Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thank you, Carl

It's funny how you get exactly what you need sometimes.

It's been a rough few weeks for May and I and our relationship. It has been a pressure cooker of emotion, negotiation, confusion, fear, sadness.

In a nutshell, I ended a relationship with a woman that I was really in love with but had no chance of going anywhere as the feeling weren't reciprocal, and we were at very different places in our lives. It was an intense and devastating experience having to walk away from it.

At the same time, things have been progressing rapidly with May's boyfriend, Don, and that has meant a huge amount of discussion and emotional processing for me.

So yesterday I hit a point where I was overwhelmed, sad, and had a distinct feeling of hopelessness that I would get past the quagmire of emotional and other challenges. Would this get easier? Will I get out of it what I need? Do I want this enough that it will sustain me through the hard times? And of course, the perennial favourite to ensure constant lingering doubts, "Will This Keep Working?"

I had arranged to meet a friend, Carl, for bubble tea that afternoon. I met Carl on an online dating forum a few months ago. He is a perfect example of someone who can be a great friend but never a lover; there is absolutely no spark there sexually.

I really didn't want to go. I felt raw, and had a great lot of emotion right on the surface. I don't know Carl extremely well, and I was hesitant to open up.

Carl is polyamorous as well. He is one of the few people that I know that actually labels himself that way. He became polyamorous in a very unplanned way; many years ago he simply found himself in the situation of being in love with two women at once.

For several years Carl had been trying to make it work with the two women. One of them he married, the other he had been working on a relationship with for a long time. Last time we met, a couple of months ago, it looked really unlikely that his secondary relationship would survive. It just seemed like it was being dragged down by some mysterious relationship-killing force. It was obvious it pained him greatly and that he was doing everything he could at the time to figure things out. But it wasn't going well, and it was taking a toll on his primary relationship as well.

So yesterday while we sucked our bubble teas, I told him about what had been going on in my life, and he, his. After all of the challenges that had been going on, and the demise of my brief but intense relationship, I was beaten and bruised. I kind of expected him to be, too, based on where his life was at during our last chat. But the most inspiring conversation ensued.

Just when everything looked basically doomed for Carl's secondary relationship, it made a total reversal. After years of Carl espousing his love for her, and never having it returned, she finally admitted that she was, in fact, in love with Carl. Exactly what Carl needed to hear to continue in the relationship he got, at a time when it seemed most unlikely. And from that, a deeper dialog between them emerged which brought out the issues which had been thwarting their relationship to begin with. Everything began turning around, the issues surfacing and resolving, the pieces falling into place. Thing working, finally.

Carl has faced some incredible challenges in his life. He has a brain disease, which doctors were unable to diagnose and treat properly for years. As it developed, it began destroying his memory and ability to think analytically. He went from doing incredibly well academically in university to completely failing. It took away his ability to do the very things that defined who he was. It destroyed his life.

I knew all of this before yesterday. But I didn't know how he felt about the experience. His disease had taken away his life as his lived it at that point, but he explained that it gave him a new life, one in which he was able to live more as himself, as he is at his core. It set him on a path he never would have experienced otherwise, which included beginning to define himself not by his academic or material accomplishments, but by the quality of his relationships. It changed him in ways that enabled him to pursue a polyamorous life, which he told me would have been impossible before. Given the choice, would he have chosen to have this disease? No. But he also sees the incredible gift he was given from the experience, a gift of a different and richer life.

Our bubble-tea chat reminded me that magic exists in this world. I'm not a religious person but for me the fact that things like this can happen in life reveals a layer of our existence which I can only describe as spiritual. As logical and analytical as I am I can't understand experiences such as these on that level. I can only grasp it as something larger than that.

Never give up, you don't know what may be just around the corner. Thank you, Carl.

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