Yes: naked. Bare. Unadorned. Raw. Let’s strip it down and boldly stare at the wonder of it.
Let’s rip the topic of love open, plunge our hands in and marvel at what we pull out. Let’s say the things we might be holding in our hearts under layers and layers of cloth, fearful.
Here are my truths, for you, dear reader—and maybe they will encourage you to delve into yours.
I am in love. Deep love, the kind of love that’s taken years to percolate to where it simmers now.
It has, in years gone by, been run through the gamut, both boiled over and boiled dry, set off fire alarms and been left to smolder on occasion. Time apart had to be taken when my battle with addiction took its deepest turns.
My partner is my friend, my companion, my occasional irritant, constant supporter of my writing, fabulous friend to my son, and simultaneously the person who knows best how to relax and comfort me, and on the rare occasion that he really tries, the one to annoy me beyond sensibility.
I read, daily lately, about those searching for love. They will not settle, wanting to be taken over with love, swallowed whole. I’ve even been that woman, searching, demanding, wondering.
If there is one core, essential truth I have learned simply in the last year, it is that I know nothing about most of what I’m doing here on Earth, including loving. I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules for love, (except for the fact that love never, ever includes abuse). Take what I’m saying and discard it immediately, if it does not resonate with your heart and soul.
To be wholly naked here, I need to say that I think we are making an epic mistake in our pursuit of something sublime. I think we are caught in a bizarre paradox of demanding too much at the outset, and at the same time not recognizing the long-term, messy blessings of staying the course.
I think part of love does mean settling. Not for a lifetime of less than you desire, or settling for a situation that makes you miserable.
Perhaps settling, on occasion, is simply making peace with the fact that the individual you have chosen to love is less than perfect much of the time (as we all are), and while their imperfections may drive you wild with irritation at times and momentarily make you want to shriek (or, as I have crudely phrased it, pluck my eyeballs out with fork and stick them in my earlobes rather than endure another moment), they are, for the most part, your partner. Your compadre. Your person.
I know that I never want my daily life to be consumed or devoured by love. I know that I don’t want to lose myself, my identity, my strength, my Keeley-ness.
Intimately, in those times when we are alone with our breath and our bodies and our sweet soul whisperings, my love can devour my body and my passion—but my personality, my self—never.
Sometimes, I forget this and need to reconnect with myself. The times I spend apart from my partner are as important as the times I am with him, although they are briefer and must be valued intensely.
I am a better partner, and person, standing strong on my own two feet, than I will ever be by allowing myself to be swept away.
Gibran said it for time immemorial: “But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
Here’s my nakedness: I believe there are no love-guarantees. When we find that person we fall in love with, we don’t know if they will get cancer, or get hit by a truck, or fall into a bad habit of too many vodkas after work.
We don’t know if we will be the ones to get cancer, and they will be the sort of person who knows they are not capable of being there for us, and walk away. There are no guarantees, none, ever, that the person we choose at the outset will always be that person—that they won’t be beset by mental illness that will take them away from us in some way—and there are no package deals that include a warranty certifying that they won’t cheat, no matter how we wish it.
There are no guarantees—so we can choose to take the leap, trusting, and hoping for the best. That, to me, is the only option. Naked and maybe a little fearful, plunging deep, hanging on for the ride.
I think coming clean about love means admitting that there are long days. There are days when I struggle so much with being okay with myself that I feel badly for dragging someone else along for the ride. There are times, too, when my partner struggles with life and I know that I he feels badly for pulling me into his journey.
Far more than the long days are the blessed ones, the shared moments, the simple pleasures of a shared history with someone, a foundation, traditions, delights.
This is my naked, open heart in front of you and this heart believes that real love is raw, messy, true, exciting, respectful, never-guaranteed, and beautiful beyond belief.