“I remember the advice I got when I decided to marry the love of my life. It started from:
“Pick your battles.”
“It’s the woman who makes or breaks a home.”
“Don’t ever sleep without resolving a fight.”
“Never wash your dirty linen in public.”
and went all the way to
“Always look pretty when he comes home from the office.”
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
I gathered up all these wise bits from well-meaning loved ones and started to get ready for one of the biggest milestones of my life. I fretted over what I would wear and how I would look, what the wedding events would be like and where I would jet off for our honeymoon.
This was all after having spent a substantial amount of time knowing Ali. We were great friends and partners who had truly seen a lot of each other’s beautiful and ugly sides. I was also a woman who was wordy wise, successful in her own right and had spent years asking some of the deeper questions in life.
Did any of this prepare me for what I was going to learn once I was married?
Not even a bit.
I now realize, that the most important questions to ask were very different than the ones I had been hearing.
How would being married affect my inner world? What would making a new home with another feel like? How would we compromise to become a solid ‘us’ while remaining individuals? Ali and I had lived life on our own terms till now and made our own rules and neither was ready to face the biggest challenge: to remain exactly as we were and also create a union that was harmonious.
This is what I have learnt since:
What’s the use of falling in love if we would both remain as we are?
In my experience, love in its truest and potent form does change us. It reconditions our painful pathologies, removing the baggage of our past. If we let it, it will elevate us towards our highest human potential. Barack Obama once explained what his mother had taught him about love: “to break across our solitude, and then, if we’re lucky, be finally transformed into something firmer.”
The modern myths of love narrated to us in fairy tales and romantic movies paint the most damaging picture of togetherness. They are built on such extreme solidity of togetherness that it makes love look almost fragile. Very rarely are we shown what happens after the happily ever after. There is complete silence about the explosions and fireworks that take place when two completely different energies come together and how more often than not the ride is not a smooth one.
In my experience, a soulmate is not someone with whom you will absolutely, perfectly fit – laughing and making merry for the rest of your days. In fact, it is this notion which makes so many couples feel as if they are failing when all they are doing is finding their footing.
A soulmate, is one who comes to shake you up from the inside out. They make you question all that was and will ever be. Our rigidity is questioned and we are pushed to grow. There is no room for a stagnant, paralyzing codependency. They teach us how to truly love and create a communion of togetherness while retaining the integrity of an individual. One learns to be dynamic and fluid. You will grow together and alone. It’s a beautiful dance you learn, step by step. In this process, you will step over each other’s toes, you will fall, hurt them and test each other as well. The following words by Khalil Gibran beautifully describe this balance of intimacy and independence:
So, we need to allow ourselves to go through this process. This journey is about communicating, loving and nurturing but equally important is falling, fighting, challenging and testing. It is messy and crazy but also perfect in its imperfection. This push and pull is only navigated if one holds on to unconditional love and not the kind that we are taught.
This love cannot be explained but is felt in your best and worst moments together. I still remember the day I saw my husband in a room full of people and knew for him to be ‘my person.’ I hopelessly and happily fell and continue to fall deeper in love with him. However, don’t let our smiling pictures fool you for we like all great love stories are not without our equal share of fights and hardships. Normal for us is all of it.
Feeling broken together is as normal as feeling whole together. Feeling sad together is as normal as feeling happy together. Feeling not good enough is as important as the moments when it is just right or enough.
So, when you are headed towards marriage, ask the bigger, more important questions. Know that just like all great things, a great marriage is built brick by brick. There are some great values that the generations before us knew of, such as the value of truly standing by each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer. These are wise words indeed because at the end of the day a successful marriage seems to be made of two individuals who at the end of the day want to make it work.
No two love stories are the same and so there is no set formula to follow. It’s no straight line, it is a winding road with many a bumps but with the right person it’s worth each rise and each fall.”
“Solitude doesn’t choose us. We partner up with isolation as means of a defense mechanism. We inherently at all times feel a need to protect ourselves from the outside world. We live in a cynical time. There are more people out there wanting to watch us writhe in pain than soar in glory. Being alone & removed allows us the luxury of operating with blinders. We don’t see them & vice versa. This in turn allows us a sense of false security. We bury deep within our consciousness all that represents our darkness. I use the word loosely here. It’s a harsh means to represent human erring. But I must, for it carries the message across a lot better.
