Love is Not Enough

love photo: love summertwenty11016.jpg

When I was young, I believed that once love came to my life, everything would fall into place. That whatever the trials it brought, whatever the lessons, love alone would be enough to sustain, a sort of glue that would bind two hearts in perpetuity.

He came into my life on a breath of wind from the desert. The first time we met I was so disoriented I got lost on my drive home. I described him to my friends as the most interesting man I had ever met, and qualified it with the statement that I would never date him. After all, he told me he was going back to Africa in 3 years, and when he spoke of his homeland, the love he felt for it filled all the spaces in the room. I was searching for a partner to share my life, so I decided he would be my friend. He decided the moment he looked at me that I was the love he had been waiting for. He texted me daily with morning greetings and evening good nights. It was strange that it didn’t irritate me. I thought it was kind of sweet. A few weeks after we met, I ran into him at a bar. I was with another man who I had just met. As soon as I saw him, all thoughts of being just a friend vanished. All I wanted was for the guy I was with to disappear (he did), so I could be with this most fascinating man. He is tall and strong, with quiet confidence. And when he put his arm around me that night I literally melted into him. When I kissed him I was completely lost. I don’t get overcome very easily, though I write about it in poetry, it’s always a feeling I want to experience, not one I AM experiencing. Yet here I was in the so desired state of bliss, with the comfort of those who have known each other for lifetimes. I felt like I was dating the most interesting man in town. Maybe even the whole state. Possibly the world.

I did what I do so often in relationships. I excused what I knew didn’t work for me, painted over it with all the parts that did work. I vowed never to date a smoker, a huge trigger for me from a childhood of watching my father die slowly, always with a cigarette in his hand. Here I was loving a man with a pack a day habit, listening to him tell me he was going to quit and believing in the strong mystique of his tribal fierceness that for him it would not be a problem.

I love to talk about life and emotions and what makes us the way we are. I love to extract the gems from the depths of our beings. Rabbit holes are my favorite hang out spot. Yet here I was loving a man who preferred not to speak at all, and when he did they were nostalgic stories. Fascinating stories, the stuff of dreams that were his formative years as a desert nomad. I clung to the moments of storytelling, living without any dialogue about our present states, who we were, who we wanted to be, what works for us. I dissolved into the exceptionally affectionate arms of a silent warrior. I felt protected. I felt like love was enough.

I believed that I was with a man who loved me as I was. Who never asked me to change. I felt guilt for all the things I wanted to change about him. I did ask for what I needed, and spoke candidly about what I wanted in the beginning. It was met with a firm ‘this is not who I am’. And I stayed, not honoring my needs, until I finally realized that while he did love me, it really wasn’t for me as I am. I chose to silence myself, until resentment built, until I no longer craved his embrace. When that moment happened I knew I could no longer explore the land of silence, it was time to talk about us.

The agony of anticipation wrecked my nervous system for a week. Delaying the inevitable until the timing was appropriate created a space for stories to be told, outcomes divined, nerves raw and stomach roiling in the unknown land of limbo. I did my best to center myself and finally believed I was okay with any outcome. I arrived at his house in a state of resolve, and none of the scenarios I played out beforehand were even close to the reality I encountered.

He too wanted to talk. For him, it is the inevitable leaving. Whether it’s because he is a desert dweller in a northern forest, or simply the nature of a nomad, we both know he is not happy living in my version of paradise. The desert he loves makes me sick with heat. The rain I love drowns his happiness.

As we talked and the layers of discontent were peeled away I found that the only thing left was the love we had for each other. I was somewhat surprised to discover my heart broken, shuddering tears as I left his arms. He asked me to stay, wanted me to stay, yet the feeling I had when he held me while I cried was the same solid strength and comfort of the beginning of our romance, and it burdened me with a torrent of grief. We resolved to be friends always, which mostly comforted but also left a residual ache. A wondering if we might get it right in the next lifetime. If we might arrive with what it takes to make love survive. For love alone is not enough.

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Relationships: Evolution through song

The Song:

Brandi Carlile, ‘What Can I Say’

The Story, Part 1:

You showed up at my studio, half drunk, missing my company. For two years we had been lovers, friends, travel companions. I didn’t listen to your words, instead I wrote the story of your actions. I wanted to be near you so I didn’t ever really leave, and you didn’t ask me to. I lived in your house, though I never moved anything over, never unpacked the pack that contained my clothes. I seem to remember hauling a laundry basket that would sit in the corner of your room. I think I may have hung a coat up in the hall closet. I took care not to place my things on your shelves, not to have a drawer or clothes in your closet. You didn’t want a relationship. I didn’t want to believe that. On the few occasions I went to my “house”, the place I paid rent, you usually showed up in the middle of the night to sleep with me. I wrote that as a relationship into the story I created about us. I decided definitions couldn’t define us.


