"Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance, the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart. And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again."
The first time that I deeply fell in love with someone, I was scared...out...of...my...mind. What if he realized that I was woefully unprepared to emotionally deal with a love relationship and had already consciously admitted to myself that I was going to find every possible way to...mess... this...up? What if he scratched the surface of my well-crafted exterior to find that I was really still hurting from a childhood of epic crisis and instability? What if he realized that it didn't matter how sweet he could be, at the end of the day, I would never, ever, not in a million years place all of my trust in him because I had been so burned by the fire of life already that I was certain that I could trust no one but me. In sum, I was scared that the depths to which I had already lived would send him running down the street. As a result, my life felt...rather mechanical, and, at best, cliche. I was on my way to becoming one of those fatalistic women's magazine statistics, which I equally despised...
I didn't realize it at the time, but I had delegated my sense agency to all of my fears and perceivable weaknesses. My decisions were made in sub-zero temperatures, with the intention that my worldview would be self-fulfilling. I was intent on the notion that I would continuously be disappointed by the people I let into my heart, but I specifically let in disappointing people. This way, I could always be right, and, in essence, continue to dance with the phantom of gnawing and burning inside me, with which I was most comfortable. Fear not only defined me, it was both my wet-nurse and number one life partner. Who or what could I possibly be if I didn't have that constant tension? Certainly, if I wasn't this version of me, I would be nothing, I would have nothing to offer. Augh, the drama!
"Tell me a story of who you are, And see who I am in the stories I am living. And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice."
Clearly, I had to make a choice. I could be the woman who went through men like shoes, or I could dig down and start taking better care of the disappointed child spirit within me that was really just longing for balance, safety and validation. At a certain point, we have to make the decision to be who we are, not what we have been constructed to be. It's funny how the ego becomes the manifestation of this process. Personally, I hated my ego. I hated the decisions she made for me. If my ego was me, and I was my ego, I hated me. Deep down, I knew that my ego was just a socially-formed fabrication, the shell-like persona of a young woman I would probably not seek to befriend on the street. In the end, my ego was not me, and I clearly needed to work on disengaging myself from the unnecessary noise.
Ultimately, I ended up leaving my ego behind. Rather unexpectedly, we happened to part one day in a grand, medieval mosque that was once a glittering Arab jewel in Southern Spain.** We sat under an orange tree in the grand courtyard, still resonating with the energy of human prayer, and we chatted for a while. I said that I wasn't happy and wanted to find my own way. My ego fought back and said that without her, I would be dust. The parting of old friends can be painful and difficult, but, in our case, we knew it was for the best. I happened to feel that this particular spot in the world was a good place as any to leave my ego and baggage behind. It was where my ego could float among the remains of obscure, intellectual history, in a place that has been crafted by the fire of time under the hands of men who gently reincarnated the marble of the Romans and allowed the Jews among them to make their civilization great. In fact, I found it to be a place of collective ego, a place where the attempt to achieve ego-based genius was earnestly made in vain, and so a perfectly acceptable dwelling place for my well-crafted little ego spirit. So, I left it there, and only return from time to time for gentle visits with an old friend.
I think I can safely say that we're both in much more agreeable places now. I also think that now, I know more about the places on earth that make my heart whole again and again, and I'm much more willing to share without fear of consequence or resignation. Because we operate in a world where our ego is our acceptable social representative, some people find my lack of ego perceptably disarming. In my relationships, I have discovered that some men would have preferred to interact with the superficial rather than deep version of me. It's too calm and comfortable in my garden, and they find the stillness very alarming. They have nothing to battle against or fix or cry to their friends about that they "always date crazy women". Unfortunately, I cannot force someone to leave his own ego or self-perpetuating fears at the door. This is something we have to decide for ourselves...
We are not our egos, but rather, the gentleness and good habits that we practice with ourselves so that we can share our best moments with others.
**Cordoba, Spain. It was once called "the ornament of the world". See Maria Rosa Menocal's book with the same title, published out of Yale. There's no better spot on earth to curl into a fold of a great magnolia tree and allow the world to soften your edges and cradle your soul.