I speak from experience. I chose years of solitude disguised as composure & clarity. I thought to myself … “I’m ok, everyone else isn’t.” It’s easier to recognize your inner demons than to have someone point them out to you. We find ourselves unquestionable. The world doesn’t & when that is brought to our attention, it stings! Validation is the life’s blood of all human existence. “You’re beautiful … You’re smart … You’re successful” – Simple utterances that light up our souls & allow us to live with a sense of achievement. Now take that & apply it to a time & space where you seemingly did it all on your own, all by yourself. The self-glorification is unending. “You’re ok, everyone else isn’t.”
There is an element of falsehood in feeling self-sufficient when you strive to only satiate yourself. I travel back in time to remember being told, “No man (or woman) is an Island.” We do not strive alone, we do not succeed alone, we do not evolve alone, because alone knows no form beyond itself. As a person, I have always found people interesting. I have consciously made an effort to reach out & to engage people far removed from my perspective, people different by every definition of the word. Did I need to? Of course! We all require emotional nourishment & repair. Isn’t that why companionship is the most valued commodity in the world?!
We become what we believe in; the good & the bad. Consistency leads to convolution and, in turn, confusion. There came a point in time in my life where my want to be isolated deflated into a need to be surrounded. I could no longer validate myself. All the badges I planted on my chest meant nothing to me. I didn’t yearn for a crowd. I yearned for validation emerging from a place of love & earnest. A question beckons … Were those around you not enough? They were, are & will always be more than enough. But because they’re mine, they will pointedly remind themselves, and in turn assure me, that there is nothing wrong with me. I can’t stand to see my own hurt. I recognize that to hold true for the entire world. For an honest conversation, I need something more. I needed a partner, a friend, a lover. I needed companionship.
As time sped away, the yearning grew to prayer; a prayer to the universe to find me my anchor. The universe always attends to you. I continue to speak from experience. Out of nowhere, right when I was about to give up & resign to a fate I had preconceived, life threw me a curveball. The universe had heard me. I came face to face with this most magnificent human being. She is all kinds of beautiful & all kinds of broken; just like me. For the initial parts, I pretended to be “composed” & “clear” whilst this person kept looking at me and without uttering the words required, telling me she saw me for what I really was. But how could she, I mused. I had disguised myself so well.
I did not enjoy my cover being blown. It was a rude awakening and to be absolutely honest, a blow to my ego. I fought back, I resisted, I did everything I could to scare this person away. I wanted isolation. I just couldn’t, however, willingly choose it anymore. Nothing deterred her. Then I started questioning her intention, her purpose, her general reason for existing in my universe. I started expending energies on drawing out her failings in order to represent myself to be the better individual. The more I revolted against her, the more my facade fell apart. I could always objectively respond to her being “wrong” because it all seemed so familiar. But why was it familiar? I was so sorted & beyond reprimand. Then why the familiarity? It was then that I came to face a very unique fact. She is my mirror!!! I am debating everything about her that reminds me of me. Everything that was right about me in solitude was no longer right. The black & white of life were suddenly shrouded in dark grey. The self-proclaimed genius I had become in isolation had been reduced to a bumbling idiot. I was faced with certain emotional demise for the stagnation I had happily embellished myself with. I had to see me from another’s perspective. It stung!!!
I battled through it inch by inch, day by day. There were beautiful moments immediately followed by hesitation & regression. But I just did not want it to end. I kept questioning myself. Was I bent on self-destruction or was this person doing it to themselves? The answers all lay in a very simple process. Acceptance.
Accepting the person, accepting the change, accepting the growth, accepting myself with all my hideousness intact and above all, accepting this individual as my own. In the process, I was rekindled with a desire to live, to breathe, to love with and amongst others. Solitude was no longer acceptable. It all emerged from a place of earnest.
In the end, I’ve come to realize that she is my anchor, my partner, my friend, my lover … My companion. I could have used a lot of romance drenched superlatives to define what love, marriage or companionship mean to me. The truth is … I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out for myself. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way, it’s that we must be honest, firstly, with ourselves and then with our partners. I must accept the value of everything she brings to my life, whilst at the time trying to add value to hers. I mustn’t feel shame when she points out my failings and I mustn’t forget my failings when she commemorates me. It’s a simple yet complex process. Here’s my little secret though- I’d like to believe that I introspect enough. Even in my angriest moment, I just cannot fault her exclusively for when the calm settles in, the mirror emerges and reminds me: she is my anchor, my partner, my friend, my lover … My companion!
Thank you, Natasha Ali Lakhani. You are the universe’s way of validating me.”