Finding Love in the Ruins

We were face-to-face even though he was in his bed across town and I was in mine. I was lying sideways, my phone propped on a pillow in front of me to keep it upright. Lounging on my bare arm, I was gazing into his image on the screen. I didn’t feel well enough to have a ‘real’ visit that night, my Lyme symptoms were flaring and the brain fog I was experiencing made me reluctant to attempt much of anything. I also didn’t want to not see him, as in love as I felt, but I knew I could only handle a brief interaction.

While I was walking, and mostly crawling, through my Lyme healing, my lover was also recovering from a catastrophe that had changed life as he knew it. Between the two of us we were charting new territory in terms of what it means to be in love and courting when both parties are in grave need of self-care and ongoing rest. Could love exist and thrive here?

Our FaceTime chats were one way we had found to stay connected when we were too hurtin’ to actually meet up. Gazing into the screen, I told him, “I feel like I used to be a fire cracker, but now I’m damp firewood.” While we both had our own way of conceptualizing the loss of our former identity, one thing was certain, we were not who we used to be and he and I had met and were relating in the ruins of our former lives.

I had experienced my crash nearly four years earlier and had found a somewhat abiding sense of peace in the ruins. I had gotten to the place where I could actually appreciate the space, the potentiality, and the stripping away of all that had formerly felt so important—most days anyway. I was slowly but surely growing accustomed to my new life. I had mapped a trail between the piles of rubble and had trekked far enough that I no longer used points of reference from my former life to guide me.

Our relationship was taking place ‘in the real’. He and I didn’t have the energy for the usual folly of courtship—the dressing up, the eating out, and the whole 'dating game’. I didn’t have the energy for push-up bras, tight skirts, or fancy lingerie (not that I was ever into that much anyway) or for putting on a show of any kind. I was spent and had only enough energy left to be me—the stripped down, not-trying-to-impress-anybody me.

My lover and I were experiencing something remarkable, something unusual that I had never experienced before. It’s what my friend Yamuna described as “being on a freeway and just bypassing all the bullshit.” Usually in a courtship there is a long drawn out process of reaching deeper and deeper layers of vulnerability. Your lover sees you cry for the first time, if you’re a woman your partner eventually sees you without make-up or your special get up, you work your way into talking about your past, and your struggles. In our case, each day was kind of a struggle. We were living in the vulnerable day in and day out with not enough energy left over for upholding pretenses of any kind.

This relationship is helping me to make peace with what I might consider to be my imperfections or my ‘ugliness’. Several hours before our FaceTime chat, I had sent my lover a picture of me napping, with no make-up on and visible dark circles under my eyes. I told him that I was allowing him to see me—no pretense—and that I was having a really tough day. It made me feel even closer to him to let myself be seen.

This is me without my mask. This is what I look like when I’m not at my best. This is me without the impressive adornments, with my comfy clothes on, this is me when I feel like total shit. This is me when life has stripped me bare of everything I used to use to protect myself with or make myself feel worthwhile. This is me without the safe armor of my accomplishments or of my former success. This is me when I can barely get through the day, when my brain is on strike, and I can’t even articulate clearly what’s on my mind. Can you love me now?

As I learn to love myself, I’m learning to also let myself be seen and loved in my imperfection. I’m able to see my lover and to love him in all his humanity, his mortality, and his beautiful vulnerability. We get to love each other in our humanness, in ‘the real’. And because we don’t have the energy to put on a show or 'pretend' our relationship has fast tracked us into a kind of accelerated experience of intimate communion. Our bond feels strong and deep beyond the actual time we’ve known each other.

I’ve found that I love more quickly and more deeply without all the pretentious bullshit to wade through. I realize how much the usual hoopla that we go through is our misguided attempt at getting love and approval. We think we need flawless skin, perky breasts, big muscles or toned abs, fancy new clothes, or an impressive resume. These things can actual armor us from the love that we seek. Real love is incredibly kind and non-judgmental and doesn't require the perfection that we so often require from ourselves.

Who knew that when I stopped doing all the stuff I thought I had to do to get love that I would actually find it waiting for me. 

Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau

PHOTO CREDIT: M. BONNEAU

PHOTO CREDIT: M. BONNEAU