I am addicted to a few things. Relationships and love are right up there with buttery cinnamon toast. I've been in a string of relationships since I was seventeen. At the end, even when I'm the ender, I'm terrified. I am scared of ending up alone. I miss having the comfort of another person to help me with mundane decisions and to comfort my sensitive being. And, in truth, while solo-camping will always be my thing, I totally and completely love having a co-pilot. I enjoy the joy of shared experience. I also love the multifaceted freedom inherent in not depending on another person.
At the end of a previous relationship, I tried being my own boyfriend. Yep. :) Anytime I felt a lack or longing for my previous love, I asked myself what I really wanted, and I responded literally and generously. "I want comfort. The perfect boyfriend would just take my hand, walk with me on the beach and downplay the drama I've amped up." I would literally put one hand in the other and walk with myself on the beach, talking myself down, comforting myself, laughing at myself. Falling in love.
It often doesn't last very long or with consistency. I forget, I get caught up, I don't put the time and energy into the relationship. I fall back into the trance of needing another, and often, fall back into not being particularly nice to myself.
At the end of a four year relationship that seemed to be headed towards the real deal, I was disenchanted, sad, empty. I remembered my evolution in the previous relationship gap, how good it felt, how whole I was, and wanted to take it a step further.
I said yes.
I found the perfect best man.
I called on my dear friend, follow writer, former Special-Needs Spanish scholar, Chris "Bama" Milucky. He had recently reached out to me, asking for permission to tell a story about our friendship in Dirt Bag magazine, the mountain biking 'zine he has a column in. He was stoked.
He went above and beyond. I arrived at his beautiful plot of land, in the middle of the Colorado, a little bit nervous. He had bought whisky, flowers, made me an aspen leaf crown, had a speech prepared, and was even more nervous than I was. I realized I was launching into the real deal. A life dedicated to loving and being there for myself. Whoa.
I said my vows in my pink tie-dye hammock, a vinyl record Bama picked playing on a fold-chair, the warm Colorado day folding into a crisp night. His speech transformed my nervous laughter into chills, and what was silly, fun, and wild, Bama dug into the ground with determined depth. It is courageous. It is not easy. It is exciting and sobering.
And he, of all people would know. He spends half his year, late fall, winter, early spring (Mountain bike off-season) living alone in rural Kremmling, Colorado, in an airstream, away from his wife, totally off the grid, and with cowboy grit. He has a wagon tattooed on his arm. "A wagon is my spirit animal."
We rejoiced, drank whisky, watched the cool indigo-blue sky turn to twinkle, danced silly in the airstream, laughed, giggled, and I eventually timidly walked to my hammock in the aspen grove to fall asleep. Alone. Newly married to myself. I felt happy, scared, lonely. I hoped the ritual would bring more power to my love for myself, freedom from need, offer peace to my days.
I woke up freezing. It was the summer! What the heck. I forgot about how the elevation of the area, and the westerly wild depth of this area that was set quite deep in the Rocky Mountains. I shivered. There was no way I was falling back asleep. I considered my options. I surrendered to Bama's offer to platonically curl up on the couch/bed next to with him and his dog Larry. And, so, I did. The warm body of my dear friend and his crazy dog brought me layered warmth.
I considered the meaning of my choice to return to someone, in this case, a man, for warmth after I decided to commit to a lifetime of fulfilling all my own needs. I surrendered to the moment. I could have stubbornly shivered until the sun rose, but I chose to be close to someone, to take care of my want for warmth and utilize my willing buddy. Yes, outsourcing is allowed. Sometimes I will want to take care of myself by being close to another. In this case, it was nice to be next to my friend who shares a serious care and concern for living a life well lived. I gave gratitude for him and our special-needs friendship.
Later in the summer, I went on to honeymoon on a multi-day solo-backpacking trek though Northern Georgia's Chatthoochie National Forest. It was phenomenal. I felt the love. I felt the freedom. I drank two cups of coffee in the morning if I liked, my wife was cool with it. I skinny dipped in isolated mountain pools, I meditated - gasping for breath - in super cold waterfalls, I made myself delicious meals, I took great care of myself, I stopped whenever I liked to sketch strange new plants. I had no one to answer to. It was brilliant.
I'm coming upon a year anniversary of this special night. I will be in Europe. I will celebrate.
In the last year I have gotten close to amazing people, particularly one. I have been entranced for awhile, on and off. My heart has been broken, several times. I have lost and refound myself, several times.
I finally got the ring, (rolling eyes emoji) I can't believe I procrastinated with the ring... I'm glad my wife didn't make a big deal about it. I got a beautiful tattoo I truly love, in Leon, Nicaragua while on a surf trip with 3 girlfriends. An indigenous friend told me to never get a tattoo that encircles and cuts off a whole part the skin. So, I got two incomplete bands. So much meaning... As I have discovered, after nearly a year of marriage, it is, and will never be, complete. Two wings of attention that a healthy marriage (and Buddhist practice) need to thrive: honest awareness coupled with loving acceptance. Being real with what's happening, and being soft and caring in it's acceptance. And, my amazing friend Colleen added that in the two openings of the rings, opening and opportunity to let another and others in is also symbolized. Beautiful.
This first year of marriage has been far from perfect. It has been special, sweet, fun. It has also been profoundly difficult, hard to maintain, and there was a serious learning curve. Falling asleep with (just) myself most nights has been the hardest. My guru said to snuggle up with a body pillow. A body pillow does not radiate heat, play with my hair, and tell me everything is going to be okay.
In the early and difficult days, Bama said, "I think you need to get a tattoo of a tractor." Whhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?
"They take a little while to start up in the morning, but by the end of the day, they just get the work done."
Note: when asking permission from Bama to publish this post I received the following gem in response.