I didn’t know I had a choice. Not when it comes to love, not when there is some mysterious guiding force which either hits you with the lightning strike of love or it doesn’t, not when so much is at stake. The greatest things in life have an air of not knowing or fully understanding. They are like dreams when we are awake full of light and hope and a vague promise of joy.
I toyed with the idea that perhaps this love happens once in a life time or not at all. A few people have it happen more than that but in the random game of life roulette I figured we cannot pick how, when or if it happens.
I had it happen to me once. I fell in love and stayed that way. We were married for more than twenty years and even on the day we filled out our mutual consent divorce papers, neither of us really consented. As the sun fell through the old courthouse windows and splashed across the big desk where we stood so close a single paper could not fit between us we had a deep sense of dread.
It was all my fault. Life was going nowhere. We were in a drab routine, I thought. Words barely passed between us after so many years of talking. The children grown, the job completed, we had lost a sense of direction. In some way I could never finds words to explain but I truly knew we had to do this. I knew we would be better off.
Ironically, I was exactly right–for him. He finished his Master’s, he found a soul mate and is days from being married again. It totally worked out for him.
For me–ah yes–a work in progress. A life in progress. A heart perhaps in progress.
A few months ago I too believed I found love again. Our first date, our first kiss, Oh my God actual lightening struck. It was fireworks and rainbows and Pegasus leaping over the moon. I feel asleep with his name in my heart and woke with it too. If I was not with him I felt like a fish in sand. Only when he held me did I understand context. I had every romantic motto and cliche ring true. I started thinking I was evolved and adapted for this man.
Then he left. He had other places to be and people to see. He apologized if he hurt me. I felt like I was living in some 70’s song about being easy like Sunday morning. If he hurt me? Wasn’t it clear I would be devastated? Of course he hurt me. Of course I hurt myself as I tried to figure out why it didn’t work–for him.
Months passed. I thought of him daily. I began long distance hikes hoping to out walk him in my head. Sometimes it even worked.
Then I met Judah. He’s a twenty two year old guy who identifies as a “Rastafarian solider”, wears dreadlocks and wanders the planet sometimes in houses but mostly he lives outside. He is a traveler but most people would call him homeless. I noticed him for the absolute peace on his face despite the fact one of his legs is metal with a plastic foot. He somewhat comically wears his pant legs rolled up so you can see both legs. He often doesn’t bother with shoes. He walks everywhere he goes with a thirty pound pack. He hangs out in libraries or sitting peacefully for hours on a park bench reading or listening to music. He never asks for anything.
I had to meet him. So I did. Then I invited him to stay with me if he wanted. And he did.
There is no tension. He washes up, he cooks, helps clean and camps on the floor of my one room place without complaint. He shares philosophy, books he is reading, his favorite songs and movies and expects nothing. I do the same. If a relationship could be easier I am not sure how.
It’s simpler because while we are friends, we are not lovers and he is also not my child. But I realize I can borrow truth from how this works. I realize that love while mysterious does not have to be hard and heart breaking and an extension of my own ego. If Judah goes out of the house in a dirty shirt barefoot, then he does. Judah does not belong to me although I really adore him. One day soon he’ll most likely grab his walking stick and backpack and hit the road. I see his restlessness building. I will miss him. But I will not stop him.
His experience comes from his accident. He lost his leg at eighteen. He realized he could not hold to anything and taking a place in average society was no longer an option. He’ll always have a disability. He decided to opt for experience on a spiritual path since it accepts him as a man on a journey no matter if he limps or sprints there. His ease gives me ease. It teaches me to love entirely and really simply.
We do not discuss who is cooking or washing up. It just happens. We keep track and split the duties without thinking about it. We settle in for movies and he picks them based on what I talk about. He’s never made a bad choice. I casually mentioned after my long hikes I drink pickle juice to restore electrolytes. I got home sweaty and tired and he was waiting–pickle juice in hand with a smile on his face. I gave him a hug and he said, “uh..do you have to?” “Yes.” That was that.
We speak easily, are accountable to each other about where we’ll be and when. If something needs doing, it happens.
Now I have my model. Here are the things Judah taught me:
- Easy communication. No tricky verbal switchbacks or vague answers to obvious questions. In my life the answer to “When you think you’ll be back?” has been met with a refusal for specifics. Judah says, “Oh, half an hour. Hour tops.” That seems easy.
- Non verbal, clear understandings. He cooked so I clean. He shopped and bought dinner, I buy lunch. I am doing laundry, does he want to throw something in as well? This is so easy I can’t understand how it’s eluded me so long.
- A willing heart. “Hey Judah. We have the whole day. Want to do something?” “Sure. I have never seen Crater Lake. Could we?” “Absolutely. You ready?” “Yup.” We walk out the door, get in the car and go. There is no negotiation or torturous discussion of all the things that are more important. We just go. We have a good time, we enjoy the view, come back and settle in for a movie. No one is unwilling at any point.
- Politeness. This gets lost is so many relationships almost right away. Judah does not ever fail to be polite. He says please and thank you, he is quite literally never critical and has no opinion about what I should or should not do. As a result I return this politeness and respect.
- Don’t worry about small infractions. Judah’s theory is about intentions. If someone makes a mistake, asks him a rude question about his leg which is several times daily, he seeks the intention. If it’s not meant to harm he takes no offense and feels no need to correct. One time I was an hour late getting back from a meeting. He was locked out sitting on the steps. I profusely apologized and he just smiled, “This step is as good as any place. Don’t worry about it.” I haven’t been late since.
- Fairness. Judah does not want anything more than he needs and he does not want me to give him anything he cannot repay. If I try to be too generous he just smiles sweetly and says, “No thank you. I don’t need anything right now.” It’s freeing knowing neither of will be unfair with the other.
- Kindness. Neither of us is always right. We are works in progress. We listen to each other with an open heart and accept our differences and the place we are in our understanding. I am older but not more correct. He is younger but not more idealistic. We are the same, two people spending time together on the path.
So now I know I have a choice. I can have simple, easy love and it’s okay to expect that. Why not? Had I not opened my heart and satisfied my curiosity I would not know Judah and I would not understand that love really can be as simple as you want.