I remember years back, about 3 months into our relationship, Claudia (my partner) looked at me sadly and asked me, “Do you love me?” I was taken aback. Shocked almost. I replied “Of course I do hun!” She responded, “But you never tell me you do …” It just never occurred to me. I thought gestures of love gave her enough of a hint that I did. But as I searched my feelings, I realized I feared the confession. I was anxious. So I swallowed my saliva, got a bit nervous and told her “I love you.” In that moment I felt my spirit grow. It strengthened our bond. These bonding moments burned markers in my mind. Visions of a life I could run towards.
“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic
than to love people.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
“I’m afraid of love.” That’s something I never wanted to admit. Though I exuded confidence on the outside, I was a tender as a marshmallow on the inside. Prior to meeting Claudia, disconnecting from my heart was my easiest way out of dealing with my loneliness. Even though I had many opportunities to get into long-term romantic relationships, I often rationalized my way out of it. In the heat of transition in my life, I thought I’d be fine if I just had my food, pen, notepad, books to read, martial arts and enough cash to support my parents.
I was a great intellect of romance. Yet a horrible receiver. I feared heart-break and mostly felt unworthy of intimacy. I even had the belief that women should just steer clear of me unless they wanted their hearts broken. Though I was good at being their friend, I never allowed myself to be a lover. Maybe it was the arguing and fighting my parents did when I was young. Or the limited time they had together. For most dad’s life, he spent working to support the family. For most of mum’s life, she spent working to support the family. They gave little time to the bond between them. I suppose us children became the governing forces of their lives. Either way, true romance wasn’t easy for me.
But Claudia changed that. I met Claudia at Taekwondo training. I knew we had a connection before she left to Europe for a year. I tried to deny it. But at the same time, I did my best to keep in touch with her. She probably wasn’t aware of it, but her existence made me want to open my heart. I felt safe and cared for. She allowed a space where I could express my wildest thoughts about life, self, others, the world, and even the universe.
Claudia also helped unleash my creative writing potential like you wouldn’t believe. Some artists would call Claudia a muse, but she is much more than that. I call it being touched by some divine hand. She added fuel to a fire that was waning especially since my transition out of a job was a marathon less a sprint.
So I wrote ferociously (at the time, all I wanted to do was earn money as a writer). Despite studying part-time, working full-time, training for state and national Taekwondo tournaments, I found time to write. I did this all during her year absence. I kind of used this as an honoring to the unspoken love that pierced me. And deep inside, I was willing to wait for her. At the time, my monkey brain was afraid things might change by the time she came back. But I took a gamble. My heart knew what it knew—and no fine mind could argue with it.
With the image of her in my heart and in my mind, I spent early mornings, late evenings and well into the late hours of the night, tapping away on my keyboard. Including the 9 months, I had a 1,095-day streak of writing; poetry, ideas, abstractions, articles and well … anything that came to mind. Writing was my starlight. It’s where I burned most, and it is where I shone most. The metallic paint on my laptop faded from the sweat of my palms. I alienated my peers and colleagues because of the newfound writing obsession I had. Put a pen in my hand, and what you have is a narcissistic writer.
When she finally returned, I was at the crossroads with my job. And just as I was leaving my job at the time (I got another job, sales and communications related), we finally got together. How? Really quite simple. We watched a movie that night, Romantics Anonymous, a comedy about chocolatiers and romance. After the movie, we had pizza at a restaurant called Love Supreme (named after the Saxophonist John Coltrane). Totally unplanned too! And it was nothing that looked dramatic on the outside. But the feeling inside felt complete. Whole if that makes sense.
During the two weeks we had together, we often went out for surfing, hung out at cafes, watched movies, and just … forgot about the world for a while. Even though I was scared, what we had together gave me courage. I wanted to succeed more than ever before. We had the weekdays all to ourselves while most other people had to work full-time jobs and squeeze in relationship time at night or on the weekend.
“This is how I want things to be.” I told Claudia. I wanted to find a way where I could rule my time. Where I could do something I love, when I wanted, and with who I wanted. These two weeks gave me a glimpse of a life I could have with the one I loved. It ran deep.
Though the new job had me in doubts. It was a new role. I didn’t know if I could succeed at it or not. But because it was base salary plus commissions, it was an opportunity to earn lots of dosh soon. And of course, the skills that came with it were priceless from a business development perspective. Their pitch was, “Five years with us and you have good enough skills to be a highly paid independent business consultant. Ten years, and you can be financially free.” Great pitch. I figured I could be a stable dependable guy by the time I was 35 or 36 years of age. But again, I had my doubts.
But Claudia could blow my apprehensions away with a smile. Her famous line is always, “Yay! So exciting! Go for it!” Sometimes, the things I thought were scary to do and feared doing because of what it would do to others, were nullified. She didn’t want to change me either. Nor did she want to tell me what to do. Even till today.
Sometimes it saddens me though. I write so much and I’m so dedicated to my craft, I often lose my sense of time. I forget to eat. And I can get sloppy at showing up on Claudia’s doorstep when I need to. But she would tell me she didn’t expect me to change. She loved me for who I was, and changing that was a denying of what brought us the connection. Of course, if I was being too sloppy, stressing too much or the like, she’d make sure I cleaned my act. Like, learning how to present myself well, getting out and connecting with people, taking a walk in the park etc.
