I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
Over the weekend my husband and I celebrated the first anniversary of our marriage. (Remember, we went to Hawaii, and it was magical! Someday I might work up the nerve to post some of our gorgeous beach wedding photos…right now I’m still too shy.) We are still very happy together.
And I think I found my new favorite quote about love recently, when I was reading Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. This is also my favorite line from that book, which is saying something, since that book has tons of great and famous passages.
“Love…consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”
I’ve always been a very independent, introverted, private, and solitary person; growing up, I could never imagine myself being in a committed romantic relationship because of this. My family had so much enmeshment and codependence going on that I couldn’t fathom wanting to be that intimate with someone by choice. (Not to mention the fact that everyone I knew participated in the hyper-intimacy that inhabits the same world as over-sharing-filled prayer meetings, reading personal messages into every Bible verse, and fiery sermons about problems with our inner spiritual lives.)
But in my early adulthood I began to learn that non-codependent relationships existed and that being intimate with someone does not have to mean giving up your individuality. In fact, successful, healthy intimacy in committed relationships cannot exist unless each person is a healthy individual, too. But I still hadn’t experienced a great example of this in my own life yet.
Then I met my now-husband. His robust sense of self coupled with his respect for my personal boundaries gave me the freedom to be myself with him. Before I knew it, I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life! This little poem I wrote then (originally posted here) expressed both how I felt when I was with him and how I was reconciling independence with intimacy:
Hiking up life’s mountain alone,
I’m panting, frowning at my feet.
But when you come climb beside me,
my aches and fears vanish; I breathe
in sunlight, pure air, your laughter,
every moment. I know it’s true
that I could make it up alone,
but I’d much rather climb with you.
Love, for me, is not being consumed into another person—that is something else that quite terrifies me. On the contrary, love is a partnership where each person is totally free to be his or her fullest self, as Rilke’s quote implies.
But there’s still another reason I love this quote. One self-soothing technique I’ve developed is to visualize myself in a beautiful, made-up place that is entirely my own and that no one else can enter—a tower, a castle, a temple, a Narnia-like kingdom, or, most often, a cottage in the middle of an enchanted forest. So continuing my imagery with the help of this quote, my husband has his own figurative world that is right beside mine. We never threaten or invade the other’s private domain, but we communicate with, protect, and help each other. His heart is my heart’s neighbor.
And I love that.