I’m going to tell a story; it is perhaps a story you’ve heard before. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, they break up, they rejoin, they break up, rejoin again, and finally girl leaves boy. If you haven’t guessed, I’m the boy.
One of the ways this woman (let’s call her J) and I connected was through quotes. Quotes we each collected and continued to find during our two years. Quotes that applied to parts of our lives we wanted to remember. Quotes that said things in more elegant ways that mirrored our own thoughts, or where we wanted to go. Sharing these quotes and the stories of how they impacted us became a well-loved ritual we called Quote Of The Day (QOTD). It was a subset of a passion we both shared: to find beauty in the world and share it with each other. They were, after a fashion, daily intellectual love letters to each other’s soul. Here is a small sample that I chose to weave together into a story about our relationship from beginning to end.
“When I first met her, I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days re-arranging my mind so there’d be room for her to stay.” -Brian Andreas
We open to an internet dating site. I received a message from a woman who thought I was interesting and had a kind smile. She was not in my self-defined demographic. She was too young, in an open relationship, and didn’t even show her whole face. Her profile talked in concepts and ideas, not specifics. Ordinarily, these are red flags for me. Nevertheless, there was something that drew me towards her. I knew that if I wanted to share time with her, there would have to be some major restructuring that happened in my head. Was I up to it? This was a question that remained in my head for almost a year.
“Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” -Gloria Steinem
After my own divorce, I was trying to re-discover myself. Trying to re-discover what I liked. What made my life magical. What I considered beauty in the world. I was looking for someone to spend time with and share happiness with. Is that the “right” person? I didn’t know. I let go of expectation of what “should” be, and continued to concentrate on being the best possible version of myself. One of the first things I noticed about J was that she shared all of this, and she didn’t interfere with me trying to reach that goal, for she had the same. As time went on, we nurtured each other down our own respective paths. We each worked on being the best version of ourselves…together.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.” -Oprah Winfrey
I learned many new things about relationships, that made my previous 24-year relationship seem hollow and void of substance. I learned about jealousy. Boundaries. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Relationship tropes and blindly climbing ladders. Sharing. Acceptance. Practical emotional intelligence. Hearing (not just listening) one another. Communicating past fear in a comfortable, non-threatening environment. How to create and sustain said environment. How to free myself and get everything I ever wanted. I learned there were so many possible things I wanted in a relationship, and I wanted them all. So I did things I’ve never done before. I loved freely, communicated openly, and shared an intimate partner with someone else. And to my surprise and delight, all of this was easy and natural with J.
“Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.” -Frida Kahlo
J, in every definition, represented magic to me. She made all of the above look effortless and graceful. Of course it wasn’t effortless…it was hard work of the introspective kind facing decades-old demons. But this was yet another thing I learned from her: how to be graceful. After awhile, she saw my magic as well. I showed her things no one else had. Things she desired and wanted to learn about. Fathering. Relationshipping. Self-care. How to be a ground. How to move forward in uncertainty with conviction. What it’s like to be all the things a partner can be. We were two magical beings sharing our beauty and magic with each other.
“Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.” -Zig Ziglar
J nurtured and encouraged my inner child. Together we created a space where he could come out and play. Where he didn’t need to be sheltered, protected and constantly in fear. I was excited. What would tomorrow hold for us…I could barely wait. Every day, every conversation, every touch, was excitement that paused only enough to allow momentary pause to remind us to enjoy being in the present. So I stayed. Because even with all this excitement, the love was a constant stream of support, nurturing, warmth, understanding, and acceptance.
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust
This is a quote about nurturing and supporting. J was a fiercely independent woman who intrepidly carved her own path in whatever she did, regardless of societal norms or pressures. I considered it an honor that she listened and considered my points of view, often adopting them. I had a way of speaking to her soul gently and coaxing the best from it. J nurtured my inner child and thus it roamed free. For it is my inner child that holds my creativity and passion. And thus we nurtured each other and became better versions of ourselves.
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” -Roald Dahl
Apparently, one version of my best self is an incredibly romantic, passionate man who deftly nurtures, supports, and cares for his partner. I put a lot of energy into our relationship. It never became a chore. In fact, the hardest things with J were made palatable because of how we interacted with each other. I was happy to pour all of my energy into our relationship. She eagerly drank it in and when she had her fill, she took a break. And I was perfectly fine with that.
“Not only did I love her, but I could tell the universe loved her, too. More than others. She was different. After all; I would be a fool not to notice the way the sunshine played with her hair.” -Christopher Poindexter
As much as she loved me, she possessed an incredible capacity and storehouse of love for everyone. Somehow, everything around her was more interesting. Brighter. Sharper and more detailed. People were happy when around her. She seemed to inadvertently find similarly magical people. After all, her mother had taught her how to speak to the universe. The universe spoke back to her, in the form of frequencies the rest of us miss. She was in tune with frequencies…not things or events or people.
“I loved her not for the way she danced with my angels, but for the way the sound of her name could silence my demons.” -Christopher Poindexter
She coaxed and encouraged my angels to play and dance in ways that they were familiar with, and in exciting new ways. As a result, I became more creative and was told by strangers that my eyes sparkled. As for her angels, I showed them interesting new trinkets that made them dance with glee. We both had lengthy discussions about our demons. Mine became still, as they were no longer needed. I was able to study them more critically and retire some of them. She saw how I relationship and father, and that quelled the incessant voices of her demons.
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom.” -Jim Rohn
This was critical to both our cores. We both are people who never back down from difficulty. We never wish things were easier. It’s all opportunities to improve. We don’t shun pain or fear. We never looked away from the ugly or covered our eyes. If we did, we never would’ve gotten past our first date. We approached every step with open eyes, hearts, and arms. We mindfully took steps forward. And when we ended up a few steps backwards, we evaluated, learned, adjusted, and moved forward in a different direction. It is one of my most-beloved qualities of J.
“When people say “there are other fish in the sea” I say “fuck you, she was my sea.” -Jen Faulkner
During the times when J and I were separated, I was encouraged to look for other women and leave her behind. This is, generally, good advice. I said before that on any subject or index, J out-shown (by leagues) any person I’d ever met past and present. She embodied the qualities of so many different people, I could spend a lifetime collecting and it still wouldn’t add up to J. She was a sea of everything good in my world. She was a sea of everything I wanted, and everything I never knew I wanted. She was the sea I wanted to plumb and be lost in.
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.” -Jean-Luc Picard
I lost J. She decided she didn’t want our relationship and left. I’m not entirely sure why, and she offered no explanation. My heart has been sufficiently trodden upon where I choose to accept this now. I have done nothing wrong or incorrect, and J agreed with that. I do not feel weak for lack of trying. I know I could have nothing differently to change this outcome, and it is not within my control. In a way, this is harder because there is nothing to improve on for next time.
“I always thought there was something romantic about fighting for someone. About winning them back, eventual happiness. But as I sit here with stones in my chest, Where hope used to lie, I have come to the realization that there is nothing lovely about having to continuously convince someone to love you.” -Unknown
This is self-explanatory. I am now diverting energy into being kind to myself. To acceptance. To let go of hope. To keep the good lessons, experiences, and apply them elsewhere. Basic heart-ache stuff.
“I have learned that when sadness comes to visit me, all I can do is say “I see you.” I spend some time with it, get up, and say goodbye. I don’t push it away, I own it. And because I own it, I let it go.” -Carolina Zacaria
My final quote is salient because it speaks to seeing, and acknowledging difficult things. Like sadness. I feel very sad. I honor this emotion, see it, and allow it quarter in my soul for a time. When the time is right, it will leave of it’s own accord.
Photo: Getty Images