I embarked on a strange and startling experiment.
Dating someone while endeavoring to keep my heart open.
I believe that the only reason to have a relationship in the first place is to practice intimacy and that there are few people in the world who are capable of doing this sort of practice. Because Reality is a dragon and that dragon requires a steady grown-up heart to be tame enough to approach. Hearts these days are shining in each of us, and yet, most seem blind to it, busy as we are in the worship of all things but the one thing that truly matters.
Despite fearing the dragon-heart of what is, living with my heart in hiding leaves me unfulfilled, so I decide to move toward it at whatever pace feels right. Take it easy, no hurry.
So I go for it. I reached out to the person to whom I thought I might be able to open my heart. I know there are no promises. I know that I may be setting myself up for great disappointment. I know that love is a slow revelation.
But I am so tired of being half-hearted. I am so tired of pretending. I want to leap into life with the wild unfettered courage of a leaf on the wind.
He says to me, “You know don’t know me.”
I know what matters, goddamnit. When he speaks, I feel the dragon of my heart smile.
After months of back and forth, he tells me he might visit. Then I say that since I’m going away on retreat, he won’t be able to visit after all and he buys me a ticket to see him right away before I go.
He says “I mean too much to you.”
I think, That is precisely the point.
I made some painful discoveries. Being open to having my heart open means everything is more delicate. It means it is more difficult to jump into my calloused routines of ego. It means the mistakes are all the more obvious and disappointing. It means every moment is a step into the dark.
For it is only by giving my heart permission to open that I discover how terrified I am how much I love everyone. It is only in the invitation to open my heart that I feel the tremors and quaking at the prospect of being known.
If someone is going to get close, the kind of close that I long for, we’re going to have to slow down the tracks until they break down in stillness. Slow down movement. Slow down time until it relaxes, exhausted. Slow. it. down. Human hearts are timid and approach requires the silence of a hunter’s steps.
I got off the plane in his city, a few states away. Flattered and overeager, I’m sauntering through the airport hallways in my own romance novel. Excited to meet at last after so long, ten years. We’d sent art to each other in my twenties & his thirties and now finally, we are both single. I thought, since wholeheartedly into this, I will be free to jump into exuberant open-hearted sex. For this time, I am ready. I want to. I really want to this time. I’m in.
We sit on his couch and his face approaches me closer and closer. His features blur in my eyes. My heart opens like a vast ocean, shimmering. Then I’m disoriented. Time is spinning, tugged in both directions. It spins backward and I see the failures of past relationships, I see the pain we inflicted on each other. I see what can’t be undone. I see how those too may have started just like this, tenderly, with such hope and sincerity. I see the near child-like excitement mirrored in his eyes and in both of us, the longing for something unattainable. It’s too big a gift, I think, a heart. I can’t accept it. It’s too tender. I might squish, drop, or try to control it. And we know the end of that. A mess.
My body halts and refuses to be moved, despite my repeated internal urges to kiss him.
“What’s going on?” he says.
“I’m glad we didn’t date ten years ago.” I stutter and say no more.
I write these lines as a reminder to give myself the five-minute-long hug I wish I had asked for at that moment.
I write these lines to slow down the breathing of all readers, so we each may all return home to our own stillness.
I write these lines so that our shyest parts tip-toe out of hiding knowing they are not alone.
I write these lines so fear may unfurl its tightly spooled body and rest in the blessed spaces between us.