic, given my profession) a quiet night at my favorite little bar, inviting just a few people whom I think will get along together, and will not require any tending to. I think I’ll spend the day going to the spa or doing self-care things like getting my hair and makeup done, maybe going dress or shoe shopping, and just generally taking my time and doing my own thing. On top of all of this goodness, one of my friends is coming in from out of town, and that weekend I’m going to go to our 15-year college reunion weekend, hopefully to see a bunch of other classmates I haven’t seen since we were bright young things.

Sounds great, right? I think so. It’s not anything too huge, but overall, a really nice week.

What’s funny is that I was talking with a friend today, and we were generalizing on what a difference a year can make. All of a sudden, it hit me that in this case, the platitude is strikingly true. Last year, my boyfriend of three years dumped me a couple of months before my birthday. I wasn’t surprised, exactly, but I was still devastated. I loved him, and I will always struggle with having a connection like ours severed, but c’est la vie.

For years now, I have had a joint birthday party with a very dear friend, but since this friend is also best friends with the ex-boyfriend, I suddenly no longer had a boyfriend OR a birthday party. I’m sure I could have scrounged up a few people to hang out with, but the effort seemed pointless. I was terribly depressed. I came home from work and spent the night sobbing my heart out in my apartment. It was neither the first nor the last time that would happen over the course of the last year, but it was one of the worst times. It was a really shitty birthday. Bottom of the barrel bad.

So today, I’m talking with my friend, thinking back to where I was, mentally, a year ago, and things are pretty good. Not perfect. Not wonderful. I’ve got a long way to grow. But I have friends, and a place to hang out where people know and like me, and I am 99.9% sure that I’m not going to cry myself to sleep on my birthday this year. That’s pretty good stuff. I’ll take it.

The Decisions

How often in our lives do we lay it all bare?

I’m wondering if that’s why I can regard my breakups – my bad decisions – so positively, despite the emotional damage. At least when you’re breaking up with someone, you can come clean with everything that you’ve been thinking.

Nope, even that’s a lie. That’s completely untrue. Sorry, dear reader. I didn’t mean to lie to you. It’s force of habit. That doesn’t say the best about me, I know. It’s just that I’ve been trained to be sweet, nice, amenable. If being a pushover is the prime directive, being myself is so far on the back burner as to be on a stove in someone else’s apartment.

So, here:

I have fallen in love four times. I have fallen madly in love twice. My most “serious” relationship was with someone whom I loved, but with whom I never counted myself as being madly in love with. I measure “serious” on us both acting like adults – cohabitating, both holding down jobs, mutually planning for a future together. I have only had that one serious relationship. Everything else has been wishful thinking on my part. I know that now.

The first man I fell in love with was my first taste of magick, and how much of a bitch it can be. We met my freshman year, through a very weird set of coincidences. We had the same birthday, even though he was two years older. We were supposed to go on a date, but before it happened, I met someone else and my life went another direction, entirely. We didn’t end up going out on that date for three years, after meeting again via another odd set of coincidences. Once it finally happened, we were inseparable. We spent days in bed, watching Adult Swim. He moved in with me and didn’t pay rent. His cat peed on everything. My friends hated him. I thought he was amazing. In retrospect, I don’t think he thought much of me.

The first man I fell madly in love with feels like a bad dream. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about him. It was the second time I’d fallen in love. I was singing on stage, and looked out into the crowd. He was there, bathed in blue. He looked like Krishna. I fell hard, and immediately. When I got off stage, he was waiting to talk to me. It felt destined. He felt perfect, but I was a mess, and I guess he was, too. It couldn’t work. He once kicked me out of his car because I said I wished that I could trade my life for Freddie Mercury’s, to bring back a star in exchange for a dud. I thought his music was sublime. I can still pick out the sound of his trombone over any other horn on Frenchmen Street, 15 years later. It helps me decide what bars to avoid. Maybe I tried too hard. Maybe I just weirded him out. I don’t know. I still can’t see the past clearly enough to understand exactly how it didn’t work, but at any rate, I kept trying. I can be accused of many things, but giving up is not one. I clung to him for two years after our breakup, and he had pity on me, much to my detriment. Thank god for Hurricane Katrina, for enforcing a break that I couldn’t make for myself.

There was a break. I didn’t take time off on purpose, but life went on, and no more love happened. I wasn’t sad about it. It was a relief, actually.

