Thursday, June 10, 2010

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet. They tear down your walls and smack you awake - Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

It seems, I have spent the greater part of my life hunting for the pieces of a puzzle that would complete me.  I've fervently searched for the perfect job, residence, religion, stiletto, and, of course, a man.  The treasure hunt for a soul mate has recently been a source of cross-examination for me and I am freeing myself from the chains of being "not enough" without some dude glued to my side.   Does that mean I never look upon other women and feel a pang of loneliness when they appear to have a mate that is an enhancement to their lives?  Occasionally.  I know the reality is, an unfortunate number of women, are in relationships for all the wrong reasons.   Finances, careers, social perceptions, fear of change often breed complacency. Most often, low self-esteem tricks them into believing they are not worthy of having their needs met.  Or, more tragic, meeting their own. Without a male, we couldn't possibly still be desirable goddesses, could we? The recent news of Al and Tipper Gore's pending divorce, after 40 years of marriage, has been plastered all over the media.  Sentiments have been, their marriage “failed.” How can anyone call a 40 year connection, filled with accomplishment, mutual respect and love, a failure? In my opinion they are role models of authenticity and courage. They are a far better example to their families (especially their girls) than remaining in a joyless state of wedded misery.  Their soul mate connection served its purpose for that chapter in their lives, together. What I find most appalling, is staying handcuffed to a set of vows that provide a convenient means of passing the buck off on a God, who would never require  us to remain in situations that harm us, aren’t healthy, or stifle us from living our joy.  I am convinced those promises that extol, “Til death do us part” may be translated to mean, when my spirit begins to shrivel and die, it's time to part. Not when my physical body expires.  I don’t like placing human qualities on my God either.  And, I think the worst one to assign Him/Her is that of a God of Judgement.  I did that in my younger years.  God was either Santa Claus, or my father, doling out gifts and punishment.  What works for me now, is to believe my Creator is pure unconditional love, simple as that. My Creator ultimately is guiding me towards the same unconditional love as well, but patiently recognizes I have to walk through a lot of lessons to get there. It just might take a number of lifetimes and  lots of “soulmates” to move me in that direction.  I am not proposing anyone take their vows so lightly that at the first sign of trouble, sickness, or boredom we head for divorce court or the exit door. Societies need some sort of decorum and accountability to keep chaos at bay.  What I am talking about is honorably leaving a relationship after prayerfully asking for guidance, and knowing in our souls, it's  no longer serving each other’s greater good.  Moving forward when the depth of our connection, passion and growth has become stale and limiting.  Or, as Marianne Williamson aptly quotes in her book, The Age of Miracles- Embracing the New Midlife, “when you are living in domestic time-share rather than true love”.  
Miraculously, these days, I recognize, I’m perfectly okay in my aloneness.  Am I lonely? Sometimes.  Yet, I’ve felt the same emptiness and isolation sitting right next to a member of the opposite sex I settled into for a night, a week, months and sometimes years, merely to have someone with me.  I guess the same dynamic applies to outward badges of success. I’ve socialized in  luxurious settings, slinky silk dress flowing from my size 2 body, on the arm of the best looking man in the place, and asked myself, what is missing? Why do I feel so sad?  Why is this not enough? It wasn’t enough, because I was always looking for things outside myself to work their illusory magic.  It wasn’t enough because I placed value on stuff, accomplishment, facade’s, and comparison. I lived by the motto's, “When I have, or When this happens”..... But, most of all, It wasn’t enough, because I didn’t think I was enough. My choices reflected and reinforced that. History repeating itself over and over in my relationships, just like the movie “Ground Hog’s Day”.  What was going wrong here?  I was the perfect mate!  I did it all... brought home the bacon, fried it up in a pan, and never let you forget you were a man.  After the hair shirt started to itch and my arms tired of dangling on the large cross, I hung myself on, I took some time to really appraise my perceived failures in finding  a true “soulmate”.  I  asked myself some very pointed questions. What did that relationship say about you? Why were you there?  What was your role?  When I began to turn it around, I stopped being a victim and became a seeker.  I took my power back, opened myself up to becoming acquainted with me, and what I need.  I discovered needs don’t always coincide with wants. Initially a tough pill to swallow, learning what I need was important too, and not getting it was keeping me out of alignment with my purpose.  It was also a giant leap towards forgiveness, for those who hurt me so badly and for myself.   How could they give me what I needed when I didn’t even know what that was? How could I give me what I needed when I didn’t know either? It occurred to me, there was a pattern here. And, my soul mates helped me discover that pattern.
