Arianna Huffington's Thrive book launch happened at the perfect moment. I'd been coming back to my center after a devastating life event, and the themes in Thrive mirror my seven-year journey to live the Third Metric. Through it all, I've come to experience the wonder of unconditional love and to celebrate the truth that we're more alike than different, no matter what our fear-riddled minds may tell us.
After a burnout-related health scare, I quit my high-octane job as a marketing strategist for multinational technology clients and moved from my homeland of Singapore to San Francisco. San Francisco is a magical place that has since restored my well-being on many fronts.
In 2010, I met the love of my life through an online dating site. My profile included a tongue-in-cheek request for someone who's an "onion." I knew I wanted, and was ready for, a man with complex layers that I'd enjoy getting to know over time.
JD, a fellow scientist and marketer, answered the call in full onion-like glory. It soon became clear this wouldn't be a codependent, "you complete me" situation. We'd both done a lot of maturing beforehand and this felt like, in Gary Zukav's definition of a spiritual partnership, "a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth."
We've remained steadfast through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. There was a lot of thin and tons of sickness. Marriage was discussed yet seemed unnecessary; we're bound by something much deeper, and we didn't need a man-made endorsement to prove our commitment.
JD became one of California's 11.7 percent unemployed in 2011. For months, his brilliant resume (top-notch college and business school and work stints in major corporations) couldn't land him a job. Mentally bound by the first two metrics of success (money and power), he couldn't see any upside to his situation.
In Thrive, Arianna describes her father as a man with brilliant intellect and with the soul of a poet whose gate to his heart lay firmly closed for years. JD personified that, too, and our love began to open his heart like never before. When he lost his job, I discovered that as loving and attentive as he was to me, his brilliant intellect was a double-edged sword. It led him to overthink everything, run endless loops of negative self-talk in his mind and suffer from chronic insomnia. That mounting stress of being a well-schooled, Caucasian male without full-time work (again, because he'd chosen to measure his success solely against the traditional metrics of money and power) eventually morphed into life-threatening health problems.
We made several trips to the ICU; those were some of our darkest days. I prayed, cried and prayed again. And, as part of my Buddhist practice, I started to make peace with the possibility of his death.
The stress of being JD's physical and emotional caregiver, trying to build my budding business, tending to the needs of an aging parent back in Singapore and continuing to adjust to life in America was overwhelming. And yet, even when JD got better and I'd asked we take a break in 2013 so I could focus on my business, our hearts continued to care, and we talked or texted every day. Our spiritual partnership remained intact, and I was beginning to understand what it meant to love a non-blood related person, unconditionally.
One Saturday morning in 2013, when JD was away working in New York, my head began to pound inexplicably. It lasted all day and was like no other headache I'd ever had. Then it disappeared as suddenly as it came. My intuition knew it meant something, but I didn't know what.
Two days later, I received a phone call that everyone dreads. JD had passed away late Friday night; he was 43. Amidst the shock and despair, my inner knowing realized JD was trying to make his (now spiritual) presence felt on Saturday. No rational reason could explain my headache away.
As I continue to emerge from my grief-laden fog, I find solace in the Imam Al-Shafi'i quote in Thrive, "My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me."
My earthly time with JD was meant to be brief, intense and bittersweet.
Our spiritual partnership remains strong. I feel JD's loving presence every day, and I hear his affectionate whispers whenever I meditate. He regularly appears in my dreams, sometimes just to say, "Hey, Sweets," other times to help me with a knotty problem like he used to do. Once, he said, "I didn't want to leave you, but I just couldn't be in my body anymore."
Arianna's mother used to quote G.K. Chesterton, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." I'm glad that JD can now soar beyond the overthinking mind that used to weigh him down.
Could our ongoing spiritual connection be mere coincidence or wishful thinking? Perhaps. I believe though, as Arianna posits in Thrive, that coincidences are the miracles that God performs anonymously.
I leave you with this wondrous experience. This past weekend I was reading Thrive in my backyard, a common space I share with five tenants in the building. As soon as I finished the section on coincidences, I spotted a figurine amidst the weeds that I hadn't noticed before. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a stone angel with the word "peace" inscribed on her robes.
What's the coincidence?
Well, I recently finished repositioning my business brand to reflect a quality that I help my clients invite into their lives when they lead and innovate.
That quality is inner peace.
As JD lives on in my heart and soul (and dreams!), I continue to experience the power of his unconditional love -- in the face of what could be seen as an unspeakable loss. His love fuels my desire and capacity to give more inner peace to the clients I serve and to readers like you.