I’ve asked myself this question several times in my life; while single, coupled up or after a relationship ended.

I may experience a myriad of emotions when asking that question, and at times IN THE PAST kicked myself (I no longer subject myself to visiting my inner principal’s office), but come back to the answer for me….

Life is all about experiences.

Some are painful, some happy and many a combination of both.

If I choose to never take a leap of faith and instead watch life, relationships and love as an observer from the sidelines… I never get to have PASSIONATE experiences to love and grow.

I used to exist on the sidelines or I could call it a “living coffin” for years. I sealed off any opportunity in which pain could lasso me and tie me to the back of a bull. I numbed out, disconnected and lived in a hermetically sealed tupperware bowl- very lonely, routine and boring as hell. I was comfortable in my discomforting, predictable existence.

The thing is LIFE never let me stay there. It had a way of pulling me out! Not so startling considering my BIGGEST wish, because I was so lonely was that I really, really wanted a relationship. But my fears of letting my kitchen counter get dirty with emotions or letting my sink fill up with all sorts of abandoned dishes… scared me more.

So I made sure I chose men who wouldn’t suit me, because I wanted the discomfort of “sterile order”. I had distaste for drama, yet attracted it left, right and center…all the while thinking something was wrong with the other person.  I was a person who preferred emotions that lived in dreams and fantasies, but not in reality. Emotions had no place on my to do lists.

I was STUCK in my own private hell. I couldn’t get past my failed marriage, my failed attempts at relationships and yet, couldn’t admit it to myself that I was creating this crap, because I had the pretense of having it all together.

I suffered anxiety and depression daily, ugh. It was a sad party being the only guest, because I didn’t invite friends, relatives or mates into my cave…. when I felt crappy, I cut off, so I could feel crappier….

I look back at that time in my life, as though I was another person.

At times, I still find my first inclination is to cut off, run and hide.

Instead, when the kitchen gets dirty, I find I’m not in such a hurry to clean the countertops and some of those dishes in the sink aren’t abandoned. I’ve learned to enjoy the messiness of my own emotions and others. Emotions are where its at; overwhelming, engulfing, CRAZY, peaceful, joyous, et al…. I wouldn’t trade the connection for my old sad sack ways again. It’s definitely different to stand still and say “I’m here”. Rather than inflicting pain when the kitchen is messy.

I’ve learned I can handle far more than I thought I was capable of emotionally, because of the reward. Experiencing pure joy without experiencing its opposite is impossible; no one picks or chooses, which emotions to feel. We have to allow all of them equally.

I don’t expect others to change to make it safe and predictable. I do want safe and secure, but not predictable. I realize you can just love people. They may love you from the padded safety of their own box, which drives you CRAZY! But you can’t control it or them and yet, you can’t make it a situation, which is detrimental to your own well-being either. I figured out the best solution is to love them anyway, because I wish someone would have done that for me when I lived in my box.

When I have conversations in my head, I realize its unfinished business. Instead of putting it neatly in a cabinet, I let my feelings behind the mind chatter flow through me. I allow myself to miss someone so much that every part of me aches, I get a crowbar out and crack open the shield around my heart when I feel it closing, because I know when it does… I am back in my box.

Metaphorically, when I look back when I’m dead, I don’t want to say WTF? Why did I make it ALL so complicated, when it was so easy to live, move forward and be a huge fool for love over and over again even if it is ONE person I am committed to being a fool with and for—it is SIMPLE.

Life is all about staying the fool. In the tarot deck, the first card is “The Fool”. He stands for: Taking a risk, in the spirit of innocence and even amongst chaos; it is always time to take a leap off the cliff into the unknown. Life is a constant exploration, not a cement hole you bury yourself in to hibernate from change.

The other day I was at a store having my art framed to sell.

A jovial customer talked to me while admiring my art. Part of our conversation was about who she cared for as a nurse, “people who were in their 80s and older.” She was drawn to them always learning, by asking them for wisdom. She told me of three people in particular. One 85-year-old sobbing in her bed as she said she realized she would never be kissed passionately again. Another who said if she had it to do over, she wouldn’t listen to others and she would live her life for herself. And a third who said “Love is what its all about, partnership with someone sharing deep intimacy and the roller coaster ride.”

I’d rather have loved and lost, strapped myself into the roller coaster ride and been the biggest fool for love, then to have remained among the living dead.

Art by Christopher Paul