I guess if I were to sum up what I have learned so far at the time of this blog in one sentence, I’d say this:
When you examine what you risk in loving and in avoiding it, you stand to lose more if you try to avoid its inherent risks.
That said, this blog is actually about reframing our perception of risk in the case of intimate relationships.
My story is grounded in the fact that about 12 years ago I left the comforts of my own culture to date, marry, divorce and again continuously date and have relationships with men from countries and customs quite different than my own. People ask why I have trouble going back to American men and I will say this: once a man from another culture stretches your perception of the way love can be, you have trouble going back to a more predictable pattern.
After my first breakup with a Turkish man, I was completely devastated. The idea of finding something like that seemed preposterous. So I lost hope. I met another Turkish man after that who showed a tendency to commit so, in one unconscious, default, fearful-foul swoop, I married him when he asked.
I loved him, but not in a way that was risky.
Not in a way where I felt I had something really to lose. He’d never leave me. Not because I was me, but because he was dogmatically locked in somehow. Marriage was more important as a container than as an experience and a daily stream of choices toward intimacy, organic behavior and interpersonal evolution vs. guarantees and automatic behavior.
I have not married since.
There was something so settling yet uninspiring about that marriage. We were together three years—two of which were minus any sense of physical passion given that there was only a modicum to begin with.
When I began practicing more yoga and moved us to another country, as a leading spouse with an overseas job, the shifts within me were too great. I realized I was stronger than I ever knew before and gained a sense of the fact that I could survive alone. I broke out of the marriage and into an international scene of men, many of whom were Arabs.
My first experience after divorce was with a Pakistani man, then an Egyptian, then a South African, then an Indian and then, for a year and a half, I settled down with an Iranian professor who specialized in artificial intelligence and natural language processing. We seemingly had a very nice run, but then one day, out of the blue, an expert at studying and testing the real vs. the artificial, he said he couldn’t be with me because I wasn’t Iranian. So many messages we humans make up to say a simple thing: my soul doesn't run in parallel with yours anymore.
Needless to say the last five years of my life, post marriage and in the thick of dating, have been a character-building exercise. The breakup with the Iranian was especially disillusioning and yet profoundly sobering because he was a) the first person to ever break off a relationship with me and b) he retracted his love--confirming several times that he never meant the words he said every day until that point.
The words "I love you," suddenly became somewhat obsolete in their subjectivity.
Someone could get really jaded by all this--but I found within these circumstances an opportunity. A chance. In fact, when I look back, this was a massive turning point in my process to learn how to love more closely to what my ideals around the feeling truly are. The key word being: feeling. Countless memes, books and self-help guides circle back around the concept of loving yourself. But to really get down to this at the experiential level, for some of us, takes going through pain and loss.
These are the only types of experiences that we engage in to understand ever more deeply our ability to survive them. Some people may not engage so fully as try to medicate these sentiments. But when we engage them, when we burrow deeper and deeper into the pitch-black caverns of pain and loss, we start to notice a pattern that the more deeply we loved, the greater the depth inside us reached when these sentiments call us back down their rabbit hole within one's self, alone.
This is where risk comes in. When it’s real, when it’s deep, we know it can—and will, by death, breakup, circumstance, eventually—be taken from us yet we must proceed. Through the pain, this fact becomes matter, and the experience of our deepest levels come in so handy as anchor points for moving forward.
Because we all know, it’s going to get really dark sometimes, but we also know something more important—we will and do survive. This is the other side of the coin of loving. It's a coin that is constantly rotating in the air if we can only keep our heart open.
Closing the heart--by either nailing down a relationship that may not be based in love or by avoiding the pain that love promises--will freeze that coin in mid-air. A dullness will take over one's life. One will be an observer of love rather than a subject to its whims.
How can we pretend to act on our own?
In the hand of Love I am like a cat in a sack;
Sometimes Love hoists me into the air,
Sometimes Love flings me into the air,
Love swings me round and round His head;
I have no peace, in this world or any other.
The lovers of God have fallen in a furious river;
They have surrendered themselves to Love's commands.
Like mill wheels they turn, day and night, day and night,
Constantly turning and turning, and crying out.
Rumi, exerpt from Love is the Master
By nature, when we are separate from it, love is totally risky. Deep, true, honest, passionate and vulnerable love carries risk. Yet the fear of losing it is far greater a risk in the end. And even fighting that risk and defeating that fear cannot protect us from the pain of someone leaving our life. Still, what if we could see these situations in light of a different dimension. A dimension where we are all one in the same and just moving in and out of these mirrored rooms and experiencing all these experiences and losing but gaining before losing again but one is related to the other?
In the end, diving in, pushing against all of fears, against all the perception of what is gambled, means diving deep. And the deeper we go the closer we are to the wellspring’s source inside the self. As it exists in every one of us.
Once we get a load of that, it's like we see this massive light on the ocean bed of our own pelvis. Nobody else can see it. Nobody else can reach it. it's our individual secret. We know it's inside us. This light. And we just kind of shift.
Voila! Risk no longer applies. Oh, how I wish it were that easy! But at least you have a context for when it does!
Instead of tightly fisting the good and loving times, obsessing and over-analyzing how we can make them last, we've now seeded the idea that we can open our hands and let them come and go. We are enough. We are love itself. As is everything else that makes that inspires that love to grow and expand. And as it expands we realize something—that everyone that ever loved us, every love we ever shared, EVERY EXPERIENCE WAS AND IS FROM THE SAME SOURCE. OURSELVES.
So long as old patterns don't dominate, this idea has the power to drop our shoulders a notch if we let it. It introduces fear to its dead end, when we remember it. Remembering it, especially when put to the test of real intimacy and vulnerability is a fundamental practice. If we return to this thought, repeatedly, and let it sink in, we begin to feel the futility of being anything but fear's opposite: Love.
We are not threatened in this case. We are suddenly operating from a center instead of reacting to external realities. We are highly mobile, never stuck, never trapped, never abandoned. WE ARE LOVE. And we know how and where to move when we admit this--to more and more CHOOSE to navigate away from what is painful and toward what is joyful.
If nobody is around to share it with, we are bathing in it--we find we alone have so much of it inside. We just do.
It's time to stop getting so confused and distracted about the source of love--right behind, under, above our noses, 24 hours a day, every day.
Acknowledge and fuse love as it is: the gift of life itself, coursing through us, offering us constantly a breath, a view, a sound, a taste of it. Poised and held surely at the very breast of life itself, you are life's baby: alive, tended to, and if you should be open to it, loved.
Finally, I will say it hurts sometimes. It does. Because, as the adage proclaims, change is the only constant in life. But that feeling we keep trying to avoid happens whether we engage in loving or not. We suffer less to understand how it works--that it is we who are at its source. We see the risk is actually related to what we forgo learning about this path to true love through the twists and turns of relationships with all their peaks and valleys.
We do ourselves a favor to examine how risk is assigned. Love is natural, organic, resourceful--nothing experienced could ever be a net loss.