In the midst of my five-year struggle to make my tortured on-again/off-again relationship with my ex-boyfriend M. work out, my therapist shared with me a verse written by Theodore Roethke in honor of his beloved wife:
"More than I'd hoped for; less than I'd dreamed."
Forever the pragmatist, I embraced the sentiment expressed in this line of poetry. I thought to myself, "There's the much-needed dose of realism that will finally get us over the hump to marriage and kids."
Given my practical nature, what I'm going to do on Sunday morning feels out of character. I'll hop in my Mini and make the seven-hour drive from San Francisco along the cattle and fruit tree-dotted flatlands of the I-5 to Los Angeles. Not for a visit, but because I'm moving to there to be with the Love of My Life.
Kiran and I met nearly 3.5 years ago while surfing in Costa Rica. That very day (pictured above), we both had the sense the other was The One. But it took us three years to make it here, to an actual intimate relationship. While we felt physically attracted and deeply connected on the beach, I had to return home the next day, and we both ended up getting back together with our exes shortly thereafter.
So yes, to the naysayers, I'll admit: Kiran and I have only been engaged with one another at this level of commitment for a few months. Perhaps it's just the honeymoon period. But we both have had enough experience with long-term relationships (including one failed marriage apiece) to know the difference between infatuation and true love. Also, neither of us has lost for a moment the feeling we experienced on the beach in Costa Rica of Love at First Sight. Finally, during the three years when we weren't together physically, we revealed our darkest wounds and shared our triumphs via email, falling in love as two writers through our writing, our shared craft.
Those who know me, those who have followed my blog posts here and on Intent.com, are aware that I have hoped for, dreamed of and done my best to create a family of my own since I was in my 20s. That when my marriage ended at age 32 I floundered for years, devastated and lost, turning to yoga, meditation and spiritual books -- anything to help me rebuild my self-esteem. Last year, I even froze my eggs in an attempt to hang on to a few more years of fertility.
Yet I never dreamed the love I've found now was possible. In college, my friends nicknamed me Miss Practicality. I knew from a young age that you have to work at relationships. You don't get everything you want from one person. You must compromise. You make sacrifices. And you rely on your friends and family to fulfill needs that your partner isn't capable of meeting. That's how the world works. It isn't a Disney movie. Real life begins after happily ever after.
I still believe all of the above is true; I know it is from experience. But now that I've found the Love of My Life, I've turned into a hopeless romantic. For the first time ever, I believe in True Love. With Kiran, it really does flow. The relationship feels right and has since the beginning. We have our issues, we face certain challenges, but those aren't a huge production. Overcoming hurdles has brought us closer together.
The difference between the unfolding of my relationship with Kiran and the course of my previous partnerships is immense. I've entered a parallel universe. It's the difference between low-fat, sugar-free Tofutti and full-cream, handmade, organic ice cream. It's contentment versus fulfillment. It's love versus Love.
This is the Life Out Loud in action: picking up and moving to LA for a man I've technically only been in a relationship with for two months. I've never jumped in so quickly; I've typically moved cautiously forward in relationships, one step at a time. But here I am, unabashedly leaping in headfirst. And I'm not afraid to proclaim it in my typical style: passionately, proudly and full of tender-hearted vulnerability.
It all came to a head when I realized that I couldn't accept the sentiment contained in the Roethke quote any longer: "More than I'd hoped for; less than I'd dreamed." Not only is Kiran an extraordinary human being -- "more than I'd dreamed" in every way -- but he also makes me feel totally accepted in spite of my many flaws: my habit of sliding into blame and my tendency when hurt to lash out in anger. As a result, I find the insecurity that I'm "not good enough" to deserve such a love, which had built up through the years of pain and suffering in past relationships, sliding away.
I marveled when I told Kiran about my change of heart and he said, "I came across the same quote a few years ago. But I could never reconcile myself to it. Why accept 'less than I'd dreamed?'" He felt that compromising on this point meant conceding defeat not just in relationships but to life in general.
As we continued to unload our hearts out onto the chopping block, offering ourselves to each other for slaughter with courage and raw truth, we reinvented the quote. We created a new verse that we have committed to holding sacred with and for each other forever. We will safeguard this promise with our most powerful intentions, making it our solemn vow:
"More than I'd dreamed; everything I deserve."
So as I set off on my latest adventure, cruising in my Mini past the endless rows of orchards on my way south this weekend, I hope you'll join me in raising a glass to the Life Out Loud. I wish each and every one of you the courage to take risks for what you love -- whether that be plunging into an intimate relationship, venturing to make a radical career change or taking yourself on a trip to the other side of the planet or the moon. Because I truly believe that it is by launching full-throttle into the unknown, with open hearts and minds, that we find ourselves most confronted by life's impermanence, richness and joy.
May you always have the love of yourself and the faith in the universe's inherent goodness to believe that it has in store for you, too, "more than you'd dreamed; everything you deserve."
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