You know those pistachios that just won't open? The ones that no matter how much you pick, pull, or gnaw, the damn thing will just not give? And how the stupid things even pinch your fingers in your futile attempts to pull back their shell? Those frustrating stubborn pistachios that give no fucks?
Well, I've been that pistachio for, I'd say... the past three years.
Yep. That's not easy to admit but, alas, it's true. I'm not sure I could pin-point exactly when or why I decided to retreat inside myself as if I were a bomb shelter, but it is safe to say that I have been in this small self-protective space for a while now. Maybe it was post-cancer trauma. Maybe it was a slew of significant relationship disappointments. Maybe I was just tired to playing the damn game. Who knows the reasons I came to the conclusions I did. All I know is that I have spent these past few years pretty emotionally unavailable.
And I never actually thought "emotionally unavailable" was a real thing. I thought that it was just an excuse, just another name for "not that into you." But I can attest for myself that I have met and involved myself with some amazing people who, on one plane, I desired to have in my life, but on another, couldn't bear to actually include. They made large gestures, grand attempts, deep professions of their love... and I don't know what else to say except I wasn't there. I liked them. But I was empty-handed. I had nothing. Except my incessant apologies for not being where they wanted me to be.
Those who got close to me only got as far as an arm's length. And when they tried to push beyond that distance, I'd push back and turn away. "The quick reverse," as I've come to call it. Their attempts to be closer to me felt violating. Like they were trying to trespass on my personal space; threatening my freedom and my sense of self. I knew it wasn't the long-term answer, but when the perceived threat occurred, all I knew was I had to go.
For whatever reason, I have been telling myself this story that I need to be alone in order to live the life I want: I need to be alone to be whole. I need to be alone to be independent. I need to be alone to be healthy. I need to be alone to heal or grow spiritually. I need to be single until I figure my shit out. I need to be single until I get my shit together. Essentially, I need to be single until I am worthy of being loved.
But it eventually got to the point where I was no longer choosing to be alone for some percieved higher purpose. I was choosing to be alone because that was all I knew how to do. That was all that felt comfortable. I didn't know how to be with another. At least, not for long. Not long enough to actually let them see me. Not long before I would retreat, close or shut down. And it seemed it evolved to the point that I couldn't do it even if I tried. That was the scariest part to me: that something that used to be a means to control was now out of my control. It had now become a conditioned response that I was afraid I would never outgrow.
One of my intentions for my time here in Greece was to do some unwinding regarding this pattern, as I really had nothing else to do with myself but take an honest look at it. I did lots of yoga, read Eat Pray Love for the second time (don't hate), and found myself writing in my journal my second week here:
When did I become so generally uninterested in prospective lovers? Actually, when did the idea of being with someone start to repel me? It's like the act of someone showing interest in me turns me off. And then I push them away even if I was mutually intrigued by them before they reciprocated. What is wrong with me?
Rewind back to my first night in Skala Eressos, when I sat near the shore of the Aegean Sea, infused a shot of ouzo with my intentions for my time in Greece and poured them into the sea, and you'll find a woman who told the universe that she wanted to be completely ripped open. She no longer wanted to protect herself. She wanted to feel fucking human again. She just left her whole life, her possessions, her friends, family and career. She had nothing else to lose but herself. And she was ready to lose that too. And she wanted to get lost. She wanted to lose herself in an all-consuming love, to let herself become completely captivated by another, after years of letting herself hardly be impressed.
To which the universe probably responded, had I not been too dense and self-absorbed at the time to hear:
Yeah, I know, dumb ass. He picked you up at the airport. But you already kicked him out this afternoon. ... Sigh. I will fix this though. I'll have to be soft, and subtle, so you hardly know what is happening. We may have to take some unforeseen detours, and I'll probably have to blindfold you until we get there so you don't freak the fuck out again, and I may sedate you with booze for a few weeks to take the edge off, but I will bring you back to Love. ... But try to stay put next time, will ya? You deserve to feel loved. Like really, really profoundly loved. And I'm sure you are noticing that all these plane tickets are getting expensive. I've made this guy the real deal. And you are making my job redundant and hard.
