In Zen/Buddhism there is a concept of taking refuge in the Self, that throughout chaos and impermanence there is a part of our interior world that is timeless and at peace – a quality that we can find deep within ourselves if we meditate deeply enough.
Today at our 58-month anniversary I found myself thinking of this concept when I think about my partner. That my life has been full of changes, upheavals, anxiety and insecurity, but I could somewhat find myself resting in her presence, like a refuge. It has been that way right from the start, even when we were just hanging out as friends. It was as though I entered a bubble, away from the world. My typically busy mind seems to slow down when I am spending time with her.
I met her at a very chaotic and distressing time of my life, at a time when I had nothing left in me or with me. I showed her my terrible hand of cards at the very beginning and she chose to keep on holding my hand anyway. We now joke that she was too deluded by the romance to think clearly, but I know my situation wasn’t something most people would have been comfortable with.
I am a very light sleeper, and I tend to be unable to fall asleep when there is someone else in the same room. The first night we spent together I fell asleep like a baby in her arms. These surprising events kept happening throughout our relationship, as I kept finding previously unknown pieces of myself emerging as I relate to her. I was initially very uncomfortable with the playful side of her (because I am a grinch), but as the years go by I started being playful myself.
All the parts of me I lost a long long time ago, they started to emerge in the safety of her presence.
I have made controversial choices all my life so I am used to feeling unsupported. It is difficult to understand my choices in the context of mainstream society. When we had met it wasn’t clear which direction my life was going to take yet, and as I navigated further and further away from the mainstream she supported me through them all. I think I would have made the same decisions anyway without her, but she made them a lot easier.
When I wanted to try doing delivery jobs she tried them with me. When I started intermittent fasting she ate at the same times with me. Because I have chronic insomnia I have to sleep before 10pm she changed her sleeping patterns to fit mine. She gradually understood the sensitivity of my health and witnessed the toll it has taken on me. No one can tell whether a person is living with an invisible illness except the person who has to live with them. It is not easy to be with someone who has a chronic illness but she dynamically adjusts to the ebb and flow.
We have our fair share of fights but we have learnt to communicate better together. We have both changed so much as individuals in the past almost five years, and a lot of it is due to the space we give each other in the relationship to become and emerge. Since we are both quite volatile in some ways we have no idea if the person we love today is the same person we would love tomorrow. Somehow we managed to endure the volatility till now.
I don’t take all of these for granted, and that’s why it still means so much to me to be able to write these monthly posts, whether on here or Instagram. The opportunity to reflect each month indicates another month survived.
It can be difficult to understand the meaning of a refuge or a home, to be able to rest fully in an intangible quality that is almost spiritual. But because I am able to experience it in another person I now see the possibility of finding it within myself.
I can’t express the gratitude towards my partner enough. This is the first time in my life I’m experiencing a prolonged period of relative stability and safety, first time in my life I feel like I really have a cheerleader, a person who really knows who I am warts and all, not just a projection of who they think I should be.
It is not easy to live life out of the mainstream and to find a partner who thrives on that. We are like co-hermits, contented in our small life with not much of an ambition or special desires except the freedom to creative in the ways we want to. I feel tremendously lucky to find someone who sees the beauty in the small.
Thank you, for not letting go of my grinchy hand for the past fifty eight months, and for letting me experience what it means to have a refuge.