What’s Love Got to Do With (it)?

I really want to write about love. This post comes after the longest hiatus between posts in the history of this blog, and somehow I got into my crazy head I was going to write about love, but somehow it’s been more challenging than expected. Go figure.

It’s not from lack of experience or motivation, but I guess lack of direction. I kept having false starts, then realizing that a blog post is not a journal entry, and really…what exactly was I trying to say?

I want to write about how love hurts but how it also heals. I want to write about how sometimes when I’m involved with matters of the heart I feel like I’m operating without a learner’s permit, but other times I feel I’ve already earned my doctorate in all things hopeful and heartbreak as well as the line that’s sometimes fine between the two. Kind of like “been there, done that” in the worst possible way.

Although this post isn’t exactly the one intended, it’s the one I’m capable of writing right now. Today. Today I’m writing not exactly about love, but if you believe—as I do—that love is a part of everything, then I’m absolutely writing about love. Love has everything to do with it.

Today was one of those days that’s precious because I worked through a wide range of emotions. I started with feeling both tired and grateful for the four nights I spent sleeping with my bedroom doors open to a two thousand year old cobbled alley just off the port, at the tip of the island. The sea breezes were great, but the street noise that goes until dawn was not so great, making that landing spot both a blessing and a curse.

The fact that I got to stay in an apartment in a fantastic location for 40 Euros/night more than made up for any and all downsides, and it was thrilling simply to sleep in a town that existed several hundred years B.C. The old town section of Eivissa Town is downright magical.

Joy and love are the predominant emotions running wild, and people feel really free here to just be who they are. Judgment (of self and others) seems neither invited nor tolerated here. There’s inevitable heartbreak too, and the irrefutable signs of post-party depression, but for the most part love is the winner around here.

There’s going to have to be another post about how there’s so much more to Ibiza than clubbing, but for now a few photos of the magic that is old town where abandoned buildings mingle with carefree people (of all ages) doing whatever blows their hair back. Where overloaded clotheslines dangle a few feet from some of the world’s priciest yachts. Anything and everything goes here.

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The biggest downside of the airbnb apartment that I stayed at was that it was only available until today, the 9th of September, and my flight to Rome isn’t until the 16th. Astrid, my incredible hostess who felt like an angel on earth, said, “Problem? No problem.”

When I landed at Astrid’s place last Friday I was slightly in tatters, which she could tell from my somewhat frenzied booking, but within moments we were chit chatting and she invited me to join her and a friend for a night on the town. I considered going, but when I saw the stilettos come out I said, “It’s going to be a stretch for me to even get out of my leggings, so I think I’ll just wander around the neighborhood a bit and make it an early night.”

Astrid got it. She got me. She understood my need to be independent after seven weeks living with and waiting on others. She totally got it. She really got it, and man did we laugh when we both got home around 3:00am.

I had wrestled myself out of my leggings (granted just to get into a skirt made of the same material as leggings) and I wore a non-jogging bra, some jewelry and cute—albeit non-stiletto— shoes not dusted with sand or encrusted with dirt. I walked out the door and up the alley, the one in the fourth picture with the girls on the balcony, and although every spot looked appealing I felt I needed to walk a bit more before I settled on a place for what I knew would be an extraordinary evening of people watching.

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I would’ve walked further, but as I was passing by the cutest, sweetest man stopped me (it’s his job) and asked me to have a drink. Granted, it was a good spot—just on the edge of the really busy section, but not quite in it—that would only be enhanced by this adorable man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Pitbull, the rapper, who also happens to be one of my all-time faves.

Within minutes Mario and I were giggling together and teasing each other in that bizarre way that forces me think, “Who were we to each other in our past lives?” Sometimes we encounter people and it feels likes axes are grinding from injuries incurred several millennia ago, and other times it’s different, even with faces we’ve never seen before, our souls say, “Oh there you are! I’ve been looking for you.”

That’s how it was with Mario. I sat there through his entire shift, and at the end he walked me home with a promise to bring me coffee in the morning and make us a picnic for the beach. “Sure,” I said without expectation, because in this land of pleasure and fun, things don’t always go as planned, which is, of course, part of the fun. You can’t have expectations and you have to embrace the unexpected, those doors swinging, as doors, do in both directions.