And then the serious boyfriend happened. We were friends for a year. I took my time, inching along, inspecting every crevice, anticipating every problem. He seemed safe enough, grown up and responsible, but with piercings, and tattoos, and a dark sense of humor. He liked me. He got my jokes, and understood my timing. He thought I was pretty. He just couldn’t understand my emotions, or talk to me about God, but by now I understood that I’d need to make concessions to find a partner. It was a good basic concept, but I wasn’t making the decision from an informed place. I didn’t understand yet what really made me tick, or that being with a man who refused to discuss God (or to put it in easier terms, Universal Truth) meant that I could never have a meaningful conversation again in my own home. It was too much to accept. We dated for nearly eight years, but in the end I couldn’t keep going. He was blindsided, but I’d known for awhile that it wasn’t working. I kept telling him that I was unhappy, but I guess I should have shouted, or used ruder words than “unhappy.” When I finally told him I was leaving, he fell apart. We’ve never spoken again.

I should have been more useful to my ex in this time of dissolution, but a few weeks before calling it quits and moving out, I’d met a friend of a friend with whom I really clicked. It was a first for me. I didn’t know it then, but I was entering new territory for me. I finally knew myself, and could speak from the heart in a way I hadn’t before. This new man saw me for myself, and to my surprise, he liked what he saw.

So I moved out, found my own place, and before long, man #4 and I fell madly, deeply in love. It hurt, physically, to be apart from him. I could barely breathe while he was away. I didn’t take any time to recover from the trainwreck of my prior relationship, and it would damage me much more in the end. Worst of all, in retrospect, is that this new beau turned my brain on. I don’t know how long it was off, but I’m assuming that it was only partially working for around eight years prior to meeting him. All of a sudden, it was humming with intensity. Story after story. So many ideas, just pumping out of me night and day. I couldn’t keep up. And for everything that worked its way out of me, there was a conversation to hone it, beautify it, make it more, bigger, sweeter, sharper. He wasn’t just a boyfriend. He was a muse. He was oxygen to a brain so starved it barely remembered how to function. There were shortcomings, yes. Shortcomings galore. And now that everything has ended, hindsight is 20/20. But while he was happening, he was nothing short of jumper cables for my brain, artistic life support in a world where I had long ago drowned.

See? I’ve still only given you half truths. Even with the best intentions on the line, I can still only give you what my heart’s ready for you to know. I’m sure if any one of these men weighed in, they’d give you their own version of how I was a monster to them. Only one would have a leg to stand on, but his offenses and mine weigh just about the same, if you add them all up over time.

That’s not why I started this, anyway. I started this because I wanted to tell you that I have a new crush. It’s not terribly new. I’ve known it for months, but have been logic-ing myself out of it. If I had to make a prediction, it’s that it will end badly. Maybe not death; just drama, and plenty of tears. I don’t want that. I should stay away. But I won’t. I won’t because I knew as soon as I saw him the first time that he was on my predetermined list of decisions. Whether he’s a bad one or not, I guess I’ll have to let you know.

 

 

It’s A Kind of Magic

It occurs to me that the likelihood is very high that I will never connect with a life partner. I’m sure I’ll have other short term partners, and even some longish term. But what are the odds of finding that person who’s experienced just the right set of life experiences, and has the knowledge, humor, and tenacity to be willing to hold my hand til the bitter end? (If I’m cooking up a dreamboat to visualize, it occurs to me here that I should probably insert “tempered, yet contagious optimism” to my list of requirements – can’t hurt.)

I found out the other day that I had my Myers Briggs profile wrong, and I’m actually INTP. Suddenly, everything clicks into place. The deep loneliness. The inability to connect. The annoyance at small talk and occasion-specific clothing. The overwhelming desire to find Truth, even without understanding exactly what Truth means. Never being able to explain myself because I skipped all the steps in the middle to get to the answer, and hell, I’m not a teacher, you figure it out. The overwhelm. Disliking arguments because if I know I’m right, I don’t want to waste time convincing you of something you should be smart enough to know. The mad scientist excitement over a hundred and one ways to create and innovate…but squirrel!

I sing out loud when I’m walking places in the city. It makes me happy, and I’m past caring about social norms. When I sing, I tell myself I’m sending out a beacon to the Universe. See me! I’m here, doing your work! But it’s really a distress call, isn’t it? See me! Don’t let me be invisible!

I’m doing my best to stay calm. It’s not that I am scared of being alone, physically. In most ways, I prefer it. I like quiet and having my own space. It helps me think. But the idea of being locked in my head forever, of never finding someone to understand me – I can’t find the words to paint the appropriate level of anguish for you here, dear reader.

