Mama Always Said…

My mother was one helluva woman. I wish each and every one of you could have met her, I really do. Because once you met her, you never forgot her.

One way or another ; )

When I was growing up, she was struggling with cancer (the cancer that ultimately got her…but she only let it take her on her terms…and it took 40 years), she was running her own advertising business, and she was raising me alone.

She did all this, by the way, with only one functional arm.


So she was too busy with the serious matters of life to give me advice about boys, explain the birds and the bees, muse about falling in love. Stuff like that I had to learn about on my own as I went along.

I know what you’re thinking.  This explains a LOT.

Anyway, Mum always had fine taste and liked a well-appointed home. She enjoyed moving us around a lot; buying houses and redecorating them and then, when she got bored (and was healthy enough) selling them. I suppose this was her modicum of control in a world in which she had so little over her own body.

Often times, all of our furnishings would also be sold off, as they would not fit in with whatever new style she was applying to the new house.

But she had this once piece of art…a sculpture…that she always kept. And no matter where we lived, that statue’s place was the same, on her bedside table.

It was called “The Kiss” (not Rodin’s version) and it depicted a man, standing vertically, kissing  a woman swept off her feet, so that she was horizontal to him. They were only joined by the embrace of their arms, and their lips.

I’m probably not doing it justice with my description, but I’ve searched for a Google image of it and I am at a loss to find it, so you’ll have to use your imaginations.

One day when she was recovering from a round of chemo, I was hanging out with her watching a movie on her bed and I asked her about that sculpture. I was just starting to notice boys and I was curious…was this what it felt like when you fell in love?

She said it was.

I asked if she had ever felt like that when a man kissed her.

She said she had.

I, as yet un-kissed, got goosebumps and pressed her for more.

She was a lady and did not divulge (until she was dying…then I got the whole story…but that, my friends, is a post for another day).

It was at that moment she passed on to me her one and only bit of wisdom where the heart is concerned:

When you meet “the one” you will just know. You will know it with the same certainty that you know you have a nose on your face. There will be no doubt. No question.

And so began my own wait for the moment when I would “just know”.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that we have a single soul-mate; one person who completes us, one and one alone who we are meant to be with. My mother did, but I do not.

What I believe is that people come into our lives (as well as leave them) for a purpose far, far grander than “happily ever after”. They come and they go to teach us things; bring us what we need so that we may grow and evolve and one day perhaps complete ourselves.

Sometimes those gifts nurture us and feed us and we blossom into someone far more glorious for having known them. Other times we are refined as by fire, and at the time we just feel devastated and charred, but gradually we come to realize that in fact the chaff of us was all that was burned away, and now we are stronger.

There was one time in my life that I was kissed and felt as though I was the woman in the sculpture. It was the first time the man who was to become my 2nd husband kissed me.  I thought that meant I had found “the one”. I thought I “knew”.

And maybe I had…maybe he was. Then.  As I said, I don’t believe love is like Highlander – there can, in fact, be more than one over the course of a lifetime.

But here is what I do know: even if you “just know”, we are all still only human. Imperfect, fragile, free moral agents who are all works in progress, dealing with our own issues and walking our own unique paths. Even if you do find “the one”, you or they, or some external factor, or a combination of things, can screw it up and make it end.

I know this because, floaty kiss or no floaty kiss, hubby #2 and I are no longer together. He is somewhere married to another woman, happy and content. I am here living my life, also happy and content.

Truth be told, that feeling of levitation when someone kisses you is probably more about lust than it is about love. Sorry artists, musicians, poets… don’t mean to be a buzz kill, but I suspect a lot of pretty, exciting, breathtaking things are misinterpreted as love when they really have to do with regions a lot lower down than the heart.

Point is, I believe that, just like everything else in life, true love is a process. As we as individuals grow and change, so does what we look for in a mate. So does what we can offer as a mate. I think “just knowing” starts with self-knowing.

Love is not finite. Love is the beginning of the journey…the journey itself…and the destination.

