I don’t know what to do. The man I love may not be the person I should be with. I love him, but he doesn’t, can’t, give me what I need. We’re caught in an awful cycle because we love each other and keep thinking something, some day, will make us work. So we break up only to get back together, to keep having the same fight, the same argument, the same misunderstandings. He says he’ll change but I don’t know if him changing would be enough. It’s like, I talk to him and try to get him to hear what I’m saying, but the words don’t land.
We used to know each other so well but now, I feel like we’re strangers. He loves me but he hardly knows who I am in this present moment. I’ve grown a lot these past few years. There are all these new parts of my self, goals, dreams, and just, personality traits that he doesn’t understand or want to hear about.
At the end of each day, we’re both exhausted from trying to make this work, to get each other to understand or agree to something, anything. I’m less angry and more devastated. The most painful part is I feel far away from the person who used to be my best friend. At night, lying beside him, I feel lonely. Occasionally, we’ll have a fun, calm, happy day, but it’s usually because I try to behave like the person I used to be when we first met. So, even on those “happy” days, I go to sleep lonely.
He loves me. I love him. I don’t know why we’re in this cycle or what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know if I should leave him. I don’t know if I should give this more time. I feel completely in the dark. I have read and read your previous letters to others, countless times. Each letter, each reading, gives me so much. Thank you for the love you give us so freely. I can hardly believe you exist — how is it you know me so well? I needed to write you because I know your words may be the key to the lock lodged in my soul.
When I was 21, I fell in love with a boy whom I dubbed Little Star. I met him in a handicapped children's orphanage in Thailand, Baan Fuen Faa, where I volunteered during my summers in college.
Every day, for two months, I’d arrive at 7am and leave at 6pm. I was assigned to the infant and toddler ward, where most of the children had polio or cerebral palsy. For the forty kids, there were four of us, all women. I learned to change cloth diapers, and feed, bathe, and soothe children in rapid assembly. We women worked and loved as efficiently as we could. The children’s eyes would follow us, beseeching, Are you my mother?
Due to an unidentified genetic disorder, Little Star had been born with all four limbs fused in place, his arms and legs bent in permanent right angles. He had invented his own way of moving by shimmying like a starfish over the cold, hard cement floors, polished smooth by time. He boasted a tiny, incredibly defined six-pack because of his starfish shimmy. He was the length of an average two-year-old, although the nurses said he had been living in the orphanage for four years and had arrived as a baby. Because of his unique make up, the doctors could not tell his exact age. Neither could they predict how long he would live. He was an absolutely singular child. All children are unique and special. Little Star was stunningly so.
While all the orphanage nurses and aids where extremely loving, patient, trained, and committed, the sheer ratio of children to caring adults made it impossible for every child to receive his or her basic ration of human connection. We volunteers, as well as the groups of frequent visitors who came to give the children donated toys, books, clothing, and most importantly, conversation and hugs, supplemented with what we could. Still, it was not, it will never be, enough. Therefore, the orphans had adapted to their lack of contact and attention by being exceptionally well behaved and self-soothing.
In this population of preternaturally mature children, Little Star was the politest and quietest of them all. Because of his appearance, he received less visitors than the other kids. He made most people uncomfortable. Yet, nearly all day long, he smiled. He smiled in hopes of drawing others close. He smiled because his was a resilience that could not be blunted by scarcity. Because of his bright, merry smile, his shape, and his shimmy, I called him Little Star.
From the lack of proper communication, contact, and teaching, he spoke only four phrases. “Sawasdee khup”, which means hello. “Naam”, which means water. “A haan”, food. “Khup khun khup”, thank you.
Not only had the muscles in his arms and legs atrophied, but so had his voice. Life had whittled his speech to four phrases. Occasionally, he would cease smiling. While the other kids would sometimes cry when hungry, thirsty, tired, or lonely, all he ever made was a whimper. A soft whimper was the farthest expression of his rightful loneliness.
At 21, enough things had happened for me to know that without authentic connection, we wither. Life grows dark. We slowly but invariably shrink in all ways humanly possible. I had already committed myself to finding ways to be a voice for those without one. Meeting and fall in love with Little Star was the wax stamp sealing my vow.
My darling friend, it is ferociously vital that we be able to cultivate, nourish, expand, and voice our full selves. It is crucial that we receive deep connection with others. It is necessary as well to foster a dialogue with one’s inner voice. It is through the combined authentic, loving connection with others and with oneself that we truly grow and thrive. It both circumvents and alleviates the darkness.
We have a primordial need to find a loving voice in the dark. This need develops before we are even born: our original voice in the dark is our biological mother. Regardless the various ways our narratives differ, we all begin as a bundle of blooming cells in a woman’s womb. Long before intellect, reason, and full physical formation are actualized, in our mother’s womb, we know her nearness. Her heartbeat is our sacred song, the recollection of sound before any other sound, taste, sensation, or temperature. When we move, she feels us. When we turn, she knows. We breathe when she breathes. Eat when she eats. She quenches our thirst. She is our first voice in the dark.
