Yesterday, I spent the day in bed with a man I love very much.
I was caring for him after his hand surgery to repair a broken thumb. I’ve told him over and over for the last fifteen years that one day his aggressive basketball pick up games would end in disaster. He didn’t listen to me. He didn’t care, he was in love.
Every Wednesday night he meets his passion on a shiny wood floor. And every Wednesday night, he walks off the court, bruised, scraped and sprained. The injuries are insignificant to him, because he knows the freedom in that moment—when he catches the ball, sprints down the court, levitates and launches the ball into the home of the net, his feet meet floor and his whole being is coated in peace. He’s rewarded for the hard work, effort and faith he dedicates to the game. He knows the falls, pains and breaks are a part of the practice, of playing and exposing himself to the elements of the game. He learns something from every game, how to be a better player.
This hopeful, passionate determined man is my ex-husband. He’s part of my work, practice and preparation on the court of life. He prepared me for the dunk of my basketball into the hoop of great love.
Yesterday he recovered in his bed—me on my computer and he, induced in a percocet dream land, serenaded by the basketball game on television. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we talked, we reminisced about our beautiful life, still friends, still loving each other, sharing in the joys of our two precious little girls.
Glazed in the eyes but clear in the heart, he looked at me and said,“If we had remained in our marriage, you would have died. I would have died. We were finished preparing each other. It was time for us to move forward and accept the love we have and the life we created. The thing is, I will love you forever.”
With tears trickling down my cheeks, I could only whisper, “I know, you were my preparation. You helped me answer my questions so I could learn who I am and now I know my truth.”
There are two types of romantic relationships—the ones that prepare you for your one great love, and the other is your one great love. How do you know which is which?
The ones who prepare you, make you question everything, especially yourself.
The great one does not question you and you don’t either.
How do I know?
I’ve met someone who doesn’t question himself, me or us. Why? Because the work has been done. We’re both prepared. We’re settled. We did our falling, bruising and breaking. We have both missed shot after shot but this time, the ball swished through the net, our feet have landed, and we’re both grounded and complete in who we are and what we want of life.
Every relationship leading up to the unquestionable one is our work. It’s our self work, analysis and discovery. Every person stands before us as our mirror. With each relationship comes more understanding, depth, authenticity and honesty.
Each time we have issues in our relationships whether in the beginning or when they end (after we have missed the shot), we’re challenged to look inward and ask:
Where should I have positioned myself when I took the shot?
What do I need to work on to have better aim, a stronger arm and sharper focus?
Once the questions are answered we move to the next question, the next relationship. The purpose in the journey of romance and love is not to find another who will complete us or fill us to full, it’s to discover our selves. The missed shot is never about the ball or the hoop, it is about the player throwing the ball. The more practiced, educated, matured, skilled the player is, the greater the shot, the greater the love.
We fall in love with the ones who prepare us, in hopes we’ll learn to love ourselves in the process. Through the practice of connection, we help each other become the purest form of ourselves. We need others to stand before us, next to us, crash into us, and fall to the ground with us to help us answer our questions: Who am I? What’s my purpose? What do I need to uncover to see myself clearly?
Each relationship bounces us closer to our truth, to our net at the end of the court.
Every relationship will remain in our way, until the question mark begins to float from our hearts to our actions and there’s nothing left to do but answer it. With the answer comes the end.
When relationships end, we tend to beat ourselves up with guilt and doubt. Why didn’t it work? What could I have done differently? Nothing. You did exactly what you were supposed to. Instead, ask the questions:
What have I learned about myself?
How have I grown from this experience?
What will remain with me and what will I let go of?
There’s always work to do, it’s never done. We’re always growing, transforming, shedding our fears and weaknesses. Yet if we devote our hearts to discovering what we’re here to do and we find the answer, we can rest within ourselves knowing we’re our own companion, our own best friend, our own true love.
Once we marry ourselves and another being marries themselves, then the one great love will be revealed. We will stand side by side, not attached or dependent on the other, no jealousy, no doubt, no guilt, no judgment—just being. There’s no question because the questions that matter have been answered.
Relationships come in all forms, from one night trysts to a decade (or five decades) of marriage.
I see marriages very differently than I did before the end of my own. I used to believe, once a person declared his or her love in front of great aunts, uncles and champagne colored chair covers, it was done—the person standing before them is their one great love. Maybe this is true for an extraordinary few who have done their work, but for most, no.
This person is another lesson, another run down the court. Most marriages are a public declaration of a commitment to answering a question above all others. Marriage is founded on hope, hope that all the questions will be answered and each person will be able to maintain their connection to one another throughout an entire lifetime. Out of comfort, most ignore the questions completely. They will not learn the lesson and either end their relationship in hate, asking the same questions again in another relationship, or they’ll live together for fear of what exists outside their words of wonder. There are some who have honored the hard work of self study and have made a commitment to understand, acknowledge and love themselves so deeply they dwell within themselves, nested in the home of their spirit.
Is it tragic that I don’t sit at weddings and join in the oohs and ahs of the white knuckled hope of the bride and groom? Maybe, but if there’s something I was born to intrinsically comprehend, it’s human nature. I understand how unfinished, incomplete and tortured we are.
Our minds are cushioned with the protective aura of hope so we’ll continue to question, to fall in love and try tossing the ball into the hoop—because hope nudges us forward to keep practicing and learning from our ball game. Through the practice we refine, we discern, we hone in on the truth and then we exist in it. We exist in ourselves.
When a relationship fractures or dies, we do the same thing—we break, we think our hearts breaks.
The heart can not break, it is unbreakable. Heartbreak is the awakening of the heart and the rising of the spirit. We begin to feel viscerally, we think we will implode, yet what is happening is the explosion of love.
Keith, my ex-husband may have broken his finger, but it did not break his heart. His passion and love for basketball will never fade. It is his. The break of his thumb only strengthened the love he has for his beloved game and his devotion to becoming the best player he can be. Is he sad? Does he yearn for the squeak of his shoes on the polished floor and the feel of the textured hide under his fingertips? Absolutely, but he relishes in the exhilaration of running down the court even if he misses the shot. He has hope he will step onto the court again, play the greatest game of his life and freedom will slam dunk.
One day, if we’ve been devoted to our self work and endure the bruises, breaks, doubts and guilt, we find ourselves wide open.
The ball is thrown directly into our hands, there’s no defense, we dribble straight to the end of the court, leap in the air, let go of the ball and we know—without question this time—there will be nothing but net.
As the leather caresses the ropes of the hoop, we touch the ground with our feet and right next to us is another who has just landed too. The only thing left to do is reach out, hold hands and begin to walk forward together, scars and all.
We recognize the love that has always been in our hearts, in our blood, in our eyes, in our hands, in our footsteps, in our breath. There’s no falling in love because the falling already happened, this time we land with grace and see the love that has been dwelling in our great one all along, they’re as wide open as we are and ready to receive us.