If I become overly elated and self-confident, she would ground my ego. And if I was down she’d naturally lift me up. The most painful thing I ever did, was be a dick to her. I would just feel so bad for what I did. Especially if it made her cry. A big turning point was early in our relationship, when she was expressing how she struggled to know what she wanted to do in life. While I was inspired and pumped with what I loved most, she felt stuck in a rut. Her friends followed the traditional path of getting a university degree, while she spent a year abroad. She was riding a different stream in life.
What did I do? I treated her like a problem to be solved. Rather than a human being wanting to be heard, understood and at most … just held. Seeing her cry and wipe the tears off her face… it just floored me. She told me “I’m afraid if I don’t change, you won’t love me anymore.” For that day on, I chose to be a better listener and empathizer. To hold space for her feelings rather than fix her. And if I ever felt drawn to solve something, I’d retreat and have a dialogue with the part of me that was compelled to. I think it meant the world to her when I mustered the courage to say, “You’ll have your life challenges. And I can’t solve them. But I’ll do my best to be by your side.”
I really learnt the simplicity of companionship in that moment. I think sometimes what we want from our partner is a lot simpler than what we want to give. While I was motivated to be a provider, secure an income, and take her on wonderful adventures–she simply wanted to feel loved on her journey called being human. There is equanimity to the relationship between man and woman I believe. I’m still learning. Many nights I just feel blessed to be able to go to sleep holding her hands. And waking up to look her in the eyes.
I think we all have people like that in our lives. Whether in the one or in the many. Someone or some individuals who celebrate the truth of who we are … and whether they know it or not, help us find and keep our way of living true. Claudia has been and still is, a catalyst for great personal growth in my life. If I was some infinite soul who chose to incarnate into the form of being human, I think one of the boxes I ticked was this companionship.
What I learned from Claudia, puts most personal development programs and life coaching sessions to shame. A lot of personal development and self-help books I read preach self-love. Which to me and a humorous mentor of mine, can be can be easily misconstrued as masturbation. Though I appreciate the sentiment as one that comes from having compassion for our life and our life’s experience … I utterly disagree that you have to love yourself first before you can have true love. It’s a big presupposition that one precedes the other.
When really, the question is whether we allow ourselves to receive the love coming from many people and many things. Whether it is a friend, family member, love; something as beautiful as a painting, a song or an artwork; or even the act of being kinder to the reflection in the mirror. I think life gives us all opportunities to experience love.
I will never forget that one day Claudia and I spent surfing at Bondi Beach. It was a beautiful day. A week day. The surf was horrible. Lots of big waves we couldn’t catch. But at least, the foam (white-wash) was surf-worthy. And gosh it was therapeutic to be in the water. When we walked out of the water, the sun just shone so brightly and gave Claudia’s eyes an electric blue radiance. If only I had contact lenses to capture that moment. Because that image is burned into my heart and mind. “This is the life I want.” That’s what I told myself.
Where I could be who I wanted to be, support who she wanted to be, and experience the reciprocation. Sometimes I wonder how many others feel the same. People starting relationships, starting a family, raising a family, and become pillars for others in the community.
If you are reading this and you can relate–I don’t know what is going on for you and your life. But from the bottom of my heart I’m certain there is an answer to your life’s biggest question. If you are ready to look. Sometimes it saddens me the structure of modern day economics gives us access to so much, yet can equally take away things that matters most. I suppose everything holds a lesson, and everyone must have their journey.
But still, the disparity between those who get the change they want in life, and those who never is so huge. What’s the difference that makes the difference? This is a big question that need answering (this series of posts will help you). Questions that most don’t often have the time or energy to sit and contemplate on. And without doing that, it is easy to distort what we think we need first, compared with what we want. There is a distinction.
I want to give you an example. I introduce to you a client and great friend of mine, Anne (not her real name, as I want to respect her privacy). When she first approached me for a consultation, she wanted to work on her business and brand. She was inspired to leave her job, earn money being a coach, and using her beautiful dog as a brand mascot. Halfway through the session, she confessed she wanted a relationship and to start a family.
The business and economic side of it, was the predecessor to her true want. Problem is, if we go for what we need to get where we want, without a focus on what we truly want … we are destined for dissatisfaction. It is a matter of authentic priorities. For Anne, when she finally gave herself permission to want love in a companionship, the guy literally showed up within a matter of days. Anne’s thinking was she needed to be a stable, secure and independent as a lady in order for any man to love her. “A man is not a plan …” as Mary Kay said. My sense is, he (or she) can certainly be a big part of it :).
Anne is just one of many. I can’t tell you how many clients tell me they want a career change, start a business, be free of financial worries … and twenty minutes into the session, they confess that love and companionship is what they truly want. I think I have been blessed that people open up. More importantly, I realize how much the feeling and giving of love is an innate desire for us.
Hope you enjoyed the read! Below, is a great album by John Coltrane. If you are a music lover, or want to give it a try–it’s worth listening to at night with a glass of wine 🙂