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The Search for a Soulmate




Excerpted from
On the Way to the Wedding: Transforming the Love Relationship
By Linda Schierse Leonard

Ever since I can remember I've longed for a soulmate. I was never particularly interested in marriage itself since my parents' marriage was so terrible. And when I was young I looked down on weddings. To me they were bourgeois, materialistic, nothing but "show." But a soulmate, that "other half," as Plato called it, that one who would make me whole, who would lead me to the divine mystery—was this not the very purpose of existence toward which life strives?

I grew up as an only child in a house full of anger and chaos. I had three parents who loved me—my mother, my father, and my grandmother—but because they were unhappy in their own lives and relationships they fought constantly, and each projected their idea of meaning in life onto me, not allowing me a life of my own. Shy and introverted by nature, I retreated into an imaginal world to find my own space. And in this world there was always one other—a friend and companion with whom I explored and learned in various adventures and with whom I grew in soul. Together we fought witches, braved giants and dragons, ventured into enchanted forests, crossed oceans, climbed mountains, found new and adventurous lands. This was my secret, exciting world, safe and inviolable from the curious, possessive eyes of my parents.

With my imaginal companion in my secret world I could share my feelings, dreams, hopes, and fears and finally be myself. These secret companions, these soulmates, varied—sometimes a girl, sometimes a boy, sometimes an animal. When I read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, my soulmate image took a new form as a couple, "the boy and the horse." Sometimes I was the boy in my fantasy and sometimes the horse, but this was a pair who loved each other faithfully in depth and explored the world adventurously together, a couple who loved each other so much they were willing to die for each other. In their relationship I saw through my child's eyes a wedding with the divine, a mysterious union that reached beyond the everyday world in which I lived and which embodied noble qualities: courage, questing, faith, loyalty, trust, sacrifice, confrontation with death. This was an ecstatic, transcendent, mysterious relationship of two beings who loved each other in a complete creative fidelity

Another pair of soulmates with whom I lived were Heidi and her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. Heidi brought life and love to her isolated grandfather, who in his old age had become cynical and had lost a human relationship to love. Although she was an orphan with a difficult past, Heidi's élan vital and exuberant, adventurous spirit, and her relation to the mystery of the mountains and nature, infused all whom she met with new zest for life and a belief in new beginnings. This, too, was a divine wedding—of the spontaneity of youth and the wisdom of old age within the healing presence of nature.

Hansel and Gretel were another couple in my life. This romance with a soul-brother compensated for the brother I did not have, and it was sexually safe. In my adolescence, a period when I was cut off from men because of my revulsion and hatred toward my father, which I projected onto men and marriage, I wrote a number of short stories about my brother, "Bob." Together we struggled to get away from home to a better life. Like Hansel and Gretel, we outwitted the negative mother in her witch form, the one who was trying to keep us from growing. We ventured forth into the enchanted forest, daring the unknown to break the chains of our past.

Finally, a foursome became very important in my soul-world— Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion in the Land of Oz. Dorothy was a feminine self figure with whom I identified. She loved her foster parents, her aunt and uncle, and when she was unexpectedly whisked away to a strange new world by a tornado (as we are so often in dreams), she was receptive to her fate and went on the journey that was required to return to her home in a new way. She related to the new figures she met, appreciating the intelligence of the Scarecrow, the heart of the Tin Man, and the courage of the Cowardly Lion. She learned to accept their positive qualities in herself and to know the dangers of those who would obstruct her path: she learned the difference between the good witch Glinda, who could help her with her magical powers, and the Wicked Witch of the West, whom she had to kill.

When I look back now, these early soulmates seem to be a natural prelude on my way to the wedding. The boy and horse brought together the forces of human and animal power; Heidi and her grandfather united the young girl and the wise old man; Hansel and Gretel joined together the growing masculine and feminine within me; and Dorothy and her friends symbolized the integration of the feminine self with intellect, heart, and courage in a magical cosmos.

While all this discovery was happening inwardly, my outer life was chaotic and frightening. My father was drinking to the point of violence or stupor every night, my mother was anxiously working to support us and substituting me for her companion, and my grandmother was trying to protect me from the brutalities at home by encouraging me to develop my mind. Intellectually I was leaps ahead of myself, but physically I was years behind and emotionally I was very confused. In high school and college I was not part of the dating scene—I looked too young, and inside I was very frightened. My soul projection at this time went mainly to women teachers, as I needed some guidance from the feminine. My major concern was to get away from home, and all my energy went into study and professional preparation that could free me from the suffocating parental home. My mother wanted me to stay with her, and put pressure on me emotionally to do so, but I knew to save myself I must leave. Just at this time I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The architect Howard Roark, creative and independent, became my first erotic male soulmate, a symbol of the man for whom I was searching.

When I left home for my first job far away I fell in love for the first time. Like Howard Roark, this man was an architect, a creative man who dared to actualize his vision of organic architecture, of the wedding between human home and natures transcendence. To me this man symbolized the searching creative spirit who refused to remain a slave to the status quo of the collective. And so I gave my heart and soul to him, hardly able to believe that such a man existed, ecstatic that such a relationship was possible. In my naiveté, it never occurred to me that such a man might be married. When I finally learned this fact, my heart was torn asunder. With my intense idealism I could not continue the relationship and so began my soul's search on a more conscious level to find meaning in this broken world.

In despair I turned to philosophy to try to understand. My experience with men and the childhood experience with my father had been devastating. But my soul's hope had broken through this devastation and with compensatory idealism I had envisioned a grand possibility for relationship—creative and without limitation, a vision surpassing the bonds of human finitude. Now, conscious in my despair of this broken vision, I had to try to understand what was humanly possible—if anything was possible at all. My first disillusionment in love had brought me before myself in a way that even my wounded childhood had not. And it brought me before all human suffering, before "human fate."

Down deep in depression I searched. I read the philosophers, trying to find a way to reconcile my hearts hope and my souls despair. Was there an explanation of life's paradox? The existentialists alone spoke to me, for they spoke of the human condition, the wounds of mortality, the sickness in the soul, the alienation of the individual, the necessity to face death consciously, and, most important, the "courage to be." I spent my twenties in this way reading, studying, questioning, searching. I wrote my master's thesis on the notion of friendship, trying to understand the nature of human relationship. What was love all about? During this time I married a man who was searching, too. His search was for God, to reconcile the findings of theoretical physics with the divine mystery he experienced in the world about him.



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