"People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake." -Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
For some time now, I've been searching for the words for my next blog. They just weren't coming. I searched high and low, grasping at any little bit of inspiration I could find. Until yesterday, I believed I was uninspired. I blamed the metropolitan lifestyle we'd been living the last two months. I blamed the other projects I'd been funneling my energy into. Never once did I think I was in the middle of a huge life transition. Nor did I think change was bubbling under the surface of awareness, mixing and blending and dying and birthing. Until the final clue in a series of, at first glance, unrelated events came to me yesterday morning when we moved into our new (American-style) house.
I'd been searching for Elizabeth Gilbert's sequel to Eat, Pray, Love for a month and finally, through serendipity, I found it in our new home, hidden within a shelf of books. Her second book is called Committed and is about her forced entry into holy matrimony (again) and her journey of acquiring her lover's green card for the US.
By no means am I announcing an engagement. Or a pregnancy, for that matter.
But it put the pieces of my personal transformation together, one that I was all too oblivious (or more like unwilling) to notice. What I am announcing, though, is the death of my long-lived wild child single life (my 'basicness' if you will) and the birth of this adultish me and life.
The story that has been bubbling under the surface of awareness is finally ready to come into expression and I've just about been bursting to write it for a few days now. This story is my long awaited, highly anticipated love story.
Let's start at the start (as most stories do): For those of you who don't know me, I'm going to give you contextual background information about me, my "way back then" narrative.
Relationships have never, ever been my thing. As much as I wanted them to be, I have always been a wild, single lady (though I haven't always behaved as such). In high school, I was too busy with cheerleading and honor classes to have a boyfriend (or so I told myself). In my early twenties I was what you would call a serial dater: I had a fear of commitment like a cat afraid of water. I believed relationships meant compromising what you really wanted to do and I wanted to live my young years without regard or consideration of anyone else. I was afraid of having regrets about not experiencing those quintessential wild years where inappropriate behavior and bad decisions were dismissed based on naivety and youth. I also enjoyed casually dating, reaping the benefits of fancy meals I couldn't normally afford, good wine and conversation. I also had a crazy side, I loved going on girls trips to Vegas, I loved drinking alcohol and having a good time. I often said in those years that I had an alter ego ("Naomi") because it was like I had another living being inside of me, waiting to come into expression (it's a safe bet to say she was born of repression).
I lived the first five years of my twenties exactly as I wanted. (Though this isn't to say that that hopeless romantic heart of mine didn't lead me down some wistful lanes of forcibly trying to push emotionally unavailable men into the relationship corner. This dichotomy of my heart wanting one thing and my mind wanting another has always existed and led me haphazardly through the dating world, zigzagging me back and forth between 'singlin' and minglin' to 'one is the loneliest number'.)
I didn't understand relationships weren't about compromise or sacrifice; I only believed this because of one sour relationship in my late teens that ended (strategically) right before my 21st birthday.
In fact, this was one of the very reasons I left America. Only a handful of friends knew this before I left. I was so in love with my friends and my life and San Diego that I had become complacent. Somewhere along the line, the alcohol and the partying had erased very fundamental parts of me. But I was so happy I couldn't see this and anyways-isn't everyone's ultimate goal to be happy? A small sliver of awareness knew I needed to get out of that cycle of partying and poor monetary decisions and when I was given the opportunity to follow a true dream, I took it.
Now, as I am approaching my 26th birthday, (I am now accepting gifts), I have been thinking a lot, I mean A LOT, about said wild child Nicole. I've had a death grip on her ever since we left the US, even though I specifically left to let her go (among other things). I've spent so long building up this false-and yet very much honest-part of me, that it's been a real bitch to let her go. But, over time, it's happened. Somehow, miraculously, it's happened.
I haven't wanted to admit it to myself. I haven't wanted to admit it to anyone, truth be told. I have been afraid to admit just how much, on a subconscious level, I've known I stepped into a new chapter in my life. How now, looking at the next five years of my life, I am seeing traveling, businesses, investments, engagements, weddings, houses, dogs, babies, all the things I've always wanted but never wanted to admit.
I said I'd give you a love story and here it is: I have known for about five years that I was the one for Matt, and he was the one for me. Don't ask me how I knew, I just knew. (Turns out he knew before I knew.) We met through my neighbor whom I was seeing, six years ago. I only had a few conversations with him but I distinctly remember one specific night. We were at said neighbor's house listening to country music. Said neighbor was drunk on rum while Matthew and I were sober. Said neighbor, who was typically emotionally closed off and unfeeling (a great choice, Nicole), was getting particularly sappy and emotional over this one country love song. I was actually equally appalled and enamored at the time. I remember looking at Matt and he was staring at me intently, with this look that said "he's so wrong for you, it's ridiculous. You guys won't last." And I knew that he knew that I knew and I just looked at him like "well, what can you do?" (Come to find out six years later, this was the moment "he knew".)
