“Why did you stop loving life?”
“Well, you don’t love life itself. You love…places, animals, people, memories, food, literature, music. And sometimes, you meet someone…who requires all the love you have to give. And if you lose that someone, you think everything else is gonna stop too. But everything else just keeps on going. Giraudoux said you can miss a single being even though you are surrounded by countless others. Those people are like extras. They cloud your vision. They are a meaningless crowd…an unwelcome distraction. So you seek oblivion in solitude. But solitude only makes you wither.”
“So, I am an unwelcome distraction. I am a cloud?”
“You are the only part of my life I haven’t figured out yet.”
(from the film Last Love, based on the novel La Douceur Assassine by Francoise Dorner, directed and written by Sandra Nettelbeck).
We all have that person. The one we meet only by happenstance, and when we least expect it. The one we instantly have a powerful connection with, and we recognize them, even though we’ve never met them before. The perfect complement, a kindred spirit, really. The one who just “gets” us, and as much as we try to figure out and understand that connection, we just can’t. Not only that, we may not even be able to label it—but what it really is, in my mind, is what I refer to as a soul tie.
I hesitate to call a soul ‘tie’ a soul ‘mate’ because when it comes to them, I don’t think we have just one and I also don’t think those soul mates are ever meant to stay. Soul mates are placed in our direct line of vision on this sometimes-treacherous path that we describe as life and they are meant to be our GPS, to teach us things about ourselves that we didn’t even know existed. Soul ties, though, are different. Much different. They literally crash into our hearts at what we later, in hindsight, can say was the perfect timing; and even if they do go away, it’s only temporary, because a soul tie can never be dissolved, no matter what kind of solvent you use to try to eradicate it.
I’ve had that person and despite every bit of mean and misery that has passed between us over time, I’ve become a better woman because of him. I grew tremendously, especially on an emotional level, when he became an intricate part of my life. I made him grow up (or so he said) and he made me look uncomfortably hard at myself, often leading me to question every single solitary thing I knew to be true about my character. I showed him how to be vulnerable without ever judging or perceiving him as weak and even though I told him at least a million times, he never did quite grasp that being vulnerable and being able to show that vulnerability to other people made him a much bigger man than he realized. He became my beacon when I was treading deep, murky waters. I balanced him when he felt off-kilter (he often referred to that balance as yin-yang) and I showed him an unconditional love of sorts by embracing his flaws (there were many) as much as I embraced his strengths. I knew a tremendous number of personal things about him—the really pretty and the very ugly—and I intentionally chose to love him anyway. And while that unconditional love is a very powerful and willful kind of love, it came at a great and personal cost in the form of a wrecked, ransacked heart when there was a separation between us.
When it comes to a soul connection, he didn’t know what to do with it, and honestly, I didn’t either. I knew what it was, no doubt because I was further along the path of growth than he was, as he was still in what my friends call “spiritual kindergarten”. Deep down, though, he knew on some level what it was, because he would refer to it as “this” – pointing to his heart, then mine, and back to his again. He once asked me, “do you know what this is?”—I nodded yes—and he paused, waiting for me to tell him; but the only answer I had for him was that it wasn’t up to me to define what existed between us and that he would have to come to that conclusion all by himself. Being the ‘fixer’ that I am, I wanted to do the work for him, to help him navigate the answers…but then he would never learn anything, and lessons are vitally important.
As time went on, he tried to analyze our connection, figure it out, explain it, re-shape it, and stick it into a metaphorical box known as compartmentalizing, only to ultimately discover that none of the tricks he pulled out of his hat were successful (believe me when I tell you that he wasn’t used to that). He tried to replace it—with alcohol, sex, even other people—only to realize that those things would end up being mere distractions because the connection he ran so hard and fast from, was always ever-present, and tied, albeit messily, with a perfect, invisible double knot. So, what did he do about it? He sabotaged things between us by picking me apart emotionally every chance he got and even told our therapist that he knew he was abusing me but didn’t know why he did it. He ruined the relationship with despicable, unmentionable behavior, hoping that I would eventually find his flaws to be so undesirable that I wouldn’t want him anymore and that I would walk away from our relationship so he didn’t have to (God forbid he be accountable for his own bullshit, right?). And when that tactic didn’t work? He ran—donning his most comfortable running shoes—because leaving first was easier than being left later by the person who loved and accepted him just as he was more than anyone else in the entire world.
Soul ties are eternally interconnected. Yin cannot exist independently of Yang. We’re on our second hiatus now and I’ve left town to ‘wither in solitude’, lick my wounds, and heal my heart, yet again. Some days, it feels like the whole world has stopped without him. It hasn’t. I often feel like he has died, but he is still very much alive. And he’s gone, but he isn’t (only those of you who have had this sort of connection know what I mean when I say that). We are entwined and that connection we have will never disappear, even if I will it to because the tie is so incredibly knotted that it can’t be undone, not even by me (and I’m the master of untying knots). Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with another person, down to the bare-naked bones, is a fearful place to be, especially when you’ve never experienced it, but I recognize and honor that in him because that piece also resides in me. Friends (and our therapist) often ask me what I wish he had done differently, and until today, I didn’t know…I wish he had nurtured our relationship instead of destroying it; chosen to protect it rather than exploit it (and boy oh boy, did he exploit it!); but most of all, I wish he had just been brave enough to run toward it instead of cowardly fleeing from it because finding an authentic, transparent person to love us when we aren’t even likable, is a rare sweetness that should be treasured and only comes around once in a big, blue moon.