I listen, and have listened, not just to what is wrong in your lives— where you hurt, get stuck, struggle, where old wounds won’t heal and you can’t seem to turn a corner— and I dig in where the shame is and we pour some sunlight in there. But I also hear what you want, what is missing. We look in the places that feel empty or lonely or unsatisfied, and sometimes those are inextricably interwoven with the wounds. We confront the ghoul who lurks in the alleys of your scary dreams, the Muse of Nightmares I like to call self blame, her voice scraped hollow by wind, who whispers I let it happen, I made it happen, it was me.
I have listened to 200 hundred stories in this past year alone, of what you seek in a relationship and what you want to do better, and what you miss. Some of you are single and missing it, some of you are attached and missing it. And if you’re single or attached and feeling fulfilled and safe well that is a blessing and if I helped you get there I couldn’t be more pleased. Sometimes it is the simple pleasure of warm arms, of waking up beside your beloved, or eating toast together. For some it is conversation that rolls the world around, tossing it back and forth like a beach ball, until after a great game it all makes a little more sense. For some it’s a playmate, or a rock to steady them.
But what is fascinating I think we can all agree, is the intangible in romantic love. We can lay it all down on paper, and we do because we are in the online dating age. We create a profile for the App, or the Matchmaker, and we spreadsheet our values and our lifestyle preferences and ideal body type, attraction profile and deal breakers and then our wish list. We let ourselves moon over how nice it was that he loomed a foot taller and made us feel like a delicate thing who could be carried over a threshold or how soft her skin felt and the way the lace slip peeked out when she crossed her legs, and we conjure. A little bit of Rita in the sun, a little bit of Rico all night long. But then we get those matches who are magically our list, our matchmaker is doing the happy dance, but we just don’t feel it and we struggle to say why not. We chalk it up to chemistry, pheromones, past lives. We rewrite our deal breakers. And then when it happens, when we fall in love or find love, we can’t quite pin it to our list, now can we? There are things that don’t add up, but something more important does. Because our heart decides, and our little brain (oh I am kidding here, I know you all have big juicy brains and that is why we hang) tries to understand, to distill the essence and document the formula, how cute, for what is the heart’s domain, until eventually it just defers. Surrenders to not being needed for a while and let’s the happy juice prevail.
Well today is a big day for us friends, because I have discovered the secret ingredient to the alchemy of love, that all the listing and data analytics can’t account for. Sprinkle in a little of this sparkle dust and it’s brought to life. Metal to gold, must love dogs to diamonds.
You see, I have been chilling in a small town for a few weeks recently, as my wee mum has undergone some health crises and during this time I have been reading for half hour or so a day. Reading is the thing you are doing now. I used to do it, once upon a time, in a land far far away, until the triage list exceeded the number of rooms available in my daily life, and then I put it on a waiting list, sort of like getting in to see a specialist in Canada (she says with love and respect and appreciation for her beloved country but seriously). And then because I actually practice my own preaching I prescribed myself this book read as an antidote to heavy serious things and especially to demarcate SUMMER from the impending season of FALL which on account of pandemics and related global crises, is in danger of blurring into the groundhog day of sameness. And that is because we are all lacking levity right now, so that what we experience as sameness is truly a weight we can’t shake off. Well a fantastic antidote for the weight of the world it turns out is young adult fiction. And I think we have stumbled on the recipe for Harry Potter level success and that is —reconnecting us to a feeling of magic, to a way out of the heaviness, always important but I am going to venture more important than ever right now. And probably why with the increasing pressure we put on the young against painful odds ever “in their favour” (sounds like a chime in on the economics of greed and the American dream) they would rather read, game, netflix or snapchat to lightness than play in the garden or wash the dishes.
I have fallen in love. With. This. Book. It does what all stories want to do. It takes the world, distills it to its essence and offers you the missing ingredient. And this is my favourite part, this is where it happened. Page 379. I don’t even have to look that up, I made a point to remember. Go back to this, Erin, I whispered to myself. Read it and re read it. This is what we ALL want, this is what turns the toast sharing into warmth and comfort. This is what paints the honey on the moon. Our author of Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor, calls it “Witchlight”.