I woke up the next morning for a jog, and realized partway through that I didn’t have my phone’s cellular feature turned on, so I did that and saw that I’d missed a call from Mario. I called him back (huffing up a hill) and it turned out he was having coffee just a couple of blocks away. He’d already bought the picnic stuff, and because it was already lunchtime we had a coffee and then he made me a sandwich right there on the street. {delish}

He sent me home to hustle into a bathing suit while he patiently waited while I tore through my hastily packed suitcase for the few bits I needed. We weaved our way through the streets to the beach, where we set up our camp like we’d done it a million times before, but the part that nailed me in the gut was when we got in the water together and played like two kids. We played, splashed and wrestled exactly the way I play in the water with my first love, a man I’m lucky enough to have on my team as a friend until the end.

Huh.

For three nights I’ve sat at least part of the night while Mario works and confused some people who think I might be on the payroll. I’ve met some amazing people sitting there, most of them gay men, many of them crushing on adorable Mario, so it was natural that conversations swayed to everyone’s favorite topic: boys.

Keith and Steve are an adorable couple, married eleven years, which, then tell me in gay marriage years is at least fifty. They’re awesome and honest. They told me their coming out stories, some family stories and told me I’m not nearly as saccharine as they find most Americans to be. I responded with an enthusiastic, “thanks!!!!” that nearly made them recall their assessment. Keith told me that the first time he went to America it was to New York and he was scared that everyone was going to be too eager to wish him a “have a great day” and “thank for stopping by!” for his liking, but he rode the subway in NYC and was delighted to find some really grumpy people.

Despite our shared love for boys, Keith told me he thinks a tragedy that women are still fighting for equality with men because that’s like shooting for the bottom rung when you know you deserve to be swinging from the rafters. “You’re superior in every way, my dear,” he told me, but he also said that it’s important for us first-class creatures to give the downmarket blokes a few breaks. “Embrace a few flaws,” Keith advised, “Flaws are a good thing.

I thought about it all night.

It made me think of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, which makes it more beautiful than it would be had it never been broken. “As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” (Wikipedia)

Here’s a beautiful example from Lakeside Pottery in Connecticut, my home state, and a pinterest link to dozens of examples, some professional some amateur.

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Leonard Cohen says it best, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I feel like I’ve already forced enough metaphors in this post, but I’m telling you, this old town is full of cracks.

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Mario sounds (and looks) Spanish, but he’s Romanian and his real name is Marius. His English is great, though not perfect, but we communicate fairly well considering, and share the common language of belly laughing. Since the beginning Mario and I have been trying to figure out why we met, beyond the fact that he’s reminded me a few times of the obvious, that I’m forty and haven’t had a baby yet, and (I simply cannot believe this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this in the past year) that he’d “like to mix genes with me.”

So anyway. Mario is a web designer and club promoter, but he’d also like to write a book about his life. “Really?” I said, “Tell me more. Tell me everything.”

Mario wasn’t blessed in the parents department, and this fact shocked me enough that I asked ask him again, just to be sure I’d heard him right the first time, “You left home when you were nine? To live on the streets with your eleven year old brother?” It’s true. His parents were alcoholics and physically abusive. Mario’s father punched him in the nose so hard that he still has a bit of nerve damage in his head, neck, and shoulder. He’s planning to have surgery soon because he doesn’t need the constant physical pain to remind him of the emotional pain he escaped, though we both know that healing fully from what he’s been through, he’s giving it his best shot. Despite it all he believes in his core something he told me the first night I met him: everything is possible. not anything. EVERYTHING.

Mario is deep and insightful, but, despite his rough start to life, he’s something else: he’s HAPPY. He’s an absolute pleasure to be around, and in the beginning I fought it—fought getting to know him, spending time with him, risking a heartbreak—because I’m leaving, but Astrid the airbnb angel gave me a few pieces of advice that she repeated until she was satisfied they were sinking in:

Get out of your head.
Follow your heart.
Don’t worry so much.
Let things unfold naturally.
Have fun.
Enjoy.

She had to repeat “get out of your head” quite a few times. Thank god for Astrid. Thank god for Mario. Thank god for this summer and everything I’m learning about myself, the world, and my place in it.

Astrid was right—finding another place wasn’t a problem—and I moved today into the lovely home of her friend Fabienne. The house is in an area of town I was unfamiliar with, and I literally got in a taxi, handed over and address and hoped. I knew Astrid wouldn’t lead me astray (see above), but still… {sigh}

The house is amazing. It’s spare and simple, Zen and clean. My room is basic, but perfect. It has an armoire and a writing desk (WRITING DESK!), but even more exciting is that it contains two other things I haven’t had in two months: a fan and blinds. Darkness and cool. At one time. Amen. OMG I’m absolutely dying with excitement over this.

