If We Have Courage

One thing I did not understand when I started this blog about my international marriage was that it would become such a deeply intimate journey for me made so public. Yes, I expected it to be personal enough to be interesting, and I hoped people would read it and be inspired. I hoped it would offer practical information to those in the same boat as well as a bit of entertainment to those wondering what this escapade into love across borders might look like. I figured I’d be writing about the outer experiences and the practicalities a lot more and my inner experiences only as necessary to paint a picture…and yet, I also started this blog to help me process everything I was going through. But I didn’t know just how much I would actually go through!

My recent post, Happy New Year & New Beginnings, was the first to really touch upon what it is for me to be in an international relationship and, in fact, a relationship at all. It began to shine some light on the truth of my experience…one that isn’t always as romantic or picture-perfect as it looks. It began to subtly alter the course of the blog to one about the challenges of romantic relationship and the inner doubts, fears, and demons they bring to the surface.

This past week, I returned to hell. I could color it prettier…call it a “dark night” or some other euphemism…but hell is what it was. And this visit, like the last one, like every one before it (and every one to come), has been a gift of healing. If I can just embrace these hells, however difficult, eventually, the light inside will shine even brighter than before.

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.”  Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Stuart returned to France a little over a week ago. It was a catalyst for this hell. Surprisingly, it wasn’t so much the grief of separation as it was the anxiety of what would happen next, though I’m sure the separation was the catalyst. We became so close while he was here. My love for him deepened, and I continued to soften and open. But I also got to see sides of him and aspects of myself that made me uncomfortable. For the first time, we were getting to really know each other. Because of the 4000 miles between us, we really did things backwards. We rushed things that ordinarily would have happened over a much longer period of time. We were so desperate to be together, we ate dessert before dinner so to speak. I’m not surprised; we’re rebels.

This contraction, this hell, centered around my anxiety and doubt, the anxiety causing a flood of incessant thoughts that the one I love may not be the “right” one. It stirred all kinds of projections. And it made me want to run. I began to doubt my love for this man. I began to doubt whether we even really know each other at all. I began to doubt our compatibility…everything really. I felt confused and torn apart. I felt crazy too, because just a week ago, I was so in love. What was wrong with me? I cannot even begin to describe the anxiety I felt, the absolute terror over what might happen to me, my life, and Stuart if I didn’t do something to stop the wheels we set in motion. I was beyond stressed and my dreams revealed a deeply conflicted state. The synchronicity that had so beautifully worked for us up to this point seemed to disappear. (Gee, I wonder why?) Nothing felt right.

At first, I attempted to process this all with my mind…my insane, conflicted, tormented mind. That wasn’t going to work. It was an endless cacophony of noise. I tried all my usual tools. They didn’t seem to be helping either. After reaching out to my mentor, I was reminded I needed to allow my body to feel without the mind trying to interpret everything. I just felt, and what I felt was a vice on my heart, a palpable fear, and a pull downward that was incredibly heavy and horrifying. That night, I had a dream that said simply, “Mend.” And I prayed, begged, and then gave up on the miracle that never fails to show up for me when I’m at my lowest.

That was, of course, when it did. Everything in my world began to speak to me. It slowly began to show me exactly what I needed to see. Friends, allies on this healing journey, let me know I wasn’t alone. Information online illuminated my confused mind and teased apart the knots. I remembered that I needed to be gentle with myself and give myself nurturing and care. I wasn’t out of it yet, but I was on the road back to sanity. And someone reminded me to face my fears and ask myself whether or not I was willing to let them happen, because if I wasn’t, I was sure to create a control-freaking, chaotic mess. If I kept pushing and trying to control everything instead of allowing and trusting, I’d dig deeper holes.

“The most exquisite paradox… as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” Ram Dam

The next step was to let Stuart in on the truth: I am afraid.

I’m afraid of the unknown. I’m afraid of his love. I’m afraid of leaving my comfort zone. I’m afraid of losing control. I’m afraid it won’t work out. I’m even afraid that it will. I’m afraid of the death of my life here (even though it was winding up long before I met Stuart) and the start of a life that remains a complete and utter mystery to me. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself. I’m afraid to find I have no self to lose. I’m afraid I’m not strong enough to follow through. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid nothing will ever change and of everything changing. There is so much fear in me, there hasn’t been any room for anything else.

So just like last time, now, the work begins. It’s time to mend, to resolve these inner conflicts and bring these disparate parts of myself back to wholeness. I must be curious about the walls I’ve built around my heart and allow the man I love to help me tear them down. I know the value of this work. I know what lies on the other side of so much fear. And now, I’m ready to accept whatever happens.

“Life is about meeting ourselves, meeting our own pain, our own fears, our own bliss, our own joy — meeting all those waves in ourselves and meeting the one in front of us in the same way actually. In the end it is the same meeting — we are really just meeting ourselves.” Jeff Brown

I know this hasn’t been easy on Stuart. He didn’t exactly know what he was getting into with a woman like me, a Toltec warrior shaman woman, though I tried to warn him I wasn’t like most people, content to ignore more difficult parts of the internal landscape. He’s been so compassionate and understanding. And I’m proud of him; he’s even been willing, despite how new it is for him, to look at his own fears and doubts, something so many men out there resist, let alone even know how to do.

We have a lot to sort out, both independently and together as we explore a much more mature and sustaining love than the beautiful, romantic love that thrust us together (though, thankfully, that’s still alive too). One thing is clear, we are committed to fully experience and learn from this road we’re on, no matter where it leads. And neither of us can say…

I wrote the following poem that could so easily apply to either of us, both in our relationship with each other and with ourselves:

Now I must demonstrate the strength which I expected
and show you that my love for you is stronger than the fear
I must place all of my faith in what remains to be seen
and patiently wait for you to walk through your shadows

I pray for you to the force of Life that animates you
to hear me calling your name, a music to re-member you
that you are still and always will be everything to me
if only you can grab my hand and help pull yourself up here

Yes, we know each other
These timeless souls
But the humans are still getting acquainted
They aren’t to be trusted; they are injured

These tears can be mended
sewn with colors beyond the rainbow
These souls can crack this hardened crust
and let the Light shine through

if we have courage