Without truly feeling the pain, one can’t truly appreciate all the beauty that life has to offer.
Last year, I found myself handcuffed. When I said no, he didn’t listen. Whey I cried, he stared blankly, soulless. My pain was bypassed, my spirit wilted. Somehow, it didn’t matter to someone who was looping in his mind. Round and round. Zigzagged. Without a way out.
Today, I find myself living in a beautiful universe. I live in a beautiful city, in a cozy apartment which I patched together from arts discovered throughout the world. I choose to surround myself with beautiful souls, and every morning, I decide to garment myself with beautiful textiles and clothing. Here’s the funny thing about beauty – or what I’ve acquired, is that – it cannot be appreciated until one has crossed over to the other side. The crossing though, is through feeling every bit of the pain and suffering. The heartache, the excruciating sore which palpitates with every beat of my heart, the lostness lingers with every step I try to put forward; in the streets of Milwaukee, of Chicago, of London, but not of Paris.
Never. Of Paris.
In a city I call my home, a perfect Sunday comprises of taking long walks towards a vintage market, whether it’d be as small as the ten vendor stands that surround a local neighborhood plaza wrapped by cafés embellished with outdoor terraces, or inside a salon filled with rows of luxury thrift goods. A bright Chanel camellia pendant shines just as brightly as an old vintage car from an era which I’m not enough of an expert to recognize. But I decide on a gold chain adorned with a pointed sparkle, it costs 30 euros to make me happy. When I put it on, I feel…beautiful. At the end of the day, I return to my cushy apartment and that is my perfect Sunday in this fantastical city. No words, no grand affairs, just vintage markets and more than 10,000 steps.
For many of us, pain comes in the form of loss. For me, it has always been the loss of love. So much so that I’ve learned to rebound so quickly, fall flat on my face, get back up right away and keep carrying on. In the past, carrying on meant calling an infinite amount of friends who would pick up the phone and I’d cry for days, or thrust myself with alcohol until I had to peel my skin off of the kitchen floor. But this time, as a proper 40-something, I decided to feel the pain. Every prick and stab of the hurt, loss, disappointment and despair. This was what I’ve come to identify as “the crossing,” I wanted to suffer through the pain so I could deeply reflect and grow. The crossing itself was growth, and to endure it was an insanely arduous metamorphosis. Yet without it, I couldn’t have crossed over to the other side. Or, THIS side where I’m now beaming from a simple sip of wine at my favorite bistro around the corner, by the canal where tourists have yet to discover. Let’s not forget, when my heart broke over and over again during the last two decades, I was forced to take a profound look inside the self and examine…
What is wrong with me?
The thing is, there’s always something wrong with us. None of us are perfect. I would like to think that even Mother Teresa could have thought of something imperfect about herself despite that she was the most perfect human being on Earth. But it isn’t about us, is it? It’s about perspectives outside of ourselves and how we can move forward as better individuals.
In this First World modern society that we indulge in, we have options. I often think back to the orphans my family and I met in Cambodia, those children slept in beds made from straws. The image of a little Indian boy we met in Agra couldn’t finish an apple and a bottle of water fast enough, as if someone could’ve snatched them away if he didn’t glut. The memories of these little souls helped me, when I was stuck outside of borders, when my partner decided we were over and shut me out, I hadn’t an inkling of an idea of where to go in the world, during COVID when the world quite literally shut down. I knew, that I was lucky to have options so I chose. Choosing safety, choosing happiness, choosing independence. The march towards peace, which later translated to: joy.
Joy doesn’t involve cuffs.
Beauty lies in simplicity, that I’ve come to learn. But this year, it required a hard road and the loss of love. The battle to stay in the fight, the desire to have someone see me when I was right there. In the flesh, in the present. It all was the extreme contrast to the concept of simple, because it sucked so much out of my spirit. My typically bubbly, luminous, garrulous spirit. The me who wanted a rose-colored world, the me who wanted a man to hear and appreciate all that I had to offer, the me who was too simple for his complicated mind.
So I love now, the life I’m choosing to live, in a beautiful universe, surrounded by all things that make me whole. Without a man by my side, without complications, without cuffs.