We met on the most improbable of days: February 14th, when love zaps through the air and a single lady's best bet for having a date is to 1) already be seeing somebody or 2) fabricate a romance out of some drunken encounter in a bar or at a singles party. Neither applied to me, and so I was on a solo hike in the hills surrounding Los Angeles.
Starting on the trail, I saw him up ahead: Tallish, ruffled hair, determined gait. I liked the way his back looked through his threadbare t-shirt. Sure of himself, but gentle. I decided he seemed kind.
At one point he stopped, I passed him, and then I slowed down, hoping he would catch up. I hadn't yet seen his face, but I knew that I would like it. When he stopped to talk to me, I found I was right. The power of trusting my intuition often takes my breath away.
We spent the next two hours admiring our city from above, discovering each other. He loved his work in the entertainment industry (he was steadily employed, a miracle itself in this land of angels and "between projects" 20-somethings); his best friend was his sister; his new hobby was brewing Belgian ales. He was funny and weird and -- best of all -- kind. He held the lever for me to fill up my water bottle. He asked for my number and promised he'd call.
And thus commenced a month of daily text messages, weekly or biweekly dates. We took the subway downtown, explored new bars and restaurants, fell even more in love with our city. Fell in love with the idea of seeing it with someone else.
The moments when I started to let him in were striking and intense. It had been nearly three years since I allowed any man into my heart, three years since a whirlwind romance had left my soul in tatters. Three years since I started my meditation practice, started studying "A Course in Miracles" and learning with the text's many teachers. Three years of yoga classes and energy healers and journaling and therapy. Three years of tremendous growth and insight; and yet when I found my heart expanding again to let someone in, it was painful and frightening.
Slowly, though, I realized that no matter what happened, this love story did not need to end the same way as those in my past.
On my birthday, he told me he wanted a long-term relationship, that he wasn't seeing anyone else, that he liked only me. I was over the moon.
The next day, I took myself on a trip to the San Blas islands in Panama. I spent a week on a tiny island inhabited by the region's native Kuna people, often the only American in a small and rotating group of tourists from all around the world. I island hopped during the day, swam in the crystalline water, ate whatever fish had swum into the net that morning and spent hours and hours watching the waves. During the moments when I felt most lonely, I thought about him and fantasized about future travels we would have together. I wanted to see the whole world with him. On a coconut grove island in the middle of the ocean, free from all distractions, I realized how much I wanted to share my life with someone.
When I returned, I was so excited to see him, to give him a little present that one of the Kuna women had made, to show off my golden tan. He was evasive and flaky. One night, after he tried to switch plans yet again, we spoke on the phone and he admitted that he was confused and overwhelmed. He said he didn't know what was wrong with him. I thought, Either you got exactly what you wanted or you got exactly what you thought you wanted and it's not really what you want. But I kept my mouth shut and waited for him to figure out his schedule and how I might fit into it.
The next day, he told me that he didn't have time for a relationship. And strangely -- miraculously -- I was OK.
I didn't feel rejected or worthless or unattractive or unlovable. I didn't feel foolish for letting him in. I didn't feel idiotic for telling him that I cared about him and wanted to be with him.
Instead, I felt grateful.
I felt grateful for the opportunity to open my heart to someone new. I felt grateful that I remembered how to trust, despite any heartbreak I had suffered before. I felt grateful that I had someone to think about when I was alone in San Blas. I felt grateful that he didn't stay long enough to traumatize me when he left, and that he left the space for the next wonderful man to enter into my life.
And most of all, I felt grateful for the opportunity to write a completely new love story, one in which -- no matter the outcome -- gratitude lit my path.
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