So Be It

For as far back as I can remember, all of my life, I have spent my mental and emotional energies dwelling upon the idea of a utopic, ideal romantic prospect. I’ve treated it as an ultimate end goal, the utmost achievement and proof of my worthiness.

For a period, since it clearly was not happening for me, I took a very extreme opposite position. I tried, and temporarily succeeded in making myself a stoic. I labeled love and all that is associated with it to be a most futile experience. And the search for love, a sad attempt that the weak and unintelligent opt for, instead of living in the real world, with all of its harsh, but true, and existing realities. Love is a diversion, I felt, from seeing, experiencing, and succeeding in this world. An effort that is bound to fail, and lead to disappointment.

While this worked well for me for some time, I could not maintain it. For when, one is an inherent romantic, even the smallest glimmer of hope can be sufficient to reignite its passions. Therefore, I again succumbed to the “sad attempts” that I had found distasteful and repulsive just shortly before.

But my story is a dull one. It repeats itself. Love, is as distant and unreachable, as it always has been. And all of my efforts at attaining it, as futile as they’ve ever been. But now, I realize something completely different. I realize that I have been focusing on the wrong things all along.

I probably need not explain to you the wrongness of this entire premise. Nothing beneficial can come out of viewing romantic love as an end goal, as a kind of achievement. I do not blame myself for thinking this way, for it was embedded in our way of thinking from a very young age. Why were we raised on Cinderella stories where a girl’s happiness lied in finding and uniting with a true love? Why was it driven into our head that the search for romantic love, is an essential and inevitable aspect of life? A solution to all woes? How might we lead our lives differently had it never been so?

And how were we ever led to believe that we deserved to feel “worthy” to the extent that we were desired and loved by another?! If we understand our self-worth to be solely reliant on the affirmations of another person, how are we ever to find true and lasting happiness, in accepting and loving ourselves? And how can we ever believe that an affirmation received once, would be repeated regularly for the rest of our lives?

So let’s say you are in the most ideal situation– you’ve loved, you’re loved back and you get married. How many days, weeks, or at best, months, will it be until your spouse fails to affirm who you are? How long until the moment when you disagree and no longer feel loved? How can anyone accept to base their happiness and self-affirmation on the whimsical thoughts and feelings of another human being? That is, surely, a recipe for disappointment and disaster. That, has never been my idea of love. That’s because my idea of love, and perhaps yours as well, is imaginary. It has no basis in reality. It’s a mirage, a hallucination, a dream, a wish, a fairy tale, is all.

What I’ve failed to recognize in all of this, is how my futile searches for love, how my disappointments and heartbreaks have in fact been helping me to progress in a path towards enlightenment. I am not near enlightenment now, by any means. But the phases of my life where I’ve had enlightened moments, periods of deep introspection and greater understanding of existence, happiness, and God, have directly emerged from disappointment and heartbreak. And I am in one now.

So, no. Love is not the end goal. The search for it, is not the purpose of our lives.

The end goal, has been, and will always be, a return to home. A return to our true selves, and to God. If that will be gained, through love, and heartbreak, so be it. If that will be gained, without love, so be it. For this destination is so fulfilling and sweet, that any struggle and pain one finds in its path, is wholly welcome!

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Barriers

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi

Have you ever briefly met someone, felt an understanding between you, but did not proceed with the idea because of some kind of superficial expectation that you carry? Maybe appearance, or social status, or financial status, or something else?

If so, you’ve made a mistake.

What if everything you have ever sought, everything you’ve ever dreamed of finding was in that person? But you never got to find out because you never took the chance? Because you were unwilling and afraid to find and break the barriers within you? What if that deep bond, that infinite love and acceptance, was right in front of you and you failed to see it?

It’s still not too late. Find and break those barriers. Reach out. You have no idea how liberated you will be. You have no idea of the bliss that is awaiting your one nod. You have no idea how quickly and beautifully it will all come together.

My Grandfather’s Home

My grandfather used to call me “my lioness.”

