T's mother apparently gets regular emails from The Universe, and she forwarded one recently, which is a particular favorite of hers. It read:
Sometimes, [T's Mom], having more fun and being happier comes from looking for each in crazy, new places; instead of waiting for them to come from where you've found them before or where others are now finding them.
And I do mean crazy. Not just from the old standbys of travel, adventure, and romance, but from stretching, reaching, and growing. Accepting new responsibilities for your happiness, totally accepting others, and grasping even higher ideals. Philosophically taking yourself to places few have ever dared before.
Red hot smokin' love,
Aside from the attractions of being offered red-hot, smokin' love from the Universe, I found it interesting she should send me this right now, because it feels like all the events in my life are converging into that one lesson: "Stretching, reaching, growing." I thought I had emerged from the divorce pretty well stretched, reached, and grown, but now it appears that those challenges were just preparation for the opportunities that lay ahead. To mix and torture metaphors, the atomic reorganization of my life opened a painfully creaky door, but I still had to walk through it, and explore the rooms beyond.
In the back of my mind I had this cute notion that I'd get divorced, spend a year not dating while I gave myself the perfectly prescribed time to "work on myself", move on, eventually find someone, have a great, normal relationship, move in together or perhaps marry, blend families if applicable, and look around one day with a self-satisfied smile and say "Look, see? I've done it right this time." Counseling would be required, of course, and probably a great deal of dating and sifting. It would be hard, but not too hard.
One of life's most effective disciplinary tools is the realization, whether abrupt or gradual, that your future and your life will look nothing like you thought they would.* There are deaths, illnesses, betrayals, divorces, accidents, losses, gains, and lessons. I had one very abrupt realization in May 2008 that my life would look radically different than I had hoped, expected, or thought. But I don't think I ever completely absorbed the lesson from that, which is to let go, to ride the tide, and to open myself to the possibilities of the unknown instead of rigidly adhering to my visions and plans.
There was no year of singleness. Instead, with perfect contrariness, the Universe served up T as if on cue, and he parachuted into my life via e-mail on the day my divorce was final. We have an in-joke in which we observe that he was single for ten years, and I was single for ten minutes.
And then, over the ensuing nine months, I have bobbed and weaved, vacillated and quivered, as I discovered that T was going to commit the shocking act of being human instead of, at all times, my preconceived ideal of a mate. But by then I was in quite the pickle, because I'd begun to love him.
Into this morass stepped Therapist C, as she so often does, with her quiet laugh and her empathetic smile and her gentle, forward-leaning stance, to remind me to stop trying to control life and start listening to it instead. What was I learning from this? What was life demanding of me?
Stretching, reaching, growing. Totally accepting others.
The lesson I'm learning from being with T is that loving fully involves risk -- that security can never be the currency with which love is bartered. Love must be given freely, without a purchase price, or it's no kind of love at all. Relationships are about growth, and about loving, not when and if you can blend households, or get married, or feel that you have once again gained admission to structure and normality.
T gets into my life and makes noise there. Sometimes he does it with a smile and a sharp wit, and sometimes he does it with his own pain and defenses. But I always feel loved, and valued -- more so than I've ever felt, really.
I didn't need someone to make me secure. I needed to learn to live without it, because, as Pema Chodron reminds us, there is no ground beneath us.
And that's where I am right now.
*Sometimes, in a particularly harsh version of this lesson, we discover that our past was also not what we thought it was. While even more painful in ways, this is just as effective a catalyst for change and growth.