It also has a clean floor, abundant outlets, a nightstand, and more than one source of light that doesn’t include a headlamp. The house has a well-stocked kitchen, a great bathroom with killer water pressure, and an outdoor area with several gorgeous lounging places. Let’s just say that all things considered it’s a good thing I’ve already booked that ticket to Rome…

Fabienne is French, but lived in Bali for years and she’s a jewelry designer. Let’s just say that girlfriend has it going on.

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I moved this morning, and then met Mario at the beach, as planned, which is very close to my new place. I found the stairs that allow a bypass of the serpentine streets, and within a couple of blocks I was nearly in front of the hotel I stayed at back in the beginning of May, my first time to Ibiza, before I went as a guest to the yoga retreat where I’d spend the last week of my thirties. Of course I didn’t know then and could never have predicted that I’d be spending my forty-first summer working at the same yoga retreat, and that after that was finished I’d be—woah—back where I started.

I mean, we never go back exactly where we started and I feel a world away from the woman I was in May, but I find it curious that the last place I’m staying this time is basically the first place I stayed and it happened unintentionally. That’s the kicker. We can plan for things to be a certain way, and we can hope to revisit something with a new perspective, but when the opportunity just happens it’s a whole new league of awesome.

Today was our third beach day together, and Mario consistently shows up with a bag of sandwich fixins, bottles of water, and the outstanding offer to get me an ice cream whenever I want one, so I left the beach well-watered and full, but in the mood for a late afternoon coffee. When Mario and I parted ways so he could head back toward work I told him that it was unlikely I’d be posting up in my usual spot tonight—I have a writing desk!—but that I’d look forward to seeing him tomorrow.
And I am. This sweet man with a tough exterior makes me smile, laugh and check my assumptions at the door.

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He likes my silly faces too. He’s gotten to where he’ll say something just to see if my face reacts the way he thinks it will, and when it does he throws his head back and laughs. Which leads to another “face” on me.

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It’s also a testament to Mario’s awesome character and resilience that because his suitcase was stolen almost immediately after he arrived on the island last month (from his current permanent post in Barcelona), he bought most of the clothes he’s been wearing from second hand shops in town. He even got those designer glasses (that make him look even more like Pitbull) from a second hand shop for one euro.

On my way back to my new landing pad I decided to stop for coffee at this little bar (that I visited twice because I couldn’t not go back) and which I said on Facebook back in May, “I’ve not been to Cuba, but the feel of this little bar, where I just had one of the best cafe con leches I’ve ever had, is what I imagine it would feel like.”

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I walked the street, observing all the things I saw four months ago with a very different perspective. I walked further than I had before, and wondered, “Was it really this far? All the way around that bend?” I checked my memory. It was on the water side of the street, it was east of both minisupers, but where was it? Eventually I realized I had to turn around, and then I saw the thing that made my previously sailing heart sink: SE ALQUILA. For rent.

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Yes, there’s a rainbow in the reflection, making the whole thing even more bittersweet, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the old man at the end of the bar and the woman who’d made my amazing coffees. Where were they? What happens to old men at the end of the bar when the bar closes?

Maybe it’s okay. Maybe they retired. I was glad the place wasn’t for sale, because my family has a building in New York where my grandfather worked behind the bar until he was into his seventies, and it’s not necessarily a sad thing when a business is passed on to be managed by a new family, but still my heart ached to peek inside and see only the espresso machine and a few bar stools in the place.

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To steal Joan Didion’s sentiment, I don’t think I’ve stayed too long at the fair, but it’s always shocking to stay long enough enough in a place—especially when it’s a relatively short time—to miss something that used to be. The exact line from Didion, in her essay “Goodbye to All That,” is “I… began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.”

Of course it’s possible; everything is possible. We can only hope to nail it (and by it I mean life) by leaving any of the proverbial fairs in that luscious, elusive grey area of “perfect timing.” The thing is, if we’re thinking positively and in the right direction, is that even when we blow it we’re still nailing it. Everything is perfect timing. And if a man who was a boy on the streets in Bucharest believes that everything is possible then you can to.

{good luck to us all. this isn’t easy.}

At the end I think this post is about love, perhaps even more so than the post I originally intended which is saved and bookmarked for some later time. It’s about love of a place, and the loss that is inevitable when a place has razor-sharp teeth into your heart.

It’s also about being open to love in all its forms, and to doing some things that are necessary, to me anyway, in order to be happy: trust, accept, and my new favorite: to embrace a few flaws. What it really comes down to is choice. Everything is a choice. We can love or we can hide. We can camouflage our imperfections or we can flaunt them proudly, inviting others to do the same.

Glennon Doyle Melton, one of my new favorite heros, says this:

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Love is just something to do. It’s a choice. We can choose love. Love has absolutely everything to do with it.

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