He was a tall and thin man, of wheat skin, and a serious glance that was disrupted by an adorably chunky nose. He loved to be clean shaven. He always wore a vest and suit, a flat cap, and carried a pocket-watch.

He was a man of few words, but of infinite compassion, love and affection. He never hesitated to show his love to us, he laughed heartily and unabashedly. He was the kindest man I’ve known.

Many times, I would see him, pulling a wooden chair to his garden. Sitting one leg on top of the other, always playing with worry beads. His movements were slow and sure of themselves. If he was ever worried or anxious, I’ve never seen it in his features. He could sit in his garden for hours, or aimlessly take a stroll in the streets. He always carried regular and candied chickpeas in his pockets. Much to my delight, he would pull out a handful and put them in my palms when I least expected it. I can never forget the sweet taste of that candied chickpeas, or the kind, earthly hand that shared them with me.

On the day of the bazaar, he would order a horse and carriage. We would all get on the back and make it through the hot, dusty streets with the sounds of galloping horseshoes resonating in our ears. On our way back, we would find our place among the watermelons and the peaches and the cherries.

My grandfather ate little, and spent little on himself. But when it was time for our visit, he would stuff the refrigerator with all kinds of foods. He had this orange drink in the kitchen drawer that you made with hot water, and fresh Turkish coffee that overwhelmed your senses. He would hang quince from the ceiling for us to take back before we left.

As a child, my grandfather’s home was the only place that ever felt like home to me. There was nothing but love and acceptance in every corner of it, in every creak of its wooden floors.

My grandfather’s bath had cold cement flooring, but the water was heated using a furnace. I cannot describe the experience of bathing in that room. Have you ever bathed amidst the comforting scents of burning wood, and felt the hot water warm up the cement floor underneath your toes? I can assure you that there is no greatest comfort or pleasure on this earth. I have never again experienced such delight, and I doubt that any other experience will ever measure up to it.

And yet the wonders of my grandfather’s affection and home didn’t end there. His house was full of interesting and intriguing objects and unexpected surprises around the corner. He would place candies in the least likely places, giving our childish minds wonder beyond imagination. His living room, which we would immediately turn into a bedroom after our arrival was decorated with lights on one wall, all year-around. I think he used them as night lights. It was just one of a million things that comforted me when I was there.

The only thing I had an issue with was the old clock on the wall which seemed to make no noise at all during the day, but its tick-tocks would magnify in my ears and keep me from sleeping at night. Well at least for a few nights until I got used to it.

I don’t recall my grandmother as much, as she was the one to pass away first. I know she was of average height, the weight centered on her middle part, with thinner legs (features of all the women of our family I’m afraid). She had very fair skin and dark black hair. I very clearly recall the day when she made a massive pot of Noah’s pudding. Noah’s pudding is a mixture of grains, beans, dry fruits and nuts, molasses, orange rinds, cinnamon and sugar. It produces the most amazing aroma and takes over your senses much like an apple pie right from the oven. She placed the huge pot on the ground for it to cool down, handed spoons to my brother and I and told us to have some once it cooled down. At this point, my brother and I literally attacked the dessert, with the spoons making endless trips between the pot and our mouths. My grandmother’s legs wandered by us a few times as she continued her house chores. Eventually, she came and stood on top of us, glanced into the pot, and possibly alarmed at how much we had eaten in such a short period, simply commented “kids, keep some for your grandfather, ok?”

My great-grandmother lived with them as well but insisted on having a small shack of her own in the garden of the house. I think she had the desire to be independent even when she wasn’t. Her tiny little room always smelled of herbs and oils. Whenever I went there, I’d find her sitting on the floor, boiling herbal teas in a pot in front of her.  She loved sage tea and oil of oregano, and I can clearly recall the potent mixtures of these scents. She was past the age of 90, very thin, a hunchback and blind in one eye. But she had a sharper mind and bigger appetite than any of us. She was an eccentric woman who was religious and spiritual but who didn’t mind using curses when angered, ones that would make an adult man blush. She could put us to sleep by whispering prayers into our ears, but also enjoyed telling us ghost stories right before bed-time. I would shudder in fear and then she would tell us to say our prayers and sleep and that nothing would happen if we did. She loved talking and could tell stories for hours if she found any keen ears around her.

