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I was watching Stranger Things the other night, witnessing the bond of love between Junior high schoolers Mike and 11, and was feeling skeptical that kids that young could feel such real romantic love when suddenly I remembered my soulmate.  I mean my real soulmate:  my totally-perfect, meant-to-be, no-doubt-about-it soulmate.  I was eight, and it was only for a couple hours but I just knew.  And I still know.  I have never had a connection like that since.  

I met my soulmate Chris on a Maine vacation island. He had shaggy blond hair and was a year older than me.  Our two families were staying on a webwork of little islands all connected by bridges to a central island where the dining hall was.  His family was on an island on one side of the center and my family on an island on the opposite side.  I don’t remember how we met, most likely it was at the communal dining hall, but our families became friends.  One day they all went off to do a hike or other activity together and somehow Chris and I stayed behind in my family’s cabin, lying down side-by-side on the lower bunk of a set of bunk beds.  We were fully clothed.  We did not kiss.  It was beautifully romantic but in an utterly chaste and innocent way.  We lay there, arms touching, staring at the underside of the upper bunk as we discussed the meaning of life according to us as we knew it.  We agreed. We were in sync. We watched the dust motes twinkle in a ray of sunshine and wondered if there was other life out there in the universe.  We discussed and compared our families, but as much as I remember the solemness of it, our hearts were light. The whole thing felt truly magical as if we were insulated in a haze of love and mutual admiration.  It was most definitely a soul connection as well as a meeting of the minds. I had never talked to anyone like that before, not even with my girlfriends back home.  

But all too soon our parents came barging in the door freaked out and angry, and we were not allowed to see each other again for the rest of the vacation.  If only they had known how cruel that was.  Cruel to our tender hearts, our tender spirits.  I’m sure they were imagining something sexual or at least inappropriate but the truth was it was the most appropriate moment of my life. 

Since then I have had a knack for choosing rescue jobs, not soulmates. I struggle with being a massive codependent. Sometimes I confuse love with pity.  I have dated and even married the following:  a soldier in a war zone, countless drug addicts, sex addicts, alcoholics, or child-men who suffered from abusive mothers growing up, and even on-the-verge-of-homeless men.  Of course, they all (well maybe not one) had good qualities too but mostly I am embarrassed and frustrated with myself for keep on making the same mistakes.  I have one friend who wistfully said I do this because I am “a healer”.   Well, maybe, but really I am a caretaker who doesn’t feel she deserves better.  I had my soulmate experience and was punished, shamed for it, and told it was wrong.  What’s left for me to deserve?

There’s nothing necessarily bad about a man with a damaged past but the key is what are they doing now to take care of themselves and heal it.  Or what am I doing in reaction to their unhealed state?

I am not proud of it but I planned, prepared, and packed my ex-husband’s lunch for work every day in a brown paper bag.  I think I even wrote his name on the outside.  Or, in the evenings, I made sure to drop everything I was doing and wait by the door to greet my man with a drink when they came home from work, asking how their day was and listening passively, like an idiot sponge, to them complain.  I served one boyfriend homemade meals - breakfast, lunch, dinner - at his computer while he spent over 12 hours of his Saturday in the online virtual world Second Life. (Come to think of it, these all involve food.  Was food one way my family showed love?) It was a fun game at first, playing house imitating what I witnessed in my family growing up but inevitably I became drained and resentful, and very very depressed.  And maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the guys had given back in some way, throwing me a nurturing bone now and then, but no, not enough. I do have to say though, their common denominator was me.  I only had myself to blame so you could say I was emotionally ill-equipped too. 

But now I am ready to change.  Finally, mid-life, it is time.  I gotta believe there is another Chris out there for me and that I deserve him.  And it’s not like I’ve never done therapy before.  I prefer to think of myself as a fairly introspective person, but it’s just so crazy how I can be blind to certain things.  So here is what I am doing these days:

I got a brash, wild, borderline unprofessional therapist who stands up for me and fights for me when I need it.  I joined the 12 step program of Adult Children Of Alcoholics which is targeted for anyone who grew up in any kind of dysfunctional family, and where we focus more on learning to gently reparent ourselves rather than just heaping blame on our birth parents.  Also, I am reading books by codependency gurus Pia Melody and Melody Beattie.  It’s scary how on point they describe “me” and how much I see myself in their books.  It can be wonderfully affirming.  Or totally depressing.  It’s discouraging if I only read about my characteristics or symptoms and not about the solutions.  Because if I really think about it my co-dependency is probably more detrimental to my life than my chronic/recurring depression.  The depression may keep me glued to the couch but the codependency causes me to make some really bad choices.  The above-mentioned boyfriends and my behavior with them for example.  However!  If I read the daily reflection from Melody Beattie’s The Language Of Letting Go I get totally inspired and given good instruction on how to approach my day and my life.   

With all of this, I am improving some.  A little bit and slowly.   I’m not going to date for a while because I assume that whoever I’m attracted to will have some major red flags hidden (or not hidden!) somewhere.  I don’t quite trust myself to know how to pick a good one yet.  Or how to fully set my own boundaries either.  I’m holding out because I refuse to settle.  I’ve unequivocally decided that my next soulmate will be supportive.  He will admire me, cherish me, pay attention to me, cheer me on, and help me out when I need it.  Of course, I will do all that for him, but what I won’t do is serve him meals while he plays on the computer all day.  It will be a reciprocal relationship.  Because isn’t that what the “mate” in soulmate should mean?  We’ll see how I do……

And one last thing.  When I think of Chris, or my future Chris, I think of this Brene Brown quote:

“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment.”


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