I can’t say I was entirely surprised, though I was devastated on the evening we had gotten dressed up to go to an awards ceremony for my work. On the drive over you told me you had met a girl and you wanted to ask her out. Maybe you had already kissed her, I can’t remember the details anymore. I just know that I left. I moved out. It was pretty easy, though by then I do recall having more than just the laundry basket at your house.


I got a studio above my friends’ house. I painted it and hung artwork and I made it my own, my safe place to fall apart in. It was small, and it felt like those close walls couldn’t hold the pieces of me that had shattered. Then one night, a couple months later I think, you showed up. I can’t recall what was said, though I know I wanted to touch you, and I know I wanted to be strong. Then you asked me if I had heard the song. I had, you know I love her music. You told me you had been learning it on guitar and every time you played it you thought of me. It cut me down and put me back together all at once to know. We finally had a song. A broken hearted love song. A why would you choose someone else if that’s how you feel song. An I love you so strong I can’t even breathe song.


The Story, Part 2:

I guess it’s been eight years now since we split up. It could be nine, you know I’ve never been good with time. We accomplished the impossible, or at least the not at all recommended by our friends. We supported each other through the break up. Ok, that’s not fair. You supported me. You really took it on, in that serious way you have when you make up your mind. It couldn’t have been easy for you, having me push and test and ask the same questions over and over, hoping for a different answer. Yet we were resolved to having each other in our lives, damn the trials it would take to do it. For years that song would trigger in me emotions that lived so deeply they must have been petrified in my soul. Hearing it would send me into fits of despair, where I would end up calling you since hey, you agreed to support me through all this, and again ask you why. I don’t think I ever acknowledged that I must have smothered you. Both in our…relationship…and probably after as well. I didn’t really know it until I had someone who wouldn’t give me the space to breathe. Until I saw how hard it was to ask for that.

Well, that song doesn’t get much airplay anymore and for some reason when I put my music on shuffle, it doesn’t usually come up. I heard it the other day for the first time in a long time. I will always think of you when I do. Only now we live thousands of miles apart, you don’t show up on my doorstep anymore. I believe you are in love and I really like her, and knowing that does nothing but make my heart shine with happiness for you both. Now, when I hear the song, I don’t wonder why it wasn’t me. I am not broken by it anymore. I let it drift through the cracks I’ve mended and fill me up.   I remind myself that long ago, that song was you loving me. I know. We always will. And I don’t regret a second of it.

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I think this poem is my favorite of all that I’ve written.  From last December.  I’ve been saving it, until I realized I don’t know what I’m saving it for.  I hope you enjoy, and would love to hear any thoughts you might have.  Thanks for reading!


I’ve been starved so long I can’t remember

The sated feeling you brought to the table of my surrender

When you split me open and feasted on the light

I murmured, my mind is hungry

Will you feed me tonight?

So you emptied my soul on the kitchen table

A pallet on the floor, two cushions for a cradle

Where you lay my head

My arms unable to reach around the space you had created

So I called out, my mind is hungry

Will you feed me tonight?

And you looked at me with eyes half remembering

The bondage of words, you were quick to tether me

To a precipice so steep it could not contain the images you had lain before me

And you left me


To a word I could not speak

So I shouted

My mind is hungry

Feed me


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Screaming Heart

More often than not, when I write poetry, I feel like I can’t really take credit for it. Words come into my head from the ether, and if I happen to have a pen and paper handy they get written down. Sometimes they are modified but mostly what comes first stays. This one was a bit unusual in that it came out in song (just need someone to figure out the notes I was singing), and I had no idea what it related to at first. Only later did it come to me, that it was for a friend and their current situation. And for you, if you like it and can relate.

I am not responsible for your sometimes bleeding
Sometimes screaming heart
I can’t find the pieces anymore
For the things you think you want
I won’t be the rock for you to undermine
Turning me to dust
I must lay my own body to the ground
And find a way to fill me up
Fill me up
You are not responsible for my open heart
And the mess it’s got me in
You don’t need to look for the promises
That I wanted you to give
I don’t want a hero anymore
I’m flying on my own
I have wings you’ve never seen boy
I have wings you’ll never know
You’ll never know.

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Wild Woman

More poetry, an older one.  I’ll run out of those already written that I wish to share soon, which should will prompt some fresh ones!  Hope you enjoy,

National Park Huerquehue, Chile

National Park Huerquehue, Chile

Wild Woman

I am a wild woman, I am at home here with the trees

Their bends and sways seem to convey this is all I’ll ever need

I am a wild woman, smoke rises inside of me

I am lifted beyond the mountains when their body is beneath my feet

I am a wild woman, breezes swim inside of me

They are gentle, strong, and honest

Like my lover ought to be

I am a wild woman, my life is written perfectly

In sandstone mesas, granite vistas, and the ever swirling sea

All of this speaks inside of me

That I am wild

That I am free.

