It was early fall. I wore a new sundress that was tailored perfectly. It felt comfortable and carefree and rustled like leaves being stirred up on the path. I had met a guy who was on staff with me that I was quickly enamored with. He had a childlike playfulness about him when people were not watching him.
I met with my mentor at the time at a black wrought iron bench on a brick walkway that was lined with trees that were just beginning to show a change in color here and there. It was so warm, sunny, and I was constantly reminded of how much I loved the feeling of soaking up the sun’s kisses. My mentor asked about various things….dance, family, academics, work. After we cycled through the everyday encounters and decisions, he asked about this fellow. He asked what I wanted in life, right now, overall. I remember smiling, with a joy similar to the moment when you know you finally got something right, and telling him that I am so happy with every part of my life and I really want to share it all. I had very minimal stress, I was just embarking on a new academic path, and the relationships I had with people around me were flourishing and strengthening. I was so excited about it all that I wanted to share it, everyday, with someone who would value it like I did.
I realized that mine and my mentor’s expectations might have been different. My priority in beginning that relationship (sharing my life) was different from the priority in beginning a relationship my mentor had in mind for me (growing closer to something else, something deemed ‘greater’ and having someone with that same goal in mind).
That wonder-full guy and I dated for two years. It was a relationship packed tight with childlike adventures, discoveries, and jokes. He was an excellent letter-writer. One of my friends would swoon and sigh and wish aloud that her fiancé would write to her so eloquently. He demonstrated such grace, commitment, and forgiveness. I did not anticipate these things that day I sat in the sun on the bench with my mentor. I couldn’t be aware then of how much these things would change my life.
A year into the relationship, all the things about my life that I held like treasure seemed to be revealed as counterfeit. My academics, my family, my work, my relationships with others, and dance…it all seemed to be revealed as if a mask was removed and the nature of things showed instead an ugly face. My academic path was far different than what I learned I was interested in. The family I felt so similar too had dark secrets and sacrificed each others’ overall well-being. My work was lonesome. My relationships were in a state of flux…by choice and by circumstance and by surroundings. My dance was not cathartic like I wanted it to be. I tasted tango then and it seemed to be the only thing that held uncovered, unhidden beauty.
One afternoon I sat in front of my empty fireplace, cycling through the emotions shock brings, and I felt like I was drowning. I was underwater but it was so clear. I could see how strongly the sun lit up everything and illuminated the entire surface just a few feet above me.
I wondered if this is what ‘going crazy’ felt like.
We didn’t get a happy ending, that man and I. Not together, anyways. Since the relationship ended, I have been blaming and shaming my own self, and disbelieving my abilities to give and receive love. In all the ways I hurt him, I stopped seeing all the ways he loved me. It’s hard to remember the good things and what I learned through it all. The most heartbreaking question still comes late at night, every few months, when I think, “It’s myself that I need to forgive. How? Why is this the hardest part?”
In tango and yoga, I’ve found surprise in my ability to work towards tapping into new strengths and techniques. I know what it feels like to finally discover how strong a pose feels after utilizing the same technique over and over again (it feels like I’m superwoman and can most DEFINITELY hold that pose for the next 5 breaths). I also know how beautiful it feels to understand a wordless conversation while my heart is pressed into another’s (it feels like all the Goodness that lives in their heart is the same Goodness that lives in mine).
I wonder if our capacity to Love [everything and everyone] is larger than the room we fill with shame, guilt, worry, and trash.
If it is, why does it seem so hard to find this Love? Why does it seem elusive or at the end of a crazy, nearly impossible maze? In a tiny craft store this week, I found a carved disc with tiny maze walls the size of my palm that had a tiny metal ball in it. I remembered these as kids because my brother got the metal ball to the center of the maze every time. When I tried, I would tilt the disc too much or too little and the little ball would go too far or not far enough, or it would slip through a crack and end up on the other side of the maze.
I feel this way about Love sometimes. Especially the kind of love that grants forgiving oneself. Who can teach me how to tilt the maze so the ball gets in the center?