In her book, Eat, Pray Love,  Elizabeth Gilbert’s friend, Tex, who she meets in an Ashram in India, provides a new perspective on a soul mate. He says, “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants.  But, a true soul mate is your mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.” This definition, combined with my desire to really examine my past relationships was incredibly helpful.  All that baggage hauled in from childhood, and tarnished souvenirs carried from one relationship after another, made me a pretty lousy partner as well.  I know, in every instance, those connections were divine; even the ones that appeared to be so ugly and damaging.  My definition of a soul mate was incredibly limiting.  There is no doubt, my most painful relationships, especially those that ended badly, were the ones that got my attention and forced me to make serious changes in my life.  They also revealed my weaknesses and defects of character. I had to spend some time under the bright, white interrogation lights, magnifying glass in hand, digging through the rubble of a shattered heart.  I kept the pieces that were worth holding onto in the rebuilding process,  and discarded the rest at the quarry of “no longer useful behaviors and attitudes”. I give thanks these days for those soul mates that showed me what I did not want to be, what I needed to change, and that I had to love me first before I could love anyone else in a healthy way.   
It’s not all been glaring character defects revealed. I am profoundly grateful for the soul mate that reflected back to me an image of a  loving woman, full of life, compassion, curiosity, humor, and intelligence.  I primped and preened in that mirror, and grew in my desire to be a better human being, simply because he affirmed all of that.  It was reflected in his eyes, his unflagging support, his attention and pride.  Everyone, should have that kind of soul mate at least once in their life, but most never do. I am blessed. That journey  was way too short, but the magnitude of the gift received, changed me. There is no greater joy than to be with one who explores with you, comes to know who you really are, accepts it all and still finds you the perfect fit for them.  No smoke and mirrors, manipulations, or agendas.   A pure desire to be with one another, innately knowing,  you both should continue to grow together AND separately because you have each other’s best interest at heart. And, even more powerful, the knowing, if it reached a place when the growth stopped, we could have moved apart, leaving in love and a genuine respect  for each other’s life journey.  The breeding ground was the healthy commonality of a 12 step program, and that kind of marriage flourished when such a gift was placed in the complete care of something greater than both of us. 
Someone sent me an e-mail the other day. I’ve received similar sentiments many times through the years, but this really touched me this time around. It read; God doesn't give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you, and to make you into the person you were meant to be. That pretty much encapsulates  Elizabeth Gilbert’s definition of a soul mate. By that description, they don’t have to be of the intimate, couple variety. My soul mates have come wearing many disguises.  They have included a beloved daughter unconditionally loving me, a friend who sees me in the way I want to see myself, a spiritual teacher who gave me healing when I couldn’t make sense of the tragedies that had attacked my life, a dear grandmother-in law who proudly told anyone who would listen, I could be anything I chose to be. I have experienced my soul mate in a  boss who taught me the meaning of professionalism, integrity, and compassion in the workplace, and died way too early;  a gentle therapist who taught me how to forgive my parents, and one most recently who “smacked me awake” with his confrontational style, wit, and perceptible belief in my worthiness as I continued to sell myself way too short.  I often see the faces of my soul mates sitting in 12 step meetings, listening in wonderment, when they echo MY story.  Most recently, one soul mate helped me more, in three and half years, to discover what an extraordinary, compassionate, lovable, woman I truly am. Perhaps his means of revealing this were questionable.  His control, manipulation, selfishness, and disregard for my life seemed to be the only way to get my attention and open my eyes to the reality of my codependent niceness.  A shocking lack of self-love, I thought I had fixed away many years ago. The sign I hung around my neck that said, "My life, needs and time isn't really nearly as important as yours," has now been burned.   I am not bitter, or angry, not anymore. Lessons I learned included the importance of always doing the next right thing, never settling, and honoring my values. The gentleman taught me discernment... how to pick more wisely, while guarding and treasuring my worthiness. Watch what people DO, rather than listen to what they say. Most of all, how to finally walk away, letting go of any relationship whose pattern is incredibly dishonorable and unhealthy. Pretty powerful soul mate connection. 
When we stop looking for “the” soul mate, we see them rise up from all different walks of our lives.  I have come to know, my true soul mate, is God.  If there is to be an intimate earthly soul mate in my future, I think it best if my heavenly soul mate do the matchmaking.  That decision was reinforced in a reading by an uncannily, intuitive and joyful little psychic. It was a part of a carefree day with some like-minded friends.  As he was rattling off all these marvelous predictions for my bright future and informed me I am surrounded by spirit love, (gosh, I really am never alone....) he ended our session by saying, “Oh, by the way, stop looking for a relationship.”  I burst into laughter, and asked him if he had been conversing with my friends or former therapist.  I knew, that was my Higher Power speaking to me.  What a great message.  He knew if I just stopped, for a time.... I would discover I am not only okay in my aloneness, my life is truly peaceful, uncomplicated, full, and adventurous! Why clutter it up right now?! When the student is ready, the teacher will once again appear.  It's taken me almost a lifetime to recognize, my puzzle is colorfully complete, just as it is.