Is it possible to have a major psychological change in adult age? Is it possible to overpass one of strongest human fears, that is nevertheless very common: the fear of living? When the man I loved asked me this, I was living with another man. I had a stable job and I was leading a normal life, I was on the path that everybody expected me to be. Sometimes the hardest thing to distinguish is what we really want from life and what others expect us to do.
When I left my country with the man I did not love, but I was sharing a life with, my greatest pleasure was to retreat in my room and lead an imaginary existence while reading a novel. If I were to move somewhere, I wouldn’t choose a country, I would rather choose a novel to move inside. But this story I am about the tell you is real. Somewhere on this planet, it did happen.
I left my country to continue my scientific research in a field I was working for years. But I was too scared to leave alone, so I left carrying heavy luggage: the weight of a dying relationship.
We rented a small apartment and every day after arrival, we kept on arguing about various subjects, such as: who should do the dishes, the existence of aliens, the most suitable day to clean the house or the meaning of our shared life. We could never agree on anything, our apartment resembled a battlefield, as we went on breaking dishes and sending sharp gazes, heavy with hatred, to each other. We were two strangers stuck under the same roof, who had nothing in common, except for a fear, that is nevertheless so common: the fear of loneliness.
We lived close to the sea. Sometimes in the morning, a seagull used to knock on our window. We woke up, we had coffee and ceased the war for a while as I headed to work. When I was waiting for the bus, I sometimes thought about what else to expect from life. I was emotionally drained, far away from home and living with a man who was more an enemy than a partner to share dreams with. I thought I had nothing else to expect from life and then, I fell in love.
Love triangles are very common, almost as common as the fear of loneliness or the fear of living. They are an indication of split personalities between the need for stability and the excitement of the unknown, between what we are and what we could become. An indication of the gap between what we want ourselves and what others expect from us.
Never disregard the ability of life to surprise us. One day we might have nothing to live for and the next, there is something waiting for us around the corner. Us humans, we need something to believe in because otherwise we are just leaves blown by the wind. I do believe in love and its power to transform the way we see the world and ourselves as part of it.
I fell in love with a man whom I noticed in the bus stop. I was intrigued by the thickness of the book he was reading. I remember the intensity of the first gaze we exchanged. Maybe it is true that when we meet someone for the first time, time compresses and we can catch a small glimpse of the future. Day by day, we started talking more and more. As we were getting closer, I discovered a fascinating person, someone who took the time to listen to me, whose kind way of being brought me comfort, a man with whom time seemed to stand still. Opening up my heart towards him and revealing my true self came natural. He was a handsome man and sometimes I took pleasure in just looking at him, talking or just being. When we were in the same room, I had the impression nothing else mattered and this uplifting feeling will accompany me forever. But things were not that simple.
The happiest ten minutes of my life were those when I was half running, half floating to meet him and discuss the future of our relationship. I was so happy out of misunderstanding because I thought what hindered us from getting even closer was just a natural shyness that we both shared. But life is twisted and complicated and that afternoon when he told me our relationship will remain platonic, I had to struggle hard not to burst into tears. Platonic because he, just like myself, already had someone to share a life with. I already knew that but a loving heart always finds out ways to shut up the reason.
What I will always remember from that afternoon when we met and talked and an earthquake happened inside of me, is that his eyes changed colour: from light to deep blue. From the heights of the sky, I was falling fast into deep sea. My hands were trembling and as I was heading to the bus stop, I became aware I had a strange way of stumbling upon my feet. When we reach a certain level of emotion, we lose the consciousness of our body, we mix up with the air around.
After the discussion, I did not feel like going home. Home was a far place, not the claustrophobic place I was sharing with an enemy. I decided to go to the beach, to imagine what the sailors felt when willing to leave. After the sea it could be just another land, but maybe it’s also the future. As I was standing there looking at the sunset, I remembered being at home, sitting on the balcony in the dark with bats flying around, looking at the glow of the river. I remembered waiting for the dawn in my room with the window wide open just to hear the morning birds sing. And there I was, sitting in the cold and staring at the North Sea sunset. I had to travel the world to arrive at this emotion. Real journeys happen inside of us. The extent of surprise that life can bring will always outdo the limits of imagination. We cannot use imagination to predict the future in an accurate way. I tried to imagine life six months from then. But surprisingly enough, there was no pain, but a sort of comfort as if time remained suspended.