I came to Greece to find what I truly loved. And it turns out that kind of pilgrimage begins with a complete immersion into the things you don't. Things that only feel a bit lukewarm. Things that even deplete your vitality and sense of worth. It was a winding road, one that I never expected, one where I had no idea where I was going until I arrived. And when I finally arrived, I found myself standing on familiar ground. I found myself in the same place I always return to. No matter how far I stray. No matter how lost I get. The place that calls me home no matter where I am in the world:
Sitting across from Kishore having dinner.
He told me he loved me. With the same fixed stance he has had since knowing me only three days in Goa.
"Sometimes I wish you treated me like shit," I said, "I know that is stupid but I feel it would be easier to draw closer to you. Your love for me is so intense, all-consuming and real. It scares me."
"What are you so scared of?"
"I'm afraid I'll lose my sense of identity."
"Tell me. What is this identity you think you possess?"
My inability to answer him revealed the blatant futility of my previous statement.
I grasped desperately at something else:
"I don't know. I know it's fucked up. I think I just need some more time alone to explore this pattern more and heal it."
"It is just the mind, Jessica. And you know that. You cannot outgrow the mind. You can only drop it."
His words continued to echo in my head that evening as I walked home. Then, out of nowhere, they rang at such a magnitude it brought me to a stand still. I couldn't move. I couldn't keep walking this path. I didn't want to be inside a closed stubborn pistachio heart anymore. I didn't want to feel safe anymore. I wanted to feel wild, ripped open and exposed.
I walked to the ocean. The same spot I did on my first evening in Eressos. I walked right into the shore, and as the cool water ran over my feet, I spoke:
"I am ready now."
It beckoned me forward. And I kept walking into its vastness until I was fully immersed.
It turns out I was wanting to be alone because living in the space of love is the most joyful and excruciating thing ever. It is a beautiful thing, yet scary as hell, to be walking around with your heart constantly wide fucking open. With your insides falling out. Expanding so wide that everything around you becomes a part of you. Feeling it so deeply you are suddenly crying all the time. You cry for the Syrians. You cry for the stray cats with no ears. You cry when the goats run to you. You cry for the glowing gypsy children that you just want to hug and hold and give abundant lives. I think the most excruciating part is the striving it requires to continue believing that someone can love you that intensely, that unconditionally, that wholeheartedly, when it is so much easier to run back into a shell that requires less exposure, less honesty, less presence, less life.
But this time, I realized, I have no shell to return to.
I've been irreparably broken open.
Tonight, I am forcing myself to have a minute and a glass of wine to myself. I'm the happiest I can remember. I am so in love it hurts. Like the way your face gets sore from smiling too much. And as I sit here, gazing into the sea, pondering how I could ever use words to describe to someone how relentlessly blue this water truly is, I realize I am sitting in a miracle.
It's a miracle because, although I have spent the past five days with Kishore, I still want him next to me right now. It is a miracle because, before this moment, before this person, I always craved my aloneness over the company of the beloved.
It's a miracle because his presence doesn't feel threatening to my space. It's a miracle because I found someone who feels complete in his aloneness, admires my solitude, and loves and respects the space between us as much as he does me.
My art degree taught me that the beauty of two objects is found in the space between them. It's what makes it a balanced composition. It's what makes it art. I feel so lucky to have finally found someone who truly gets this. Someone who honors my inner space. Someone who understands that our togetherness is not about us, but rather how we take up space in relation to each other and toward a higher consciousness.
Skala Eressos was exactly the place I needed to be. It had exactly the path I needed to walk. I am amazed how loving and transformative it has been for me in just a little over two months. When I first got here everyone I met gave me a sermon on how special this place is. How its unique energy pulls them back year after year after year.
They are now preaching to the choir.
All my gratitude to this place. The beauty of it. The freedom of it. To every person, animal and thing that lit up a sense of love in my heart to prepare me to receive the greatest love I've ever known: Thank you.