by Eren Cervantes-Altamirano
It seems impossible to be separated before we even find each other…
Julio Cortázar in Manuscript Found in a Pocket.
Sometimes I sit in my living room to write, and I deviate from thought to thought trying to make sense of a story that seems to be set in the wrong time and place… a story that is somehow anachronic. But I guess that is the nature of most relationships… the key seems to be in those stories where the characters decide to make things work (whatever that is set to mean) or to walk away…
Our beginning was not what one would typically call the “right” prologue to a love story. At the time I found myself in the greyest city and the gloomiest time. I was angry… angry at God. It seemed that God had decided to both free me and punish me in one of those random acts of mercy that throw life off its rails.
I cannot speak for him, only about what I perceive, what I think about when I replay our encounters. In my head I idealize our meetings. I came to see them as a blessing in the sky… a sky that for me had gotten dark way too early. In between amazing chemistry, thoughtful conversations and incredibly reflective exchanges, we came together in not much of an ideal situation.
I was always very aware of the risks. My life was up in the air, just as his had begun to crumble. But his presence felt like a shot of endorphins. My “rational-self” knew this was a dangerous situation, that we were not “ready,” that it was risky to get vulnerable, and that I did not necessarily had it in me to make it work. But somehow we still went ahead, perhaps blinded by the initial rhapsody of emotions.
Perhaps it was God’s plan all along…God always has plans for us even when we cannot pin point the path or the purpose.
I cannot lie, I was skeptical. Things were comfortable because we were in a long-distance relationship. We saw each other every-so-often and had an amazing time. We bonded emotionally and even spiritually. Yet, I had my reservations. I guess that is what happens when one experiences total and sudden loss.
Thus, I resisted the “relationship status,” the “girlfriend” label and the “planning for the future,” things that he brought up all on his own. Until one day, I decided that I had to let go of my fears and my own insecurities. I decided I had to be able to trust another human being with the most sensitive parts of my vulnerability.
I took the risk, even when I knew that he was not, what one would call, “ready” and that perhaps me coming forward with all these feelings in my hands would interfere in his own process of putting his life together again. I convinced myself that I could trust him, and that I could help put back all the crumbled pieces together.
And as I showed my vulnerability and let him see through my often very-well-boxed feelings, I saw him step back. As if he could not handle them, or as if he were unsure of whether or not he should take such a path. But that is what relationships are about, is it not? Plain and dark risks and uncertainties.
I travel several times a year to my parents’ home… my “home” I guess. Every time, I feel more and more disconnected from that life. The life where my past fiancée would visit me in that house, where he would take me and my, back then, baby-brother out for lunch or ice cream and where, until this day, all his belongings remain in boxes waiting to be gifted to charity after his passing.
I have tried the whole “moving on” thing. But all that has meant is a memory blur, where I find it hard to remember the core memories of that relationship, or where I feel lost trying to think through what “good relationships” look like. I have had other relationships, and they have all taught me things. But this one defined the core of who I am today. I learned Islam, to some degree, from a partner who self-identified as a Wahhabi Muslim. I learned compromise from a relationship that challenged both of our identities. And, above all, I learned commitment, from an encounter that was hard on both families and social circles.
So overall, after seeing myself in an almost-married context and seeing it all fall apart after a simple but deadly car accident, I can very confidently say that I have figured out what I need and want from relationships going forward.
I want radical love with a partner who is certain that he wants to be with me; who sees me in a different light, more than the very composed person I become in public; who understands that safety is in the simple little daily things; who will be a companion in a journey full of insecurities and fears; and who will be there for me spiritually, emotionally and intellectually even when things seem uncertain.
High expectations? Perhaps unreasonable? Unrealistic?
It comes down to me wanting someone who will take me up on the challenge.
In exchange, I am up to the dare, too. I am open to learning, to difficult situations and to impossible tasks. I am ready to work through the feelings, the thoughts, the fears and the spiritual journey with said partner. And, I am excited to the possibilities of high expectations because radical love sets the stage to equal partners with agency about their paths and journeys independently and together.
Sometimes I lay in bed, awake, sleepless and anxious wondering if I have made myself clear? If I have reached out in the right way to the right person? Or if I am feeling things so intensely that I have scared away the object of my desire?
Occasionally, I see him get quiet. As if he was withholding something. Sometimes I see him get distant and cold, almost as if he was ready to disappear. And days later, he comes back. Cheery. Certain. Willing. Perhaps it is not about him. Maybe it is just the anachronism of this relationship. The wrong time. The wrong place. Thus, I inevitably wonder, can we “make it work”? Should we just walk away when it is still easy and the stakes are not higher?
But the reality of things, in my experience as someone who did this while engaged for a number of years, is that there is never a “right” time. There is always something: an unwilling family, an illness, a mental health issue, a job abroad, a degree to be completed… you name it! There is also never a “right” place. Journeys intersect half-way in the most inconvenient ways, in the most random cities.
So there is only one decision to make… You pray to God for guidance, and you either jump to the opportunity or walk away to the unknown.
About the Author:
Eren Cervantes-Altamirano is aBinnizá-Mexican convert to Islam. She is trying really hard to finish the MA dissertation focusing on policies addressing sexual violence in development programming in the Third World. Eren’s blogIdentity Crisis focuses on her multiple identities and her attempts to reconcile them when they are at odds with each other. She currently also blogs atMuslimah Media Watch and Love InshAllah. When she is not writing, Eren can be found baking, traveling, chilling with her cat, Sugar, and trying to figure out dating, love and relationships. Follow her at @ErenArruna.