Have you ever met your soulmate? What do you think makes a soulmate, and what do you think makes a soulmate relationship?
Is it easy? Is it permanent? Is it what you thought it would be?
I define a soulmate as someone who is a friend of someone else’s soul. Most of us understand soulmate relationships only as romantic connections. I’ve been blessed by knowing many soulmates in this lifetime, including two dogs, two parents, many friends, and yes, some romantic connections.
Our culture perpetuates the idea that two soulmates meet and immediately gaze meaningfully into each others’ starstruck eyes before blissfully riding off into the sunset together to live happily ever after.
If you believe all that, I’ve also got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
I have found my deepest soulmate relationships to be as far as two people can be from living the soulmate myth. Being a friend of another’s soul is not necessarily the same as being a friend of another’s personality. Our strongest soulmates can bring up so many of our own issues that, at times, we’d give anything to rip off their heads. When that happens, it’s a sign that we’ve found the perfect person to help us heal our past. Soulmates can come together explosively for brief mutual wake-up calls before abruptly separating paths, and soulmates can come together for life. Both souls call out for someone to show up to catalyze them into doing something completely different with their lives, into living from soul. If the point of life is evolution, the challenge comes from believing our personalities know more about what our souls need than our souls.
I once told someone I came into his life in order to destroy it so he could build something new that worked better for him. At the time, based upon the things he’d promised me, I thought it was something else, but it fell apart fast, as it was supposed to. We did what we were to do together, and then we were done. I then said he was welcome for my destroying his life. His response? “Thank you???”
I’ve been writing about my dog Laila during the past few months. This seems like a good time to describe how we’ve evolved our unexpected soulmate relationship.
I met Laila nearly ten years ago. My soulmate dog had died three months earlier, and I was still grieving her loss. The last thing I wanted was another dog. I knew I wasn’t ready. My friend Lexi in Ohio knew this and still had the nerve to call me, saying she knew a rescue dog who would be put to sleep if she didn’t get a home ASAP. In that moment, I knew it was no longer about what I thought I was ready for, it was now about how I could help someone who desperately needed a loving home.
Before I knew it, I was on my way to Ohio to meet a dog who, on first meeting, didn’t seem to be too interested in becoming my dog. Many things had happened that had traumatized her. I remember seeing the whites of her eyes completely surrounding her irises, that’s how scared she was of everything and everyone. She paced around and around her enclosure. I didn’t feel a connection with her, she was too big for me to handle and too scared for me to soothe, but I had to find out if we were a match. I cleared everyone out of the kennel before asking her to give me a sign if she wanted to come home with me. Nothing. What else was there to do but burst out crying? I’d driven 600 miles to meet a dog who thought I was part of the scenery.
And then something magical happened. She saw how upset I was and trotted over to me to lick my hand.
In that moment, I knew I had a new dog.
Like any good soulmate relationship, it wasn’t always easy. My vet told me, after meeting Laila, she didn’t think the two of us were a match. I think it took between three and five years before I saw her smile. It can take traumatized rescue dogs years before they feel safe enough in their new home to relax. My previous dog had been a retired champion, and she had the charismatic smile to prove it. I grew up with a mother who’d been chronically depressed, and here I now was, living with a dog who was bringing up all sorts of childhood memories I wanted to keep buried. But I’d committed to this relationship, so I learned to honor where she was without expecting anything more. And then, one amazing day, I saw her smile. It was glorious.
That’s what love does. Love is patient. Love knows that everything within us that is not love will eventually come up for resolution. Love shows up to help us love everyone more, starting with ourselves, and love gives us the space to learn to do it at our own pace.
For years, I didn’t think she was happy living with me. She didn’t smile. She didn’t play. She didn’t seem to like most people. Hey, I wasn’t too sure how she felt about me most of the time. She began escaping from my place to visit my next door neighbor. I thought that meant she wanted to live with her. I still wanted her with me, but I understood that if her soul would grow more with someone else, it was important for me to completely release her. It was very difficult for me to consider giving up on her and us. I knew it was possible I was just a stop on her journey, not her destination, and it would be selfish and disrespectful for me to hold her back from becoming who she’d showed up to be. I learned to be OK with the idea of completely giving up someone I loved, and that learning to be OK without being attached to things working out the way I thought they should gradually led to her becoming an increasingly happy dog.
That’s what love does. It teaches us to appreciate it for as long as it lasts without placing rules around it as to what that should look like. It teaches us detachment from outcomes.
She’d loved my mother until the catastrophic head injury changed her personality. I’d planned to care for my mother for the rest of her life and brought her into my home for four months in 2007 and again for six weeks in 2008. My mother had become wildly inconsistent: sweet at times and violent at other times. I wanted to keep my promise to care for her, but I wasn’t able to deal with the growing psychosis. Laila, who’d always been well mannered, began peeing all around the house. I knew it was deliberate. What was I to do? Should I send my mother home with care, or should I find a new home for my dog? This was one of the most difficult times in my life, as I knew I’d have to get rid of someone I loved. I eventually realized that Laila’s peeing was done from love; it was her way of telling me I was trying to do the impossible, that I wasn’t the only one here who couldn’t handle my mother’s situation, and it was time to get my mother the care she needed. I reluctantly sent my mom home with care, and Laila, seeing our home return to being a peaceful place to live, stopped peeing.
That’s what love does. It wakes us up to living our truth.
I didn’t want to ever be a caregiver again. I’d cared for my uncle during the last six cancer-filled months of his life, I’d cared for and supervised the care my mother received during the last 50 brain-damaged months of her life, and I’d cared for my previous soulmate dog whose kidney failure went on for four months. That adds up to five full years devoted to being some form of a 24/7 caregiver. I’d gone through a lot during the past few years, and I was recovering from serious health issues. And then Laila’s health suddenly changed. My life has been devoted to caring for her 24/7 during the past five months, during a time when I was still in need of care. And I’ve learned a tremendous amount about miracles in healing; Laila cleared the disease that claimed my mother’s life, and the last time we saw the vet, she was unable to palpate the tumor (it’s still there, just smaller than before). I’m not as concerned these days with Laila’s living or dying as I am with her enjoying her life for as long as she can. After the mini-stroke I had a month ago, I’ve set firm boundaries about how I want to be treated (I invite you to read my June 2013 post entitled “The Word Diet”); people from around the world, some old friends and some new friends, are both telling me and showing me they love me and are supporting me in amazing ways.
That’s what love does. It inspires us to do whatever it takes to support those who really need our love, even if it makes us uncomfortable to give what’s needed. And it inspires us to grow even more through our service to another.
I never thought I’d have a second soulmate dog, and I certainly never thought it would be Laila. She came into my life as my unexpected soulmate. And, like all good soulmate relationships, both of us are better off for having met.
Thanks, Lexi, for making me do the one thing I didn’t want to do. Despite all my bitching and moaning about not wanting another dog, you held true to what you knew would create the highest good for both Laila and for me.
Thank you for being a soulmate friend.
And you, the reader? I wish you all the soulmate relationships your souls want you to have to help yourself and your significant others grow into living the lives your souls want you to live.
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
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