I enjoy the work of Thomas Moore, who is a writer, former psychotherapist, and modern philosopher. One of his books is entitled “Soulmates”. In all truth, I read this book because I thought I had met mine, and he wasn’t my ex-husband. But More gave a wider definition of soulmate, one that includes special friends. He also allowed for the possibility that one might not be a soulmate with one person forever, that a soulmate might come in and then out of your life.
How different than the popular idea of soulmate, which might really mean “true love”. People have divided opinions about this kind of soulmate . Some people are adamant that this idea is a misleading concept, that the idea of soulmate leads people on impossible and frustrating quests to find “the one”. These people argue that such quests lead to inevitable disappointment, when the couple in love find out they are truly different in some ways, and the magic of union is tragically lost. Like the quest for the fountain of youth, the soulmate is an illusion, echoing back to the blessed union with our mothers in infancy, when briefly, two are truly one.
Other people swear that the soulmate can be found long after infancy. This week I was filling out papers for my new health benefits, as my ex husband will not be covering me under his plan any longer. I let Jane, our HR expert, know why I needed my benefits this year. She was quick and kind in her reassurance, letting me know that she had also been divorced, but had since found her soulmate and had been married for over 10 years.
Soulmate. She was certain of it.
Last night I realized I had found a different type of soulmate, and remembered again that I have found these soulmates at various times during my life. This time, she is a Native American woman in her late 60s. We work together in an addictions and mental health program. We instantly liked each other, even though I bumbled into offensive language and misunderstood Native traditions, lacking the cultural experience needed as a beginner with this group. She explained and forgave me, and we talked about how much we liked Star Trek. She has never made me feel badly about myself and has been patient with me.
I celebrated New Years last night at a PowWow. I was there to help out, as my workplace sponsors this event every year. I didn’t help much. I almost immediately went to find my friend. There she was, leaning on her walking stick, examining some jewelry sold by vendors at the event. She had given me earrings for Christmas, ones she had made herself. In a frugal year, I had expected very little in the way of gifts coming my way, and I usually make a public show of not needing any, especially in my family. The gift touched me deeply. I had worn the earrings and wanted her to see how much I appreciated them. Almost as soon as I saw her, I burst into tears.
“It’s been a hard year,” I said. “I’m glad you like me.”
I’m usually not this open with people.
My friend smiled kindly. “Lots of people here like you”. Then her eyes also filled with tears, and she alluded to the challenges of her last year, topped by an ugly interaction with a co worker just last week. We commiserated about the lack of understanding of good mental health treatment. We looked at more jewelry, and she introduced me to her acquaintances.
Eventually we went our own ways, but before she left she stopped by where I was sitting. “I feel better than when I came”, she said. “Me, too”, I agreed.