When I was in my twenties, I strongly identified with Joni Mitchell’s song, Cactus Tree. I had lots of suitors and, although I knew that I had so much love in my heart, looking back, I can see that at the subconscious level, I didn’t know how to be in a healthy relationship. I had not witnessed one in my formative years. I thought that I was a free spirit. Now I can see that I was a lost soul, looking to find happiness though my external experiences, rather than cultivating it within myself and loving from inside out into the world! So, “She will love them when she sees them. They will lose her if they follow.” resonated deeply.
On to centre stage walked Ian Alexander Fergus. We were both in our mid-twenties when we met at Varanasi Airport, India, in October 1994. We became mates quickly — our conversation was combustible — like when I had dinner with Seamus Heaney — combustible! Whilst I did think he was handsome, another man had worked his way into my heart; so, at the time, I saw E as a lovely male friend. Joni goes on to sing, “for she fears that one will ask her for eternity, while she’s so busy being free.” Ian and I wrote letters back and forth between London and a small village in West Africa (where I was serving in the US Peace Corps) for a year. The letters started out friendly and became more and more romantic. We could have never had that same courting in this age of smartphones!
When he came to visit me in Africa, a year after we first met in India, I was ready for him. He was in all white linens (like he wore at our wedding) and looked so sexy that I wanted to devour him! He spent time with me in my village — filmed me with the local people. And then he flew back to London via Egypt and I flew (back to the US) through London via Paris. We spent time together in London and then he came to Ireland with me to meet some of my Irish family. I was falling for him in a real way and because I had lost my confidence in long-distance relationships, I was sad and resigned that what we had was going to be a very beautiful romance without any chance of surviving the impending distance.
He convinced me to throw off all of my practical considerations and take a risk on us — to allow myself to fall for him. I am so glad he did! We had our ups and our downs over those twenty years that we were connected. Together we learned what it took to be in a healthy relationship: accepting the other as s/he is without blaming — relinquishing the desire to be right — being honest in the moment (as much as possible!) about the feelings arising within ourselves — taking responsibility. We found that ‘sweet spot’ E!
When he fell ill, he told me, “Magz, I cannot do the work anymore. If you’re not prepared to take it, you need to get out of the way.” I loved him completely and wanted to be his full time carer and, as I had just stepped down from my ‘big job,’ I could be. It was difficult to be in his line of fire often — both for me and for those who witnessed it. Many approached me after his departure and told me that they thought that it was amazing how I would not respond when he laid into me. I was devoted to him and accepted that he needed an outlet for his anger and I did not let it penetrate. He was sick and terrified.
I will always be so grateful to E for all that he taught me; the good, the bad and the ugly! Since his departure, over 5 1/2 years ago, I have been honest with the three men who I have allowed to come close to my heart. None of them have been ready to offer me what I need, so I have had to let them go. Funny, all three of those men, like me, need the freedom to spend a lot of time alone. Ian struggled with that part of me for a while and then he learned to love his ‘me time’ too.
Yesterday, I was feeling so lonely; missing E; missing being married. Today, Joni brought me back to that part of myself who loves my freedom. I am no longer a lost soul. I have learned so much from all my interactions. I am now that free spirit and am determined to enjoy it! Sure enough, in time, another man, to whom I feel deeply attracted, will come in and convince me to take a risk on love. When that happens is the Universe’s business, not mine. In the meantime, I have decided to enjoy my freedom as much as possible! Thanks Joni, for completely shifting my mood this morning!