Fast forward through the years and Matt and I stayed friends after the neighbor was long gone. We used to go salsa dancing together and he'd tell me about his girlfriend at the time and how she was too good for him and he'd tell me about his wild escapades and I'd tell him about mine. We wouldn't speak for months and then randomly catch up on the phone for hours, talking about horoscopes to dogs to gossip to science. Then the physical attraction boiled over and we played a cat-and-mouse game back and forth for years, me always trying to push for a relationship, him always uninterested in this prospect but interested in string-free relations (like most men in their 20's...and 30's...and 40's...). We'd see each other for a while, I'd start to annoy him, he'd push me away-the same old story I'm guessing 99.9% of women have experienced at least once in their lives. Finally, after another long text conversation about why he was emotionally unavailable, I had just had it with him and sent him a text saying "One day you'll realize I'm the one. You're making a huge mistake." (The arrogance!) I actually had forgotten all about this- he reminded me this the day he asked me to be his girlfriend two years later.
Fast forward two years, I haven't seen him in a year and quite honestly had had given up, and we catch up over wine one random night. I happen to have an extra ticket to see Swedish House Mafia and I need someone to go with (as friends, I wasn't interested in his antics anymore). He goes with me. We dance. We laugh. We fall in love with his two best friends Hannah and Blaze. He asks me out. During the finale of the concert with fireworks exploding above our heads, the skyline of LA illuminated in the distance, rain sprinkling on us. It was magical. It was beautiful. I was doubtful. I thought we were just love drunk on red bull, music and Jameson and he'd reconsider in the morning. He didn't.
I can't really describe the events that took place over the course of the next six months without devaluing the magic and wonderment I experienced (like having fireworks following us...everywhere). I lost my job two weeks after we got together and I spent a blissful month of unemployment reveling in being a child again, falling in love and seeing the world through rose colored glasses.
Being in a relationship was a massive change for two people who spent a majority of their lives wild and free, so naturally we hit a rough patch in July and when he asked me to go to India with him in August, I was floored. He made it clear that we both had different intentions and goals and that we'd be going on the trip as individuals on different tracks. I truly believed when I left for India that I'd be coming home alone in one year. I never thought that we'd fall madly in love with each other and start building a future together. I never dreamed I would accomplish so much and make good on following through with goals.
While this was a very brief (in my opinion) synopsis of our story, there is a greater point I am getting to. I've somehow grown up in just a short seven months. I've really come into this new role, this caretaker, this woman who can cook (praise baby Jesus) and clean and make better decisions. Matt makes me a better person. He makes me stick to my agreements (damn him), calls me out on my bullshit and pettiness (much to my frustration) and keeps me on track with working on my goals everyday. I've often said over the last two months that I feel like I'm in training for wifery (or maybe wife hood is better suited instead of sounding like I'm in some sort of wife hatchery over here) and motherhood.
Our love, with it's comedic and unlikely roots, has given me the support and room to grow as an individual and a partner, to allow myself to accept that I want things in the future (a wedding, a baby, a house) that my old career-oriented, female-empowered self wouldn't allow me to admit to wanting. (Isn't that the dilemma of modern women: career vs. family, or both and trying to balance everything while not being driven into the ground by stress and anxiety?) What's even more miraculous is that I can see these things now. It's tangible, it's real, even if we are still a few years off.
Coming to Nepal has given us our first real dose of alone time. Pretty much the entire last year, we were surrounded by our friends, living in shared spaces, cramped quarters with little to no privacy. Our newfound aloneness gave us time to truly explore each other's company and our love has grown deeper and stronger in these last few months. Our long-standing friendship had given us something that many just-met lovers don't always have: an honesty about our pasts, an honesty that came from companionship through our wild and crazy years. We told each other about our lives without shame, guilt, or embarrassment because we weren't worried what each other thought, weren't worried about being accepted or loved. In fact, I believe that this knowledge of each other's past makes us appreciative of where we are as adults and partners. This friendship, bred in honesty, has served us well in traveling (if you ever want to know if you're a right match, try traveling through India, when patience is tested to the max and imminent sickness looms over your heads) with long hours of non-romantic traveling conditions. Most nights, we sit in the dark sharing secrets and stories and building an intimacy that only comes from companionship. Our love is steady and strong, not furiously passionate and apt to explosive blowouts and intense make up sessions like first loves often are. We give each other space when we need it and walk away when disagreements start to gain momentum. We don't smother each other in our insecurities or self-doubts, we lift each other up and call each other out on pettiness and immaturity. This is the love I've always wanted and waited a long, long 25 years for. But it was worth the wait- every lesson I learned before I arrived here has served it's purpose in our relationship and made me a stronger and better person. This love has made my life easier, has made everything fall into place, and has given me a stairway to my dreams.
Author's side note: In editing this blog, I realized that I didn't particularly paint a picture of romance, in fact I focused on our younger whoring and blundering misadventures and glossed over the better-than-movie romantic moments we've experienced. For the first time probably...ever, I am keeping those cherished moments to myself, honoring the private moments that I've waited my whole life to experience. The side effects of such a love has been courage, strength and joy-more than I could have ever asked for. In the words of Lao Tzu, "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."