Last summer, my friend Heather and I were on a bike ride and met up with her friend, Todd. It was a beautiful day and we decided to sit and have a beer together on the outdoor patio of a restaurant.
I had recently separated from my husband and during our conversation, Todd asked what it was like to live alone. I said it had its perks.
He then asked, “What’s the best part?”
I didn’t think that long and just said that I had so many responsibilities before I moved out and now had so few that it was refreshing just to take care of me, and that having my own space was kind of nice.
He then asked, “What’s the worst part?”
I replied, “I really long for intimacy with a partner.”
We were all quiet for a moment. I’m guessing my raw honesty might have been hard to hear.
On the ride home, I thought a lot about his questions and decided if I were asked again my response would be slightly different. It would go something like this:
The best part of living alone? Having the whole place to myself, especially the bed.
The worst part of living alone? Having the whole place to myself, especially the bed.
This brought to mind a poem shared by the main character in the movie Mask:
“These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys on a tree, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face.
“These things are a drag: dust on my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face.”
How complicated is it that the same thing—the sun on his face or the whole place to myself, especially the bed—can fall into both camps? Some things are both good and a drag.
Lately, I’ve been reading the writings of Fr. Richard Rohr, learning about contemplative practices and nondual ways of living and thinking. Dualistic “either/or” thinking doesn’t often encompass the whole of something. More often than not, things are this AND that.
“Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience . . . In contemplation . . . you learn to hold everything—both the attractive and the unpleasant—together in one accepting gaze.”
Holding both sides in one accepting gaze can be hard. I feel tension there. My head can go along with it, but my heart struggles to do so. We were meant to be in relationship with one another, or at least I know I was. I am blessed with great relationships with my boys, my extended family and many friends. But none of those quite fill the void of the intimate relationship I desire with a man. Relationships matter to me more than anything else. And the one grown with that special someone is unique in that it does involve the bed. And I’m not just talking about sex. Sharing a bed together can be a seriously vulnerable experience leading to intimate conversations and a closeness only possible in that space.
As my heart struggles to hold both sides together, I remember that contemplation is called a “practice.” I need to practice holding and accepting that both can be true and to find peace in that. To both long for someone and be content with what I have. To have faith that a relationship will happen and actively search for it, all while enjoying my life as it is now.
Fr. Rohr goes on to say:
“Moments of great love and great suffering are often the first experiences of nondual thinking.”
So I will practice holding both sides in one accepting gaze, but some days my longing feels much heavier than my contentment.
I long for the chance to try again with someone who wants to try with me.
I long for a deep connection.
I long for those strong, tender hugs.
I long to matter to someone.
I long for that butt to bump into in the kitchen.
I long for intimate conversations with a warm body next to me.
And I long to share my whole place with someone, especially the bed.