“Do you believe in soulmates?”
I’m not sure why I keep getting asked this question. Is it because I’m a therapist, or is it because I’ve been with my husband for 11 years, though I’m only 30? Neither of these things qualify me to answer such philosophical questions about life, but we’ll go with it. Maybe it’s because I’ve surrounded myself with hopeful romantics who spend their time overanalyzing and reevaluating every relationship they’ve ever been in. The reasons remain unclear, but I find myself getting asked this question enough to wonder why I’m constantly being asked it. Oh, and for those of you who are curious, the answer is yes, I believe in soulmates—soulmates, plural, as in I have many soulmates.
This is my answer to the middle-aged man who divulges his life story on the plane ride after we inadvertently make eye contact, introduce ourselves, and share about our professions—or when he’s nosey and catches a glimpse of what I’m reading (most likely a nerdy therapy book or tear-jerking memoir, because yes, I’m that loser). This is my answer to the woman in the grocery store who ends up telling me about her relationship challenges because I’m “just so easy to talk to.” This is my answer to the littles when they ask about love, wide eyes sparkling, hopeful, before love has had the chance to annihilate their insides and morph them into skeptics like the rest of us. And, it’s even my answer to divorcees and widows who have loved and lost and are left wondering about what was, what is, and what should or could be: yes, I believe in soulmates, plural.
I believe we have many soulmates—soulmates who are lovers, friends, dogs (especially dogs, but not cats—sorry), jobs, places, family (both chosen and given), and even interests or hobbies. So, when I’m hit with the follow-up question to the first, “who is your soulmate?”, my answer is this: get yourself some mother-f-ing soulmates, friends.
Get yourself a (lover) soulmate who will lay the weight of his body on your still-petite-but-eight-month-pregnant-belly, as guttural cries about the baby who is dead inside of you leave your soul. Get yourself a (lover) soulmate who will sleep on a couch that is two sizes too small for an entire week while you’re in the hospital, after the stillbirth of your first child nearly claims your life. Get yourself a (lover) soulmate, who will tell you he loves you when you have a full-blown two-year-old tantrum, throwing half-baked Madeline cookies and bakeware in the sink as you swear up, down, left, right, and back to Sunday, that you will NEVER bake again.
Get yourself (friends) soulmates who will leave their newborn babies at home to lay in bed with you for hours on end as you cry about the thought of having to go through labor for a baby that won’t be coming home with you. Get yourself (friends) soulmates who bring with them a gift basket containing wellness and postpartum products, collected from your village. Get yourself (friends) soulmates who will take over your contacts, messaging everyone on your behalf, because you can’t bear to tell another person what has happened. Get yourself a friend (soulmate) who will stay in that bed, in pain, with breasts so engorged that milk threatens to expel at any given moment, but she’s too scared to mention it to you, because she knows you would give your left leg (or right, you’re not picky) to nurse your baby.
Get yourself a (friend) soulmate who will call you every day from France when you tell her that your boyfriend of six years “just doesn’t know if marriage is for him” (don’t worry, I tricked him into marrying me anyway). Get yourself a friend (soulmate) who will have a panic attack on a plane as the doors lock, and scream at the flight attendants until they reluctantly agree to let her off, when she receives the news from your other (friend) soulmate that you lost the baby. Get yourself a (friend) soulmate who will text you every week for eight months, asking to come visit even though she knows you won’t respond or the answer will be, “I’m not ready.”
Get yourself a (friend) soulmate who will take a week off of work to clean out the perfectly polished nursery you spent months curating, so that you don’t have to look at the folded animal onesies or handmade mobile swaying above the crib. Get yourself a (friend) soulmate who will stay in town to watch your dog while you’re in the hospital, instead of going home to visit her own father who is in the hospital. Get yourself a (friend) soulmate who will text you every day for two months following the death of your child and your own near-death, knowing you won’t respond. Get yourself a (friend) soulmate who will cry with you when you need to, cry for you when you can’t, laugh at your dark-humor jokes that make others cringe, and take you for wine and cheese because she knows there are no words that can be said to a mother who has outlived her first child.
Get yourself a (sister-in-law) soulmate who will drive back and forth from San Diego to Los Angeles, just so she can take you to all of your doctor appointments. Get yourself a (sister-in-law) soulmate who will cry by your hospital bedside as you look at the contents of your baby’s memory box. Get yourself a (sister-in-law) soulmate who will send you cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries, drop f-bombs like it’s the only word in the English language, and cry every time she reads anything you write.
Get yourself (in-laws) soulmates who will respect your need for space despite desperately missing you and drive three hours to visit you, knowing you’ll likely disappear to your room for hours at a time. Get yourself (in-laws) soulmates who will send you plants, because they know you need something to tend to.
Get yourself a (brother) soulmate who will drive down in the middle of the night when he learns you’re in surgery, so that by the time you are back in the ICU, he’s already there. Get yourself a (brother) soulmate who will stay up all night watching you sleep, because you’re convinced that if you do, you will not wake up. Get yourself a (brother) soulmate who will rehash all of the gory details of the nightmare that has somehow become your life, because he knows you need to talk about it.
Get yourself a (mom) soulmate who will hold her 30-year-old daughter in her arms as she sobs, because she knows there is nothing that she can do to take her pain away. Get yourself a (mom) soulmate who will make your favorite homemade soup in pre-packaged, portioned containers (even when you tell her not to) because she knows you don’t have the energy to cook. Get yourself a (mom) soulmate who will keep her phone on loud at all hours of the night, just in case you can’t sleep and need to talk.
Get yourself a (dad) soulmate who will call you four times a day “just to hear your voice” in the weeks following your near-death experience. Get yourself a (dad) soulmate who will text to remind you that you are, in fact, his favorite person (sorry, brother). Get yourself a (dad) soulmate who will read the same books and watch the same shows at the same time as you, as a way of staying connected.
Get yourself some mother-f-ing soulmates.
If I haven’t bored you yet and you’ve made it this far, you’ve likely learned a little bit about me. You’ve learned that A) I’ve lived through some sh*t and B) I am loved. But what you don’t know (or maybe you do) is that none of this makes me special. Life is hard and sometimes (often times) despite our best efforts, bad things happen to good people. They happen to me and they happen to you; they happen to that guy on that plane and that woman in the grocery store. They even happen to littles, though sometimes we pretend that none of it happens because it’s just too painful.
So, in response to that question (even though we’ve already established I’m far from qualified to respond), the bigger answer is this: life is beautiful and f*cked and more times than not—makes absolutely zero sense. There are things that happen that we can’t explain; pain that is unbearable and somehow, people manage ways to bear it. So, when you think about your life and that pressure of that one, perfect soulmate weighs heavy on your mind and heart, I challenge you to think of your people, your tribe of warriors who are no less screwed than the rest of us, yet somehow, still find ways to show up and love.