“The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”
And so Rumi and I sat together early this morning, the day of my thirty-second anniversary. Rumi is a famed thirteenth century Sufi mystic and poet. He and I often start the day together, he with his wisdom and abandon, me with wonder and confusion. I try to abandon myself, freeing the ego to wonder at his poetry, his passion, his views. They say he left his family to wander in his country, writing and relying on the kindness and generosity of strangers for sustenance. I wonder how this could be true and marvel, knowing my capacity to create would never extend to this level of adventure or is that discomfort? It was fairly uncomfortable when the poetry first started coming and never stopped for days that bled into months and years. Although sometimes it felt that way, wandering in the wilderness feeling homeless yet still having a roof over my head.
I don’t have much trouble believing the five short lines of this poem. “I started looking for you when I heard my first love story.” “Who are you?” I wondered, teenage pining even at the piano, pretending you were just outside the door listening to me play a Beethoven sonata. I languished for you when I was sixteen, finding out on what should have been a very happy birthday, yet turning sad because I learned my love was cheating with a friend during second lunch. Even as he and I still shared first lunch and whispered sweet things together. What sort of merging of souls leads to such lies, I wondered, as I drove my gold ford falcon away from that crazy life and tried to start another. I saved yearning then for a long time, playing it safe the way young Southern girls do with a fellow that rarely challenged my heart but rather let me park mine in his until a time more convenient was found for moving on and falling in again.
It took a while. The lobby of our apartment, a brownstone between Broadway and Amsterdam on 92nd Street in New York City. I really wasn’t paying any attention when I handed him the keys and heard him ask if I was having trouble unlocking the door. I should have said, “Which one? This door to my apartment or the door to my heart.” But I never did and soon it was decided.
When he opened the door, he turned and walked away without an introduction or see you later sweetie pie. It was a strange interaction for a Southern girl to have anywhere so I told my roommate, “A cute guy lives upstairs, he helped today when I couldn’t unlock these dead bolts. Yeah, he’s cute but really rude. He never even told me his name.”
One year later we married. We knew that we had always been “in each other since our first love story” because that night he told his friends he had met the girl he was going to marry. “What’s her name?” they asked him and all he could tell them was he didn’t know. He had forgotten to ask. Details and information never stopping the merging.
Rumi compares love to the sunrise ruby. “When the ruby becomes the sunrise, it’s transparency changes to a daily discipline. Being a lover is close to being a worker.” I believe this as much as I believe the other. The merging being easier than the daily discipline. As real life comes and goes it has the habit of trying to steal the merging, to take away the love, doesn’t it? It takes hard work and discipline to stay connected to turn the merger back into two separate individuals that not only love each other but can tolerate their differences.
When I met my love, I was a vegetarian. He craved steak. He loved hockey and I had never heard of it. I wanted at least two dogs and a cat and he thought like my father (of course) that animals belonged outside. He was conservative and I was liberal. I was the pusher, always on go. And he sorted for stop. We fought over many things that first year. Even still he is yin and I am yang. If he is pushing, I’m pulling. If he retreats, I advance. We’ve labored in this dance for thirty two years and although it hasn’t been easy, it’s been fun and rarely boring. But work it is, everyday too.
I don’t believe we could ask Rumi. Legend tells that he left his wife and family and spent many years studying and writing in Damascus. Many of his poems are about his devotion to a male friend, Shams. And rumor has it that Rumi’s son had Shams killed out of jealousy, whether angered by his father’s passion for Shams or fear of his loss of authority is unclear. So while we can look to Rumi for beautiful, lyrical lines on love, we better look else where for example. Usually that leads us back inside our own hearts for guidance. Seeking through quiet meditation answers that elude us.
I like the metaphor of the sunrise ruby. Red hard stone bleeding smooth turning over into light. Orange white rays pulling upwards to fall down, reflecting back and over and again, to light the forming of that bright hard stone once more, a mature red ruby emerging. A precious stone igniting the day, shedding light on what needs changing and what must stay forever, etched in our hearts.