The final part (for now) of my series on dating is on the value of relationships, no matter how short, and how the ending can be a beautiful tool for self-discovery and expansion. Using my relative experience with Karina's passing as a superpower, I've been able to see each coming and going of someone in my life for the beauty that it is and soak up every last drop of value from each one.
Every relationship has a beginning and an end. Sometimes it is only an hour, sometimes it is 50 years, but ultimately, there will be a moment when you see this person for the last time. It is the reality of life.
Yet, these endings can be so challenging. Most have experienced a breakup, some more intense than others, and many have experienced the death of a partner, some more unexpected than others. None of it is easy, none of it is pleasant, but all of it is inevitable. Death or divorce is the ultimate result of every relationship, and if there was love, there will be grief. Love and grief are two sides of the same coin, you can’t have one without the other, and the flow between the two is as natural as birth and death.
I love this quote from Tara Brach:
“In the Lakota-Sioux tradition, a person who is grieving is considered most wakan, most holy. There's a sense that when someone is struck by the sudden lightning of loss, he or she stands on the threshold of the spirit world. The prayers of those who grieve are considered especially strong, and it is proper to ask them for their help.
You might recall what it's like to be with someone who has grieved deeply. The person has no layer of protection, nothing left to defend. The mystery is looking out through that person's eyes. For the time being, he or she has accepted the reality of loss and has stopped clinging to the past or grasping at the future. In the groundless openness of sorrow, there is a wholeness of presence and a deep natural wisdom.”
I felt this to be extraordinarily true. The expansive connection with the greater energy of the universe, a higher perspective on the truth of reality, seeped into my being as the fire of grief burned away my attachment to how I thought life should be. With intention, I carried this with me as I once again opened to the vulnerability of sharing my heart with another.
“No layer of protection, nothing left to defend.” This is a superpower, especially in dating. No longer did I judge, no longer did I worry, no longer did I seek validation of myself through the love of another. The intensity of my experience showed the trials and tribulations of dating to be meaningless, fun even. This newfound ability to be fully my best Self was a gift, one of many, that Karina left for me. And the opportunity to embody this has made what could have been a triggering experience of connection and disconnection, as all relationships entail, rather smooth and peaceful.
I recognize this is a red pill/blue pill experience because I have experienced both. When my mom passed almost 9 years ago, I resisted pain and reached desperately for something to hold on to. I ran and seized anything that would distract me. My heart hardened; I thought that loving anyone would lead to this excruciating pain (and it does), and I never wanted to experience that again.
So I sought external relief in the form of pleasure. I smoked, I drank, and sought women to distract me. My morals had dissolved and I dated a girl who was in a committed relationship just because she was attractive and the sex was good. I didn’t care. I didn’t allow myself to. It made me feel good that she would throw away her relationship for me. I didn't have the capacity to empathize. I had no guidance, I was swirling in a storm of escapism that ultimately led to my rock bottom moment.
That was my blue pill experience, living in ignorance of the truth because I was too scared to look at it. It was a huge opportunity lost, and I paid for it for years afterward as I had to find and dig out all of the grief that I ran from. Unfortunately, this is a path all too common for people to take when stricken with loss. It has ruined lives, leading to bitter, depressed, anxious people.
Thankfully, I was able to make it out of that period of my life, and right when I turned things around, Karina appeared. Together we healed and expanded from our traumas. Because of what she showed me over the course of our 7 years together, I knew when she passed that I had to take the opposite road this time, the red pill, seeing outside of the matrix and what is really true in our existence.
Taking the red pill, in this example, was the conscious choice to grieve intentionally, feel fully, find meaning, and use this experience as a huge opportunity to expand. The specifics of this red pill experience are described in Grief and Grieving, My Thoughts on Death, as well as most of my other blog articles. For the sake of this piece, I focus on the path this decision has led me down in the realm of dating and new relationships.