Time was moving on and the platonic relationship was flourishing. As we were getting closer to each other, my desire for self expression increased. I started writing long texts which I handed him personally and one Saturday afternoon, after I came back from a trip to Berlin, I started painting. I was 26 years old and I had never thought I had a special talent for painting, my life had been linear until then, slowly building my scientific career. I started painting because the emotional outburst I was experiencing needed to unravel its tempest. As if all my life until then, a side of me was sleeping and then an earthquake came and the grounds I was standing on rearranged. Painting has the freedom of a dream, what you cannot say, you can paint. I did thirty paintings in one month and the day before he left, I gave him a painting and a hug. What I got in return was his bike.
The day when he left, I was looking outside the window of my office. I saw the seagulls aligned on the roof of the neighboring building. I was tired and afraid of a nervous breakdown. I could not sleep too well the previous night, I kept waking up in the middle of the night, it was dark outside and I was dreaming about taking the train in the wrong direction. I woke up with a terrible headache, I dressed slowly and went to work. In the bus stop, I acknowledged I will never hear his footsteps approaching me. I had to get used to this. And I also had another thing to do: to learn how to ride the bike he gave me.
The same day, when I got home after a tiring day, in which I walked around almost absent minded, I tried the bike. I did not tell the man I lived with that I had a bike now, he did not notice almost anything about me anyway, only the paintings that grew as a spider web annoyed him, he told me he would have been ashamed if someone visited and saw the paintings. But no one came visiting anymore, not even my parents. I told myself that the day I will leave the house, I will sneak out like a quiet thief, with all the paintings in my luggage. Never to be back again. But that day, I was only a refugee on the living room couch and the most priceless thing I had was the bike that the man I loved gave me. If he were a modern centaur, half man, half bicycle, giving me his bike was like giving me half of him. This is why it was priceless.
I went outside the apartment, stepped down the stairs and unlocked the bike. I had a strong sentimental reason to learn how this mysterious machine they call a bike works. I got on the bike and noticed the height was perfect, I tried to keep the balance, but the bike seemed to be having its own will. Then, I tried to keep a line straight without putting my feet down, but the balance is a delicate thing, I never had this equilibrium, especially when it comes to emotions. A lady stopped and asked if I was okay, probably I looked drunk. It was not far from the truth, I felt my nerves tense and painful all day. I answered something about being clumsy. We are never too old to learn something. The lady went away on her own bike wishing me good luck.
Alone again. I have to do it, there is a secret power pulling me forward, the time suspension, the magic. As I get on the bike and look forward, I see the image of my grandfather trying to teach me how to ride a bike, the infinity of a childhood landscape, a summer day that survived in my memory. I start pedaling and I wake up at the end of the street. I have been floating until here, with the wind blowing from the back. It is magic. It is working. In one hour I managed to do what I could not do in a lifetime.
The encounter with him had a deep transforming effect on my personality. Sometimes without touching the physical self, you can touch better the soul. Because you can touch a lot of people who will never really know your soul.
The day when I found myself completely alone, I woke up with a pain in my chest. A physical pain, as if something was shrinking inside me and I was diving into a sea of numbness. Everything started aching when I realized that I lost my hope that the man who gave me the bike would come back. The life he chose did not include me as part of his present. It was time to move on and take a brave step into the future. I was alone all the time, while sharing the house with one and ardently thinking about the other. He will never come back, it was just meant to be like this, to meet and activate a power that was hidden inside myself.
Psychological change is possible even in adult age and true love is one of the powerful forces that can trigger it. The change of the path we take in life is possible if we are wise enough to listen to our true inner voice. I heard mine for the first time as I was struggling inside a love triangle, split between a dying relationship that resembled a battlefield and a platonic one that was emotionally rewarding, but incomplete. My true inner voice told me to first learn to love myself, to explore my own emotional depth and find the patterns that could lead to dissatisfaction. I took a sabbatical year to dedicate myself to my passions, painting and writing. I took time to unify my being, to distinguish between what I want and what others expect me to do. For the first time, I chose my own path in life: a journey of self expression, in search of the only truth that is fully accessible to myself: my truth. And if people can tune in to this truth then maybe they will feel inspired to find their own truth.
Meanwhile I came back home and sometimes in the morning, as I have coffee and look outside the window, before I start my artist routine, I remember the seagull knocking at the window and the bus stop where life started changing for me.