The way he looks at her, our antiheroine, with enchantment. Fascination. It’s not about being heard or seen in an emotional sense, validated, supported —that is what you do with your Witchlight. That is how you take care of it, guard it; that is the teachable learnable stuff that I do with you. But the light itself, spins the gold. It’s an enchantment that enlightens. We see ‘God’ in one another. We don’t seek it, emptily, in a philosophical emotional order-from-chaos existential sense. That is not my argument. Rather, we see it. The divine self. We see past the Muse of Nightmares, the voice of shame, to the holiness. We are given a passage into complete empathy. We know his struggles and we want to reach into them and wrap around him like ether, like a loving ghost and lift him up. We want her to see her beauty through our eyes, captivating the mundane. We enter into our beloved’s darkest chamber and lighten it. We fill their rooms with wonder, because we feel wonder for them. We make them the heroes and heroines of the story.
And that is why so much is written on twin flames and soul mates and blah blah how embarrassing for humanity blah blah. Not because we are all sappy and saccharine and drugged up on Harlequin looking for dopamine spikes and oxytocin highs to escape our existential angst. Because we are after this bit. We don’t get it with just anyone. And when we find it it’s game changing. It will make us vulnerable and it will ask us to weave our gift, our magical ingredient with nurturing and care, into gold. To confront our nightmares. To find courage. To pay homage to the heart’s domain with less scrutiny and more celebration.
I know right now you are worried about me. All isolated in a small town claiming to have found alchemy in a book for teenagers about magical kingdoms and angry gods (please scan this musing for encrypted messages from my locked attic and send rescue, or wine and chocolate will do). JK.
I am not trying to tell you that romantic love is the only way to spiritual wholeness. You can’t see in another what isn’t inside yourself. But if someone else leads you to that place, or even follows you there, well it takes two to tango, two to believe, and two to move toward wholeness, because plus one is an addition, it is the direction away from isolation. We want the one who will bring us closer to the light within.
What begets the enchantment, the fascination that evokes profound tenderness? Why Aragon and not Frodo? Why elfin princess chick played by Liv Tyler and not that stately queen woman with the cheek bones (my pop culture references are weakening in Smallville)?
Well I’m going to venture that there are things we are seeking to understand or learn, ways in which we are completing ourselves that our ‘other’ embodies, or holds the secrets to, simultaneously as we do for them. As I once heard a favourite author say, the metaphor is most impactful when it is raw, when it is seeking to understand rather than to teach. Romantic love, that enchanting she-witch is the raw metaphor in which we seek to express and explore ourselves, and expand, to know ourselves without limitation.
There is a lot more I can say about when and how it goes wrong, when the enchantment is entangled with the part of us that needs to be rescued, or when and why the Witchlight is broken, or when it seems to slip out of our hands like a rope worn to sheen. But today I want to bask in the enigma. The beauty of it. Float in the warm lake of it. Soak up its glow and call it summer.
I have felt it. And I would fight for it again, that expression of magic and wonder. To explore all of the secret rooms of someone who fascinates you, to let yourself feel “ineffable tenderness and solemnity”.
With that, I now provide a SPOILER ALERT and share with you some lovely prose from this ever so lovely love story. From page 379. Yes that one. My new favourite number.
“…he had been entrusted with something infinitely precious… the moment his center of gravity shifted: from being one of one—a pillar alone, apart—to being half of something that would fall if either side were cut away…(she) tucked into his shoulder, her forehead resting against his jaw—told him. And when she finished telling and was tense in the circle of his arms, she waited to see what he would say…watched his sleeping face for any flicker of expression that might betray disgust. There were none. ‘I think you’re a fairy tale…I think you are magical brave and exquisite…And I hope you’ll let me be in your story’”.
Somebody that I used to know once said he didn’t want to feel lukewarm in a relationship. He wanted “oh fuck ya”.
So if you’re not busy the rest of the day, let me bewitch you. Let’s fall in love with falling in love, let’s be enchanted with one another and re-enchant the world around us, and want nothing more profoundly than to be each other’s heroes.
We are healed in many ways. There are golden threads lying everywhere, leading us home. But I am sure of this; When we are healed, we are not healed alone.
Thanks for letting me be in your story.
— Love, Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.