“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” – Rumi
Dust rises up from my tires in the rear-view mirror. Ahead, a hazy mirage unfolds, the air heavy with distilled time, which shifts the desert landscape like ripples. Horizontal emptiness, sand and shrubbery stretch out as far as the eye can see. Not a road sign anywhere. I know I’m on route 1258 and that it’s supposed to connect to 655, but an eternity has passed without any intersection. I stop and put the car in park so I can look at my map. The letters and numbers have shrunk, becoming too small for me to read. I bring the map closer to my face to examine it. And then I hear his voice, saying, give me the map. Suddenly he’s in the passenger seat next to me. I hand him the map, timidly, and he rolls down the window and flings it out. I want to protest but all that comes out is a half-audible whimper, I’m lost. He says, lost is just an interpretation. Let your eyes and ears flow into the vastness of the desert, marvel at the trees with the green, pointed spikes that look like they fell down from the moon. Enjoy the intimacy of a moment that will never come again. You’ll get to your destination, eventually. Maybe even sooner than you think.
I switch on the ignition and start to drive. He says, left, and I turn onto a smaller asphalt road. We pass an orchard of giant, yellow cactuses with arms outstretched in supplication toward the sky. After a few kilometers he says, turn right. I think to myself he must be insane, it’s just a small dirt road that looks like it’s going deeper into the wilderness of the desert. But I wave away my apprehension and turn right. We pass white, jagged rocks with strange holes that give them the appearance of angry faces. We get out of the car to breathe in the scenery and eat apples from a bag I didn’t know was in the backseat. I realize we have no water, and he cuts an arm from a green bushy plant, which begins to gush rain from its severed artery. I continue driving, and we come upon a large paved road again, with serpentine turns that climb up into the mountains. As we pass another bend, I begin to hear the roar of the surf. We must have crossed hundreds of miles, from the desert to the ocean, in less than an hour. I turn to smile at him. A wave of sadness crashes in my heart as I realize the passenger seat is empty, again. But as I drive, I can still hear his voice echoing faintly, turn left, right, go straight. Soon I’m at the the ocean. Not exactly my final destination, but close. I turn to the empty seat and say thank you.
I had this dream many months ago, before I left for an extended journey to California. But its significance only dawned on me now, after I returned and we decided to break up. That’s not exactly the right word since there was nothing resembling a break. For the first time in my life I feel like I’ve left a lover but we haven’t really parted. Quite literally, since we continue to love, to talk, and to meet, no longer as partners but as intimate friends who can share each other’s joys and burdens. But there’s a more profound sense in which we haven’t parted – I feel like he will always be part of the the love that overflows in my heart, even if one day he’ll no longer be present, physically, in my life. I’ve internalized what was best in him, his generosity, spontaneity and sparkle of recklessness, and my inner guidance often speaks with the sound of his voice.
A friend once told me she thought we were soul opposites, and that this would probably be the most challenging relationship of my life. And at times it definitely felt like it. I used to live mostly in the ideas in my head and in my past and future, while he lived in the present and in the physicality of his senses. I was full of ambition and desire for achievements, jumping breathlessly from one new project to another, and I thought he was too laid-back and lazy by contrast. I sought as much control as possible over the uncontrollable in my life, and planned my experiences within safe boundaries, including all of our trips together. He thrived on surprises, unexpected adventures, and insisted we give up maps and plans and let the magic of the moment unfold. These and many other incompatibilities were a constant source of friction between us.
As our relationship evolved, I realized we were really 3 couples. The intuitive, emotive couple who was kidnapped by feelings of love, who felt elated, overcome by generosity and the desire to give of ourselves beyond reason. The conscious couple who had rational motives for admiring each other, who shared common interests and projects, and made plans for the future. And the crazy, irrational couple, existing in a kind of parallel universe, who kept stumbling into an unconscious drama that replayed unresolved wounds from the past. I think a relationship is a mixture of all of these – of the love and generosity that come from the intelligence of the heart, of conscious intentions and plans forged by the mind, and of an unconscious karmic dance that plays out all kinds of unfinished business from the past – the traumas of childhood, the internalized discipline of social conditioning, and the disappointments and patterns from previous relationships. In this sense a couple seems to be brought together by some secret design in order to work out this karmic dance, which is why we’re often attracted to partners who not only transport us to the ecstatic heights of love, but who will also push all the wrong buttons and dig up all the unresolved, hidden pain from our past. With time, the unconscious dance between us gradually fell away as I became aware of its magnetic pull and let go of it from my side. The automatisms and fears that often flared up between us without our control began to diminish in intensity, until one day I realized they were gone. It was as if the unconscious shadows of our past had covered over the love that flowed between us. Once these shadows dissolved, all that remained was love, even though its quality transformed to that of a close friendship.
I’m aware of how much I’ve changed during our years together. I’ve become less of an intellectual living in my head, less ambitious, more attuned to the magic of the present moment, more open to unpredictability, more willing to abandon myself to love without expectations or demands. In some ways it seems like we’ve each become more like the other, perhaps because meeting our opposite brought out qualities that were undeveloped in us. I don’t mean to invoke some cheap cliche that we completed each other, but to say that our often turbulent relationship revealed aspects of ourselves that were already latent in us, but suppressed or ignored. Sometimes we were shining, spotless mirrors reflecting the power of our love and generosity back to each other, at other times, we were like fun-house mirrors magnifying all the hidden distortions that needed to be smoothed over. Encountering the missing other that was him but also already within me has made me feel like an integrated person who can experience life more fully and joyously.
We met in Berlin, in January 2010, in a strange little bar with an underground cavern. We loved and laughed and cried, we lived together and apart, we traveled to other countries and to foreign landscapes within ourselves. Now as we begin to drift apart, without having parted, I feel a touch of grief. Not for all the wonderful moments that passed between us, which continue to live in our memories, but for a future we imagined that will never be. It’s a strange thing to mourn something that has not happened, though its strangeness doesn’t make it less painful. But the fact that he’s still in my thoughts, feelings and dreams makes it more comforting. I feel his presence with me throughout the day, as a kind of subtle, almost imperceptible, background hum. In a more profound sense, it’s as if we did not meet somewhere in time and we are not parting elsewhere a few years later. We live inside each other, then, now … and all along.