For a woman

To the co-owner of the vision, whoever you are,

The other day, I was watching a video in which a celebrity couple discussed their marriage. Their openness and approach to their partnership inspired me. I found myself nodding my head in vigorous and immediate agreement at everything that was being said, with one exception. At one point, this celebrity fellow, who is one of my favorites by the way, stated that he could only excel for a woman.

So this mega-successful actor, who achieved fame and success before marriage I might add, thinks that he can only excel for a woman? Psshh.

My initial thoughts were dominated by ego.

Sir, I disagree with vehemence. I don’t need a woman to excel. I can live my best life and achieve my best self on my own. Let me inform you, Mr. Celebrity Guy, that I am independent and awesome solo and in my singleness I am experiencing much self-discovery and self-improvement, thank you very much.

I paused the video and took a walk. After I calmed myself and thought about it some — down, ego, down — I realized that he was right. I could nitpick at the word “only”, but in general I agree: I’m not sure if he was referring specifically to a woman in a romantic context, but at least for me, improvement and excellence and all the requisite effort tend to come easier when I am in a long-term, committed, and healthy partnership with a woman.

I’m not sure exactly why this is. I’d guess a combination of upbringing and evolutionary psychology. Maybe Ariana is right and god is a woman. In any case, I feel empowered by the primal simplicity of the pursuit of her. I submit as evidence the fact that even now, when I am currently single, the vision alone is motivating. The thought of falling in love, making a lifetime commitment, and building a life with a like-minded partner excites and compels me. The picture of our love behooves me to get better at loving and at being human.

Even though I am not religious anymore — I identify as an open, spiritual, though allergic-to-dogma skeptic — there are still certain parts of The Good Book I carry close to my heart. One such part talks about writing the vision down and making it clear. The vision inspires action. And it won’t delay. Habakkuk 2:2-3 for those interested.  Though my interpretation and my context are surely nowhere close to the writer’s intent — my exegetical skills have always been less than stellar — this set of verses help remind me of the importance of committing thought and dream to written word.

In this spirit, I’d like to share the vision. Here goes.

The foundation of the vision is love.  By love I mean more of the unconditional kind rather than the feelings based kind. While this feelings based love — eros for all the Greco-Christian enthusiasts out there — is pleasurable and important in its own right, it possesses a proclivity for ebbing and flowing. On the contrary, this unconditional love is steadfast, consistent, and radical in its concern for the other.

In my vision, we etch the following mantra into our hearts:

I love you without condition.

I accept you as you are.

I seek to make you feel understood.

I help you grow and experience joy, even when it is not enjoyable for me to do so.

I will never forsake you.

Our love will extend beyond us. It has to. MLK Jr. said that love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all.  We will pursue what is true and right and just, and will work to ease the suffering in our community and in the world.

A quick note on lack of condition. I believe there is a difference between unconditional love and unconditional relationship. The former lacks potential for disqualification. With the latter, there are certain deal breakers that would justify separation. I’d include violence and arson and anything else that would qualify as fodder for those creepy but alluring crime biopics that are popular on streaming video these days.

Next is a vision-wish-list that is, I think, reasonable and short and not shallow at all, really. First, we are both whole by ourselves and do not need to be needed. Second, there is demonstrated evidence of basic to intermediate communication and conflict-resolution skills, or at least a desire to improve. The rest in no particular order: we are friends and like each other. Wine and cooking nights are a thing. We lift weights and attempt to maintain fitness together. Video games and ping-pong and adventure are all on the table. We have fun in bed.

There are some missing bits. I do not know if we will reside in a house or a condo, or what our family will look like. I do not know how many dogs we will adopt, if cats will be involved, or how big the animal sanctuary will be. We are having a sanctuary, right? And will we be owner-operators or more financial partners that outsource the work? I am also not confident regarding the nature of our honeymoon — we could have more than one — and whether we will need to move north or somewhere else remote in response to climate change and the rise of artificial intelligence. I haven’t even begun to think of wedding details.

I do know that there will be seasons in our lives marked with suffering and loss that will require of us mercy and grace and compassion and hope. Our love will be tested and we will be grounded down and forced to reevaluate and reconfigure as we rebuild. We will not get what we want much of the time. Despair and pain and hopelessness are distinct possibilities. Personal growth may deem it best to be physically separate at times, together at others. Through it all, our union maintained.

Pema Chödrön, an enlightened Buddhist monk and teacher, asks: Since death is certain and the time of death uncertain, what is the most important thing? My best answer is love, of course. And compassion and kindness. Presence too — mindfulness is important. All good answers, though I’d like to call out joy for special mention.

Joy is powerful. It supersedes whatever else may fill a moment — sadness, pain, longing, bitterness, envy — which means it does not merely mask, it supplants. It is the antidote to that bittersweet feeling I sometimes experience, where I miss what and who is in my present because I know it will not last. Joy is a song of peaceful acceptance.

My vision is one where our lives are so filled with joy that we walk in confidence towards the abyss. The manner in which we love will be a great shout of rebellion that echoes into the void — one that reaches all the way to its depths.

At the end of the vision, I hope that you will be satisfied and at peace and proud with the world that we have woven. For me, I will be content since I loved my family and you with ferocity and proficiency and without discrimination. My life and legacy complete. While the good I have done may be explained through a confluence of factors and happy accidents, there will be no doubt at the end of it all that truly, I excelled for a woman. If I am ever asked to give an accounting, you will be the heart of my reason why.