My grandmother passed away in 1991, my grandfather in 2002, and my great-grandmother just 6 months after my grandfather. Apparently, my great-grandmother’s last words were “I guess I’ll lie down and die now.”

I don’t know what heaven will be like exactly, or whether I’ll make it there. But if I do, I hope it’s my grandfather’s home, and that I’m surrounded by all of them and their love again.

Truths, Cynics, and the Greatest Love of All

Some believe that love is about another person. No. Love is about ourselves.

It’s about how it makes us feel. It’s the emotions, thoughts, dreams and expectations that we attach to an idealized image of someone else.

And again some believe that love means being with another person. But loving someone doesn’t mean that you have to be with them. It doesn’t mean that the person is right for you or will make you happy and vice versa. It doesn’t even mean that the person is good. Love is not logical. It’s not pre-programmed and it doesn’t fit into a rigid construct. Sometimes, loving someone just means that the person takes up some space in your mind and heart. Maybe forever, and maybe not. And still, that person in your mind and heart is not the real one… it’s the idealized image of that person… because that’s the only one we ever want to keep.

Who is this soul mate that everyone keeps talking about? Is there such a thing? What does a soul mate look like? How do you know it’s him?

What if a soul mate is not a spouse or life companion in the traditional sense? But rather just someone who understands us and accepts us completely and without reservation? Why must all be found in one magical person? Who can satisfy us emotionally, intellectually and physically? Is that the soulmate, the one person who can accomplish all three?

I’ve always longed for a soulmate. Not finding him forced me to broaden my mind.

The alternative truth about all of this is that we are made to believe by society that all of us– our thinking and way of life– must fit into a single box. We are born, we study, we work, we get married, we have children, we raise them, we retire, and we die. Everyone falls in love. Everyone finds someone suitable for themselves. Everyone has a soulmate.

Today I want to tell you the reality. None of this is true. Some people fall in love, and often not mutually. Most people do not find someone suitable for themselves, and few people have what they call a soulmate. And ALL people compromise.

The world is not the cinematic fantasy driven into our heads and hearts as children. Life is challenging and it almost never turns out the way we plan. The true secret to happiness is compromise. Compromising in all areas of life and learning to be content with what we have and not what could have been.

Your elementary school teacher lied to you. What she should have said was: “You cannot be anything you want. You cannot accomplish all of your dreams. But as long as you keep trying, it’s okay.”

From young, we are taught that anything is possible and acquiring our wishes are inevitable. But it’s not what we acquire or don’t, it’s how we tried and how we overcame the challenges along the way.

The truth is that no one is a failure. If people’s success in life was measured by the unrealistic and shockingly over-exaggerated expectations imposed by society– such as wealth, status, appearance and health– you can be certain that no one can be termed to be successful.

I’m not trying to be fatalistic. Of course we can change aspects of our life, but I also believe that there is a limit to what we can change about some areas. For example, no matter what you do, you may never be a millionaire or a CEO. There are only a few areas of your life which you can change without limits and which do not require miracles, well at least for most. And that’s knowledge, belief, and ethics.

There are no limits in expanding and broadening these. No one can prevent you from obtaining them and you can reach as far as you wish. Good thing is that these are actually the only things that matter. And as long as you keep trying, you can never fail, because in all three, the path is the destination. Every day that you try, you succeed.

Going back to soulmates, I suppose one is always a cynic until it happens. I meant, if it happens.

The adorable thing about the human heart is that it’s like a mischievous free child. It forgets. It’s always happy, and it’s always hopeful about the future. The greatest cynic in the world cannot deny those moments of weakness, when the dark, gloomy clouds of pain, sadness and disappointment depart, revealing that glimmering all-powerful ray of hope, however small it may be, that love exists. There, far away, somewhere in the distance, it awaits, to be found and to find.

Some believe that love is about another person. No. Love is about ourselves.

And maybe it’s about our love for the greatest love of all– the One who is most loving.