Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Words of a Feather

I hadn't heard the words soul-mate, touchstone, or unconditional love until I was well into adulthood, and yet now they weave in and out of my daily life. The first time I heard someone use the term soul mate it was on a winter day in Oregon. The restaurant was slow and most of the staff were sitting on the floor of the dining room talking and drinking coffee. A waitress had just broken up with her boyfriend after months of her friends telling her that she was too good for him. He had moved back to Utah and found someone else. He wrote a letter back to his ex telling her all about how this new person filled him up. He even referred to her as his soul mate. The girl sitting across from me was shattered. They had been together for years, and he had never thought of her as his soul mate. I was in no place to judge. I had just married my college girlfriend for the sole reason of not wanting to move cross-country alone. So I sat and listened and thought. Throughout the next decade I learned that a soul mate is the one person whom not only fills your heart, but also connects with your soul. Some people find theirs. Some don't. Some find their mate, but never get the chance to be together. To some people it's a mere Hallmark sentiment. To others, it's as personal as a religion. I met mine in 1989, but didn't realize it until ten years later. I consider myself lucky.
In the wake of connecting with my soul mate, I learned the term unconditional love. Now this one gets tricky. It's got to be the most complicated emotion in the love spectrum. The easiest example is the bond between parent and child. That love is unconditional. But can anyone out there honestly say that their relationship with their parents was never messed up? Unconditional certainly doesn't mean pain-free or uncomplicated. Since adding these words to my vocabulary, my life has become exponentially richer, but it has also become more complicated and chaotic. The line from the James song rings true: "If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with being poor." Does this imply that a more complicated life is a richer life? In recent years I've been struggling with down-sizing so I can enjoy life more by removing the clutter. Granted there's a vast difference between emotional and physical clutter, but both need to be dealt with before they weigh us down. Having said this, I introduce two other word that have become prevalent in my recent vocabulary: Touchstone and Zenning. Zenning I pretty much made up by using a noun as a verb. It refers to relaxing, meditation, or soul-searching in any form. After a bike ride, I like to take a bit of time at the trail head and just relax and detach for a little bit before facing the day ahead. Between a hectic lunch and dinner shift at the club I sometimes sit by the river and read to collect myself before returning to the chaos of my day. Any time I take for myself and use it to organize my thoughts in such a way that I leave the moment more calm and peaceful that I started out is Zenning. Summer allows many more opportunities (if you noticed, I mostly Zen outdoors) to steal time for myself. I also find it much easier to detach when surrounded by nature.
In conjunction with Zenning, is touchstone. Which is what I use as a focal point for my Zenning. This can take almost any shape. It has been everything from a specific person to a rock(see photo of my son holding some of my favorite touchstones), for me. I guess it all depends on what it is I need during that specific time. Over the past year, my life has changed. Things I thought should be easy became more difficult. Things that were once difficult became simple. Relationships of all sorts are complex and ever-evolving entities. How we evolve within them reflects not only on how we feel about these relationships, but also how we ourselves evolve and learn. Whether it's my bike teaching me about my own limitations or my son teaching me about patience or my wife teaching me about unconditional love; they are each lessons to be learned. Unless I take something away from these lessons, I am only adding to the stuff that I have to carry around. Only by learning, growing, and evolving, can I get rid of emotions and notions that weigh me down and revise my beliefs. Beliefs are like T-shirts (stay with me here): sometimes we out-grow them -- they just don't fit any more and need to be replaced. Every relationship we have has the ability to teach us about ourselves. If we don't learn --we don't grow.