From this memory and bond of closeness, we travel the planet in search of other loving voices in the dark. “Soulmates”, we call them. Family, friends, strangers, beloveds with whom we feel safe, heard, held, comforted, and understood. Why else do we read or write but for the same reason we seek and fall in love? We find our soulmates through sharing our stories and having our stories be received lovingly, on the page, and most importantly, in person.
Thank you deeply for your gorgeous, glowing words. I am so moved by your heart, how it radiates through each syllable. I feel your longing to care for this man and the relationship that has been so meaningful. I know neither he nor you have done anything malicious. What has happened is the most innocent shift — you have grown. You have evolved in a way that he cannot understand. He can no longer read your full self.
Consequently, you are feeling lonely. Unknown. Fatigued. Dearest, you are living with someone who although loves you, cannot hear you or respond in the dark. Full self, story, truth, and inner child are synonymous. And we either own or orphan our truth. It is thus devastating when someone else or worse, we ourselves, are unable to embrace our complete truth. We feel pain when our story is misunderstood, silenced, rejected, attacked, or rendered invisible, be it by our own or from another’s will, intentionally or unintentionally. It will feel as though our spirit is atrophying.
When a loved one cannot embrace our truth, we are tempted to prioritize the security of that relationship over our own authentic evolution. We thus hide. We pretend to be a previous or false version of ourselves. But in doing so, the pain does not fade — it festers. You may be able to dodge immediate strife, but you’ll be brewing a deeper, more dangerous chaos within yourself and the relationship. For there is no pain greater than living as a false self. The love you give others will carry shadow. You will be denying yourself, others, and the world your true abundance, depth of emotion, gifts, service, and purpose.
Not only is it necessary to voice our truth but it is also vital that we ensure its safety by sharing it with those who are able, willing, and ready to listen. The hard reality is not everyone is able to hear and accept, let alone support and nourish, one’s full self. For we all mature and grow at different paces. It is extremely fortunate when we encounter and grow with those whose evolution, in both pace and details, is compatible with ours. Friction arises from, quite plainly, missing each other. We stop traveling at a compatible pace. We stop speaking the same language. We stop being able to connect and nourish each other the ways we hope and need.
A loving voice in the dark. The darkness does not fall only at night. Darkness grows in any space that feels devoid of true connection. A period of time in a day, the gaping, widening rift between two people or within a family. The vacuum sucks and silences our spirit. I know the synergy you speak of, vast silences punctuated with sudden explosions. The difference between talking at and communicating can make and break us. Sometimes, in trying to love each other, we try too harshly, love too tightly. But the kindest, most authentic way is to love with an open hand. To allow and support each other to grow and even take flight according to our true expansion.
Often, the greatest insight comes from tuning into the patterns in our life. Ask yourself if hiding your truth is something you do not only with him but in a larger sense. Ask yourself if hiding was modeled or encouraged in you as a child. Loyalty and compromise are crucial for the health, success, and sustainability of any relationship. But take care you do not compromise yourself to the point of disappearance. Careful that in your loyalty to another person, you do not betray yourself.
The Buddha says, You can always recognize ocean water by its taste. The ocean always tastes like salt.
My love, you can always recognize enlightenment, awareness, by its taste. Enlightenment always tastes like freedom.
Dearest, while I can be an invisible friend to sit beside you in the inky stillness of night, I cannot speak for your soul — only you can. Only you know what you need to do in terms of your distant beloved. I promise you are wiser, more resilient, and more capable than you may think. Become very still. Imagine your truth, your inner voice, that pure little child, as a firefly floating towards you. Let it land. Hold close and cultivate this dialogue with yourself so you can commune clearly and strongly. Then, you will know. My words may be a key, but you make the turn, you are the shift. Open and set free your soul. Freedom will look like what you and only you need.
Little Star passed away a few years ago. The reasons for his death are unclear yet easily hypothesized. At the time of his passing, he was 7, 8, or 11. We will never truly know.
Dear lonely love, precious life is paradoxically too short and too long to live undernourished and unexpressed. You and I are astonishingly fortunate — we are the authors of our lives. You may not know your exact next step in this moment, but when you do identify it, you have the extraordinary, rare fortune of being able to fulfill it. So many cannot. Actualize your true expansion in honor of them and yourself. Transform your trials into depth. Let newfound wisdom inform your offering to the world.
People like myself are here to harmonize with your song. But you are your central, ultimate loving voice. If for nothing else, this experience will have shown you this. Therefore, like with all the experiences you will have in the course of life, this moment in time, which may not feel happy presently, can be in hindsight a valuable love-story. Sometimes, being distanced from another means you are walking, or can now walk, closer to your own, beautiful self.
It is either our silence or our truth that speaks for us.
I love you,