We made it through Valentines Day – the day we celebrate romance, the day we celebrate our “soulmates”; the day that all single women supposedly dread.
I don’t know about that.
Don’t get me wrong: I have had some nice Valentine’s days. My best Valentine’s Day was when I was 20. My first love of my life was a scientist (as was the second) and he came home with a bottle of some “perfume” he had made for me in chem lab. He quickly warned me NEVER to open it. I have no idea what it contained – likely some kind of solution that was toxic to all living things. Broke as we were, he then produced a gift that I still have among my treasures – a retractable Staedler eraser just like the one he had, and which I always borrowed when we did calculus problems together. No matter how much or how little the expense, remembering that I liked something and then getting it for me – wow – that meant the world to me.
I also remember spending a lot of money meeting the second love of my life in different European cities because, at that time, we were trying to make “long distance” work. I recall a Valentines Day in a posh hotel in Amsterdam spent in a Lemsip fog, both enduring head colds on separate sides of our king sized bed and trying to get a few hours of undisturbed sleep. And of course there were the trips to Paris, where, for some reason, we always argued and the ultimate – Valentine’s Day in beautiful picturesque, medieval Brugges – where we both got food poisoning and spent the weekend vying for the loo. Oh yes, Valentine’s Day spelled high credit card bills but not a lot of romance.
And to expect that it would, is silly. I think romance on demand is an oxymoron and the only ones enriched are the corporations who play on our deep craving for connection. Romance, by its nature involves a strange mix of mystery and familiarity. Familiarity can lead to contempt so thankfully we are rescued by mystery. The corporations play on the mystery and sell us the dream. But mysteries do not respond to demands and they cannot be controlled. It is this same mix of familiarity and mystery which seems to describe the experience of finding a Soulmate.
But what is a Soulmate? The term is used liberally these days and usually it is equated with the idea of some ultimate romantic love. I looked it up and apparently, you can buy one – at match.com, the Guardian and a myriad of other romance and hookup sites. Well, provided you don’t read the fine print.
Google it and you will find experts writing about Soulmates, Twin Flames, and Karmic relationships. Some say they are your one true love. Some say they are bound to break your heart. There is a whole industry around the conjecture of this longing for a Soul mate. It’s all bullshit. Nobody knows what it is. All I can say is that you know it when you feel it. And sometimes what you feel is not a soulmate but simply co-dependency.
The mythology of Soulmates is an old one and goes at least as far back as the legend of Isis and Osiris and was most famously laid out by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium. There, Aristophanes weaves a tale of 3 types of early humans – male, female and the androgene. Each human had 4 arms, 2 faces and 2 sets of genitals. Jealous of the threat that humans posed, the Gods split each human into two, leaving them bereft and forever searching for their other half. Edgar Cayce further introduced the concept of reincarnation to the story of souls searching for one another through time, over and over again until all karma has been spent and they merge into one. The Hindus, with the story of Sita and Ram, might say that it is in one’s Soulmate that one can clearly see oneself. We see that we are as a drop of water in the sea of the Divine and separateness is only an illusion. Many religions have some concept of the eternal Two as One. And, with the exception of the mystic who understands, it always seems that the story of Unio Mystica gets short circuited and perverted into an wish – impossible to fulfill – for merging with the romantic lover.
The orgasm of romantic love is the “little death” through which we get a momentary sense of Union. But, it is not the union with our lover that our soul seeks. It is the union with our Divine Oneness that drives the psyche over and over to crave that bittersweet moment that cannot last. The Soulmate, however, offers the reflection of ourselves – a portal through which we can reach a Union that is out of time.
Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? Maybe you doubt that they exist. I don’t.
So far I have had two completed loves in my life. And, I have met two Soulmates.