Futaleufu, Chile

Futaleufu, Chile

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Upon returning from my travels and settling down again, I decided to keep this blog under the premise that steph without borders does not necessitate actual physical demarcations on a map, but can also mean a borderless mind.  Granted I’ve not done much with it since that decision, however my aim is to try and post something at least somewhat regularly.  Clearly starting now, as no regularity has occurred thus far.  I’d like to share a poem, I was contemplating an essay of sorts to use as a preamble, but I think I’ll just let it speak for itself with one qualifier.  The more time I have spent looking for silver linings, the easier it has become, and at this point in my life, it does come naturally.

I’d love to hear what you think.  As always, if you’re reading this, I am thankful.

I am not an optimist because it comes naturally to me.

The bright side doesn’t shine directly in my eyes

and sometimes I don’t believe myself when I point it out to you.

Sometimes I fake it.  Sometimes I force it.

But the more I fake and force the more I see.

I am not an optimist because it comes naturally to me.

I am an optimist because if I am not, I cannot bear the darkness,

I cannot stomach the injustice,

I cannot survive my own heart.

I am an optimist because the pain of the world is too great,

I am an optimist because of rape.

I am an optimist because of torture and disease,

I am an optimist so they don’t destroy me.

I am an optimist so that I am shielded from greed,

From excess and its inherent slavery.

I am an optimist so that my heart won’t bleed,

It does not come naturally to me.

I’ve spent years of my life looking for what is BRIGHT,

Searching for truth in LIGHT, trying to find where YOU shine

and because I know you shine

I will point it out and say LOOK!

It IS light, after all.

From abuse I have compassion for the abused,

From rape I have a deep bond with too many women.

From isolation and loneliness I have reverence and I hold my friends close to my heart.

From my heart breaking I have courage and the space to love like you’ve never seen.

From being pushed away I will hold close,

From being misunderstood I will try with all I have to understand

Why there is pain, abuse, violence, and slavery.

Why we cage animals as if they were not our brothers and sisters,

Why we cage our brothers and sisters as if they were not US.

Why we separate,

Why we isolate,

Why we violate.

I am not an optimist because it comes naturally to me,

but because it is the only way I can see

To save myself.


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Where Are You?

I am back to practicing yoga regularly. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that, it creates such peace in my mind and body to give myself that hour and a half on my mat. I love my teacher, who likes to talk about spirituality, connectedness, and the heart while kicking our sweaty asses. Periodically through any given class, she will ask “Where are you?” Now I know that this is a call to be present, to come into your body and focus on the moment, the posture. But I can’t help myself. Whenever she asks that question, I travel in my mind.

Sometimes, I am in my little one person marmot tent and the wind is whipping the fly. Rain is beating down on it and I crawl deeper into my sleeping bag. I breathe the freshness, the purity of the air in Argentine Patagonia. I think about the day I had, wandering the trails at the base of Fitz Roy. I can see it all, the Technicolor blue sky with cartoon like white puffy clouds sailing by, the unreal glow of sunshine on the meadow, and the sharp ridge of rock rising up out of the ground, covered in snow.

Other times, I am in the living room of Refugio Tinquilco, with Pato and Maz. The fire is roaring in the wood stove and we are giddy with Pisco and full bellies. Pato or his son is strumming a guitar, singing melodies that pull your heart and take you to other places, other times. The place is filled with the comfort smell of bread baking in the oven. I am so content in this paradise; I try to think of ways to never leave. In my musings, when I ask if Pato will adopt me, he says yes.

Then there is Peru. The moon is full and it is as close as it’s going to be to earth in a very long time. I make a new friend sitting on ancient stones above a fountain. We walk through dimly lit, narrow streets of cobblestone, with channels cut into their edges for the water to flow, to a ceremonial ground the Incas used. On these magic, giant boulders we lie down and stare at the moon. After a time, our backs slightly frozen, we start walking back to town. On the way we pass by the door to a courtyard. Inside a band plays and there is a party. No one inside is dancing, but out in the street, we are.

Outside of these moments, I am building the next section of my life. I’m thoroughly happy to be doing that in what ranks in the top 5 of most beautiful places I’ve been, the Pacific Northwest. These memories are not tinged with sadness or longing. They are simply where I still am, part of the time. It is the lasting benefit of adventure. Whatever that word means to you, when you have a good one, you never really stop feeling it, it never really leaves you.

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