“I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.” ~ Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets 

Looking back, I was a stray looking for shelter.

As far as love is concerned, we’re rarely knit together perfectly. That emotional cardigan we keep dragging around is full of snags and tears. There’s all that crap we’re still processing from childhood (even if it is cleverly hidden under layers of forgiveness). We’ve got triggers from lovers past and expectations of lovers we haven’t even met yet.

I like to think that I was my own home when I met my current partner, but that is a grand illusion. I still craved validation through love. Of course I can see it clearly now, some 22 years later.

When my first marriage ended, at my request, a well-meaning (but disillusioned-in-love) friend told me: “Of course things turned sour.” She said I had too many issues and he had too many issues, (all Freudian, of course) and young people should not marry, because we don’t know ourselves well enough to engage in a balanced relationship.

I wondered then what that magical age was, when one knew themselves well enough to be mated for life? I looked back and saw all the work I had done to release old wounds—and then more releasing and more peeling back layers—wait a minute! This releasing business was a never ending cycle!

In the ideal scenario, we find a love that we connect to, and we enter into it with a clear heart. We know who we are, we are comfortable in our own skin, and we enjoy our own company most of all. Love is the icing on the cake, and our expectations are limited to experiencing our lover as he or she is, no modifications required.

Except that that’s not very realistic. We are endlessly evolving works of art. The odds that we will be in exceptional emotional and spiritual form when a love worth fighting for arrives, are slimmer than we would like to believe. And now I think that’s okay—to accept where we’re at and practice loving-kindness toward the present point of our journey.

Love is made better when we are kind to ourselves.

As a couple of strays, my partner and I bumbled through the early stages of love. Both of us scarred, scared and craving that lovely high that happens when one falls into another’s eyes and encounters a meeting of the souls. We knew that we were broken—nowhere close to being “whole.” Yeah, I’ll admit it—we were sure we would find comfort in cuddling up like two cold and shivering puppies; love would find us a home.

And it did. Not perfectly, because we’re still changing and growing, and love is more of a journey than a place that one arrives at. We’re still a couple of strays, finding our way day by day. Sometimes we eat from a plateful of nirvana, and sometimes we survive on scraps. That’s love. Imperfect, but damn worth every bit of energy one puts into it.

The rest here, my loves! 3 Tidbits for Strays In Love: Finding Shelter in Imperfection. | elephant journal