The first time I had a Soulmate experience – that feeling of being more yourself than you thought you could be, of being understood, safe, and at home – was when I was 13 or 14 years old. Having come to a spiritual life early, I was on an interfaith spiritual retreat with a friend. She introduced me to two boys she knew from the other side of our huge metropolis. I cannot honestly tell you that I remember the moment I met Patrick, but we spent more and more time talking and listening to one another and spent that evening alone, together, until we watched the sun rise. And like the metaphor, we took one another out of a sense of teenage darkness and into the dawn of a new sense of Self. We talked about everything and we loved one another by morning. Although he was a handsome boy and I was a pretty girl, it was, in the truest sense, an innocent love.
We only had that night together. We met briefly at an event later that year and we become pen pals for years to come. He went to university and I moved across the country. We both fell into romantic love with other people and got our hearts broken. He became a teacher and I went to work in big business. We met once again, ten years after that long night of talking until dawn.
I had begun to buy into the industry around soulmate mythology. We weren’t being romantic and time was wasting! I decided to take control of the situation or risk losing my Soulmate to another woman. I broached the idea with Patrick. Had we both been more mature, we might have explored what this strong connection was, what it meant for each of us, and whether we wanted to introduce sexuality into the relationship. Had I been more mature, I might have been able to soothe my anxiety and let what was meant to be between us to simply unfold. But when a man of 24, is faced with an attractive woman of 23, whom he loves deeply, trusts implicitly and considers his Soulmate and when he feels she has an agenda that was falling behind schedule…well…he bolts.
And perhaps that is the lesson I was meant to learn from Patrick: Soulmates will be what they are meant to be and if you try to force the river, you will flood the field and lose the harvest.
I think Soulmates and lovers are not necessarily the same thing. Romantic love with a soulmate can be tantric and transformational. It is always simply an earthly expression of the love. It is never the objective. If you have the same life goals and values and styles of living, a Soulmate can be the ideal life partner. Or, they can be a spiritual friend at 13 that takes you into adulthood. They are whatever they are meant to be. The most important – and highest – aspect of that relationship is the purest love between two people – Agape – a spiritual or Divine love.
I recently told this story to someone I trust. She said that while it is painful to lose a love, it would be even more painful to lose a Soulmate. I am not sure that one can lose them. How can you lose someone who is so much a part of you? Patrick will always be a part of my narrative, a part of this life’s story which gives it meaning.
But don’t we get just one Soulmate? So, how is it, I have met another Soulmate in this lifetime? Well, I don’t know. Maybe the karma with Patrick is complete for this lifetime and it made way for another and this has allowed a new Soulmate and I to stumble awkwardly into one another’s lives. I can tell you that it has taken me by surprise; he is not who I expected, and I am certainly not who he would choose but there it is and it has disrupted my life. And maybe that is really the point of Soulmates.
I am a fan of disruption and the way it alters one’s perception of “reality” to allow the genesis of creation.
What is this new Soulmate relationship? What meaning does it suggest? Again, I don’t know how to answer that. Trying to answer that question creates chaos and suffering at the thought of him because we are apart and emotionally distant. I simply have faith. In a world where we seem to want to define, own, control, buy and sell everything, in a world where corporations tell us how and when to love and what is an appropriate gift, where this relationship is concerned, I opt out of that paradigm.
I opt out. I allow this relationship to disrupt my programming. And then, I opt in to a new way of being.
I opt in with mystery and sacredness. I am opting to let this be whatever it is. And we will know what that is, together.
I am grateful for both of the men I consider Soulmates. Twice in my life I have had a moment of seeing myself in another, and being a mirror for them, of stopping time and of being deeply transformed in unexpected ways that only reveal themselves with time and patience. I am grateful for the many lessons I learned with my first Soulmate and I accept the lessons I have yet to learn, with this new one. I am grateful for the two romantic loves of my life, and I stay open to the possibility of a third and the possibility that my present Soulmate may or may not be that third and final love of my life. It is a joy to reflect on them all, and to know that I have experienced, at least for a time, so very much love. With a sense of reverent service to them, to our narratives, and to those who are trying to make meaning out of love and loss, I honour the depth of soulfulness that love contains and savour the moments shared, the memories held, and surrender to the mystery of what is and what will be.
For what are you grateful, this week?