At 46, that’s what the statue represents to me. Not some fairytale-esque magic kiss but rather the feeling that love, this love that you’ve found, is not possession or restriction or rules or dependency; it is the ultimate freedom.

One of the last things my mother said to me before she left this earth was, “It’s up to you now, to carry the torch”.

I knew what she meant…it’s difficult to quantify in a blog post, but it has to do with the light of the strength and spirit passed down from  woman to  woman in our lineage. To keep her alive by passing on her stories, just as she passed on to me the stories of those that came before her. To take generations of wisdom given by our family’s mothers to their daughters; which she made her own, and in turn to make it my own.

I think Mum was right. I think when we meet someone who is right for us, there is a deep, instinctual part of our hind brain that really does spark. Some je ne sais quoi that draws us to them like a magnet. But as much as I enjoy a good kiss, to me there is far more to the story.

All of that being said, what, then, does it mean to me to “just know”? I will hold that torch up proudly and tell you…

…For me it is this

Walking in the door, looking him in the eyes and feeling like I had known him forever. But still feeling my heart pound with the anticipation of meeting him for the very first time.

The absolute gut knowledge that I can be 100% who I am with him no matter what, quirks and all.

Feeling inherent trust. Which is a big deal because I am not what one would refer to as a trusting individual. Especially of things with penises.

Taking my profile off after 4 days of emails and texts because that thing in my cavewoman brain was sparking before I even laid eyes on him.

Knowing that I could give this man what is left of my poor, trembling, bruised heart…now more scar tissue than muscle…and he would cup it in his hands as though it were treasure, and make it all pink and new again.

The fact that I, who no longer sleeps, slumber like a baby safe and secure and impervious to anything bad, when I lay next to him. And when he curls up around me and I hear his breathing change as he drifts off, I know with absolute certainty the meaning of peace.

Being with him is as easy, comfortable and rejuvenating as being alone. And, if able to choose, in any given moment I would rather be with him than without him.

The kind of man he is inspires me to strive to be the best woman I can be.

His neck smells like home…

There isn’t one single thing about him I wish were any different than it is today. There are no “buts” (he’s a nice guy, but…I really like him, but…I could see a future together, but….none of that). I like everything that makes him, him.  Just as he is.

Saying goodbye to him, if it had a sound, would be that of pulling Velcro apart.

When I see him, heck, when I so much as think about him, I smile. The kind that starts by curling the lips and ends by lighting up the eyes.

His presence in my life has reminded me that I can feel, that I can hope, that life really is worth living, that the universe may take stuff away but it also gives us some pretty amazing things too and that I can, in fact, still love.

That I would, without a moment’s hesitation, take on the weight of the world if it meant taking if off of him. I would stand in the midst of the fire hand in hand with him. And I would, by sheer force of will, make it go out.

Because he isn’t merely the nose on my face (to use my mother’s analogy), he is my phone booth; when he came into my life I was but an ordinary woman. Now, because of him, I feel as though I have superpowers. I feel free.

I feel like I can fly.

Just like that woman in the statue….

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ecdale
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 19:06:07

    Don’t know if first post showed up,,,,,Please tell me you have this sculpture now,,,,,,

  2. Sandra H (@skhen)
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 19:22:52

    Wow! Such a powerful, personal story of your inspiring mother and also inspiring you! Thanks for telling this so important tale.

  3. thezeitgeistofzoe
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 19:26:13

    @ecdale: i do have it. sad to say, but despite four years passing, i have yet to sum up the courage to go through her boxes of things. it is in one of them, in my attic. one day soon, though, it will reside on my bedside table : )

    @sken: thank you : ) trying to get into the habit of writing more…

  4. Anita Lim
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 10:48:25

    Such a beautiful post & thanks for sharing this personal story 🙂
    I completely agree with what you say about ‘knowing’. I think I realised that my first husband wasn’t the one, but tried my best & finally realised he just wasn’t the right person for me. I got married again nearly 2 years ago & knew he was & is the one 🙂

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