My ex-husband used to tell me that there are many kinds of love. This in response to my frustration that he couldn’t make up his mind, or rather his heart. I should have read the signs right there and then, faced the disappointing truth that he would always desire intimacy with more than one woman. But I was young and swooning and voluntarily blind to the faults of my beloved. What I failed to understand then was that we were both spellbound; transfixed and captivated by an idealized version of romantic love, a yearning, fiery fervor fanned and stoked by the smoke of the silver screen of our youth. My parents were likewise enamored of high drama, so it was not surprising that I had no other point of reference; these two put Liz and Dick to shame.
I cannot tell you that I came to any sudden realizations on the road to relational contentment. Instead there was a painfully slow awakening, a process of learning who I was underneath all the parental and religious conditioning, of recognizing a deep dissatisfaction with the impact my own confusion had upon others I cared most about. In a word, I recognized a lack of authenticity. It was as if I was going through the motions in life like an actor in a play, one step removed. I was not being honest with myself or anyone else. I lacked integrity.
It’s tough to get to the core of who we are when we don’t have an inkling of what that might be. In the throes of confusion, we cannot imagine that the small insignificant being that lies beneath our projected persona could possibly be enough. Everyone else seems so confident, so dynamic. We are constantly comparing ourselves, coming up short. We don’t realize our fellow actors are likewise engaged in their own role playing. And so on we go, on and on in that grand passion play of life, until something jolts us awake or until we become so miserable that we begin looking for answers outside the lines that have defined us up until that point.
Awakening to a deeper, more authentic presence has been a lifetime process of opening up and daring to drop the armor, bit by bit. My own path has been to practice this in the companionship of a best friend and life partner. Without this solid friendship however, the trust it takes to become that painfully vulnerable would never have truly developed. Without deeply valuing friendship in and of itself, the idealized romantic mold would, somewhere along the line, have been blown to smithereens. Without being committed to the very best for a dear friend, a gentle soul would have been shattered in the throes of my own bonds bursting. Without holding one another in tender regard, frustration would have easily mounted, as layer upon protective layer papered over accessibility, holding both of us at the stale distance many come to know in their own long-term relationships.
While commitment to authenticity can be difficult at times, the rewards are well worth pursuing. They are lasting, far reaching and doubtless contribute enormously to the betterment of humanity and our own inner peace. Besides, who wants to feel defeated in the face of aging bodies and forgetful minds? Far better to continue awakening, becoming aware and energized for the unknown journey ahead.