I think that’s what hurts the most about the end of my last relationship. Connecting mentally and personality-wise with other humans is just not normal for me. It takes me years to move someone from the “acquaintance I spend a lot of time with” bucket to the “friend I would trust my life with” bucket. There’s no in-between collection receptacle.

It takes extraordinary circumstances to circumvent this process, but it’s happened in a few cases – most notably, on the Camino. That’s one of the reasons that trip looms so large in my life story. To go halfway across the world, expecting to be alone and stay alone, and then to meet multiple people to whom I could gladly offer my heart – that’s so far from my norm that I still can’t comprehend it fully. To quote one of the greatest musical acts of all time, it’s a kind of magic.

But I yearn for that magic in my everyday. The challenge is to find a way to reverse engineer it. Surely I am capable of whipping up some sort of recipe for success.

The Taste of Love Is Sweet

A few weeks ago, I started writing about love. I mean, that’s obviously not true if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. I’ve written a lot about love. And pain. And depression. And self-loathing. Weirdly enough, at some point, all of those things intertwine. If I had to guess, I’d say that in my very early childhood, I somehow learned that achievement was the key to being loved, and it sent me down the shit-strewn pathway that is perfectionism, inevitable failure, chronic procrastination, anxiety, depression, inability to effectively communicate my needs to others, and look, here we are! Woohoo! Awesome, gotta love psychology – here’s a primer on perfectionism and anxiety disorders, if you’re interested.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about love. Or specifically, the second of two lessons that I’ve gleaned in my 36 odd (and I do mean “odd”) years here on Planet Whatsitsname. If you want to see Lesson #1, it’s not here. Go to this other place.

Whew, now that we’re rid of that guy (cheeky bastard, trying to read ahead!), let’s get on with things…

Lesson #2: Autonomy

This one is otherwise known as “Am I my lover’s keeper?” The answer, in case you’re wondering, is a resounding NO.

My friend’s mom has this wonderful saying, and I know that I’ve probably recounted it here before, but I’m going to do it again (#sorrynotsorry). She says that your partner shouldn’t be the meat and potatoes of your life. Instead, they should be the strawberries and cream. In a relationship, it’s our job to make life sweet for our partners, while we learn to be our own “meat and potatoes” – to create a life that sustains and nurtures ourselves.

In other words, your lover can’t be your everything, and you shouldn’t be your lover’s everything. That’s an extremely unhealthy way of living. As good as it may feel to lean on each other, that’s not a sustainable, long term solution. If you’re not leaning equally on each other (which presents its own unique struggle), one of you is weighing the other down. In either of these situations, your structural integrity WILL fail in the end. It’s only a matter of time.

For those of us who love to nurture, who just want to be helpful and kind, it is natural to want to give everything we have to make our loved ones happy, healthy, and whole. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for those around you. But people who give freely of themselves can lose track, and be taken advantage of by trusted loved ones. When we instinctively give, give, give, we attract people who instinctively accept, accept, accept (and in the most negative situation, those who take, take, take). It’s easy to feel fulfilled by the joy of being a kind person and doing good things for the people we love, but that won’t keep the emotional lights on forever. Codependency might not be malicious. It feels like love. It feels like symbiosis. But it’s not – it’s parasitism, and it makes both of you even weaker. The partner who never learned to take care of their own needs (be they physical, emotional, psychological, etc.) is never going to learn if there’s no impetus to change. Meanwhile, the partner who rejoices in offering too much care is most likely neglecting their own needs and deficiencies.

I know now that the only way forward is to create a language of reciprocal joy with my partner. Of course I want to share in the story of their life. I want to know when the day goes wrong, and when it goes right. I want to be there to lend a hand when I’m needed – that’s what partners do, after all. But I am not there to carry all that weight for the long haul. And it’s not their job to carry mine. It’s my job to be a grown up and learn how to shoulder my burdens when I can, when to graciously accept a little relief, and how to recognize when it’s my turn to take on some extra weight. Mostly, though, it’s about walking side-by-side, enjoying whatever the path brings our way. It’s about bringing sweetness to a difficult day when we can, but also not being daunted when we can’t. In the end, we are not our lovers’ keepers. Which leads me to an unexpected third lesson…

Lesson #3: Love isn’t an external process.

It’s an internal alchemy. It isn’t more valid because you have someone to share it with, will it towards, or spend it on. Love doesn’t require a physical object to exist, and I suspect that once love is sparked, no matter the catalyst, there will always be an ember held safe in your heart, willing itself back into full flame. We can easily be our own sweetness, if we just let ourselves remember how.