Are you making this huge mistake about romance?

by Anne O'Connor

This week I wrote a love letter to my community.

I wrote about missing you all so much during this wild time. And I posted it on my private Facebook page. You can read it below this post.

Some wondered if I was missing a particular person—a lover who was at the center of all the things on the list.

Let me just say this now: If such a man exists and he’s single, will you introduce me?

Reading my letter as a romantic tribute to a lover I long for makes sense. We are so prepped for that interpretation. And that isn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the whole story.

What I wrote is a collection of all the love that I have or have had in my life. And yes, part of that is a longing for a particular lover. People heard my heart.

I have been and am well-loved. That is a treasure I hold with tender and careful hands.

Love, though, has as many lines as there are on your palm. Some are deep and long, some are hard to even see. Some lines run the whole distance. Some flash. Maybe you don’t consider all the love lines that you have in your life. Still, there they are, influencing you.

The love of a lover, yes. And also a the love of a mother, of a child, of a friend—even the love of a stranger in a particular moment—can transform your life. Love can be the thing pushing you beyond the perfunctory and into the deeper wild of your heart. Of another’s heart.

Love is the thing that binds you to your people, lets you be seen and held and cared for. To give that to others. Love is the essence of a life well-lived.

Genuine love needs tending and care to show up.  

But if you’re like most of us, two things stop you from this deeper exploration of love.

One is that you probably ask romance to carry the lion’s share of your deepest feelings. When you talk about love—how much of it is focused on romantic love? A ton, right? And if you don’t talk about love—that says a lot too. Are you expecting love to sustain itself?

You’re not alone. This kind of expectation without care is so prevalent that if you have a deep, intimate interaction with someone, chances are that you’ll assume that it must be romantic because its so alive and unfamiliar. But maybe that feeling is just one open and beautiful heart recognizing another.

Maybe it’s connection and energy and playfulness and clever exchange and companionship that isn’t about romance.

Think about why straight women have so much fun with gay men. Or how any two people are freed up when the possibility of sex is off the table. All the pleasure of intimacy and none of the concern about where the relationship is going. Both people can relax into themselves. Into one another.

But people who are attracted to one another can have this level of intimacy too without involving sex if that isn’t where you want to go.

This kind of beautiful relationship takes strong and brave navigation. Being clear and forthright, you can push yourself and others into the untamed places of your hearts. To the places where you remember who you are and what you’re doing on the planet.

What else are you here for?

The other thing that likely gets in your way is that you expect too much from any one person. Often, that is a person of romantic interest. But it happens everywhere: we rely on one person to give us the world.

It’s such a set up.

Let’s just imagine the romantic list of wants:

I want someone who is an intuitive, highly skilled and passionate lover, whose every touch tantalizes, who listens deeply and asks the best questions, one who supports and cheers for me, one who picks me up when I fall down, one who takes care of me when I’m sick, one who cleans the bathroom and balances the checkbook and makes enough money to be stable and smart but knows his wild places and actively seeks mine, has intrigue and interests, who doesn’t say too much or not enough, who loves people and fights for what’s right and stands in the world honorably, who surprises me but only when I like surprises because he knows the difference, who sees me completely and still adores me, who eats what I like, who is mature, and who sings me songs and writes me the best love letters and travels well with me and is savvy but not a snob and who is healthy but not overzealous and, above all, who is madly, deeply, passionately in love with me.

Oh, and he needs to also be wholly available.

I am ridiculous. But I know I'm not the exception. What are your expectations for your kid? Your boss? Your friend? How are they to read your mind and know all that you want and then supply all of it?

The only good thing is that I know I am ridiculous. I know that there is no one human being responsible for being all of this and certainly not for me.

Which is why I love lots of people: carefully. And I think you should too. If your mind goes right to romance and sex: let me remind you this is something else.

What I am saying is that you can have deep, meaningful, passionate and fun relationships with people without making them romantic. Or sexual. Unless you consciously want to.

Yes, you’ll have to have lots of conversations about what the hell you’re doing and about boundaries, because most people don’t even know what a deep, intimate relationship is unless sex is involved. And really, let’s just admit that most relationships with sex involved aren’t particularly connected or passionate or satisfying.

But we can learn and do relationships better. It can be done, friend. You know this because you’ve experienced the spark of connection. It’s everywhere if you allow it.

I live for this connection. I am grateful to my friends and my mother and my siblings and my kids and my lovers for going to these sparsely-populated places with me. For being such bright sparks.

There’s so much to say about how to do this. I’ll write more, but here’s a start.

Know yourself and what you want.

Don’t depend on any one person to make that happen for you.

Be spotlessly honest, transparent, and gentle in equal parts.

Don’t use sparks as an excuse for bad boundaries.

Being brave is far more important than being romantic.

You can have more love in your life. Everyone wants to be loved, to be seen. And some of us want to go to those unmarked trails in our hearts and soak up the sun. When we find each other there: Zowie! So good.

To be able to love and to be loved is the best thing out there. Go make it happen.

 

 My Facebook Post

I miss the way you lean into my shoulder and side, like I’m helping to hold you up.

And your stories about potentially-dangerous subcultures that you’ve been exploring on YouTube.

I like leaning back on you and having your arms around me.

Or the way you were always at the dining-room table, reading or playing Colorku.

I miss you stir-frying veggies and singing while you cook. Or grabbing your guitar and playing my favorite songs.

I miss you stopping over unannounced close to midnight because you saw my light on.

I miss you bringing me tarragon and then spending hours over lunch and life at my kitchen table.

I miss you sitting on my couch with me, sorting, processing, planning, wondering, exploring, settling, and imagining.

Remember the writers' group exercises and reading aloud?

Or women’s group and sharing blankets, cuddled up together with bowls of popcorn?

I miss all of us at the table and raucous conversation after making Indian food together.

I miss hearing about your people and your book and your new store and your mind and its endless variations.

I miss circles of humans holding hands in silence.

I miss the June birthdays potluck party with cupcakes and a porch of people laughing.

I miss tag in the yard and water fights.

Or wrestling with you. Even when I had no chance at winning. Maybe because I didn’t.

I miss singing and playing word puzzles around the fire.

And moonlit kayaking on the river.

I miss you crawling into bed next to me to talk a while. Because I was sad. Or cold. Or I couldn’t move my body.

I miss you reading me New Yorker pieces or sonnets or disturbing short stories.

I miss you lighting Nug Champa and not liking the smell, but liking you enough that it didn’t matter.

I miss yoga right next to you, a whole room full of sweat, focus and striving.

I miss you adjusting me.

I miss you grabbing my feet for a mini massage.

And the full-body, hour-and-a-half massage that lasted two.

I miss seeing you on the street and hugging you unabashedly.

I miss reaching for your hand. Your arm. Your face.

I miss the way your hug turns into a massage.

I miss feeling your body move while we dance.

I miss your breath close to mine. And your eyes on mine.

I miss kissing you in the rain.

I miss all of it. And all of you.

 

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