In parts 1 and 2 on dating, I described the confidence, the strength, the grounded masculinity that my experience has revealed within me, a gift in approaching vulnerability with another woman. Further, I learned in this process is how finite each relationship is, and in its finite-ness are grand opportunities for self-awareness, self-love, and physical/mental/emotional/spiritual evolution.
The media has implanted this idea in us that there is a “one” for us, a perfect partner, and we just have to find them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, there is no such thing as a perfect partner. A relationship with no contrast will serve no purpose. Contrast is an opportunity for expansion, and relationships are the best vehicles for that expansion. In a way, it kind of doesn’t matter who you are with. It’s all temporary anyways and always an opportunity for self-discovery and growth.
Secondly, we’re told to find our “other half.” The person we “can’t live without” because “life would have no meaning without them.” Insinuating that we are not whole without another person is a blue pill lie that our society has dropped on us since birth. The truth is, we are whole, we don’t need love from anyone else because we have unlimited access to love from within. Developing this self-love allows a partnership to be based on wants, not needs, leading to a more harmonizing connection.
Relationships are not about completing oneself, but revealing oneself. They are mirrors.
This understanding has been like armor stepping back into the dating world. I have been ghosted, lied to, rejected, broken up with, judged, and told I shouldn’t even be dating. I have had to have difficult conversations and end things with others who didn’t want it to end. All of the messy things that people complain about in dating, I’ve experienced. But, what in the past was so stressful, doesn't really affect me anymore. It doesn't really matter. I see it as all a part of the process, part of the fun when things do work out.
I feel through each ending with gratitude because, in comparison, they are all so much easier than what I’ve been through. Having a girl tell me she isn’t interested in me is a hell of a lot easier than having a doctor tell me my fiancee is going to die.
The power of relative experiences is remarkable and has offered me the emotional clarity to develop a process by which I soak up every last drop of value from each relationship.
As close to the “ending moment” as I can, I sit down in meditation with my journal. I tune in to how I feel, allowing the sadness to manifest fully. I meditate on all of the things I will miss about that person that is causing me sadness. The things they did that brought me joy, that will be no more. What I appreciated about them and how they treated me in ways that I enjoyed. Once uncovered, I write all of these down. I identify the emotions that those actions elicited in me. And finally, I ask Spirit to provide for me what she did, and help me cultivate those emotions from within.
For example, there was a girl who I loved watching the sunset with. I enjoyed the closeness in that special moment when the sun sets over the ocean, my favorite time of day. When it ended, I felt sad that this part of my day that I cherished was gone. I went through this meditation process and then went to watch the sunset alone. I imagined that feeling of connection that I enjoyed and allowed it to bubble up within myself. It felt so good to watch the sunset alone, not needing another to make it special. One day I'll have someone to share this moment with again, but until that time, I cherish it with myself.
I did this for months after Karina’s transition, for every aspect of our relationship that I loved and miss, and I do it every time a new relationship comes to an end. The more meaningful the connection, the more benefit I get from this process. Not only for my own self-awareness, but also my perception of these people. Even with those who rejected me, it helps me hold them in a space of appreciation for what they offered me in our time together, no matter how short, and let go of any and all resentment.
For those who have suffered intense loss, whether via death or breakup, the fear of the pain of a relationship ending can be prohibitive in the process of finding another. In reflecting on the three articles I’ve written about dating, my ultimate intention is to speak to those who are hesitant to get back out there and encourage them to do so. Leap. Be compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to love again. Allow yourself to hurt again. It's all worth it.
My biggest fear after losing my mother was experiencing that pain again. And that’s exactly what happened. But I’m still here. Still alive. Better and stronger than ever. More connected than ever. More inspired. More vulnerable. More ready.
If I can do it, you can too.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I can honestly say that I have a lot of excitement in the wonder of it all. I will continue walking this path without expectation and see what unfolds. Until then, I have myself to love. And my puppy. And that is enough.
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