I met a man in the desert and he changed my life.
Weeks before meeting him, I knew that I would. I didn’t know when. I didn’t where. But I could feel him coming and I knew he had something for me. I was at a festival and as I walked by him, and smiled (as you do at Burns) my body jolted to a halt and the words “Don’t I know you?” came out of my mouth. I was well aware of the fact that I didn’t. And also, I wasn’t choosing the words coming out. It felt as though my soul was talking. Had been waiting for him. We only spent a few hours together before saying goodbye. And yet, I knew this wasn’t the end. He reminded me of a portal inside me. One I had forgotten that I had. And while my mind tried to say “that was it” my soul knew there was much more to come.
My desert man is the archetype of the adventurer and despite having done a lot of work around this, I was still heavily relying on a man to give me the adventure that I crave. My eyes were wide open and yet I still refused to be self-sufficient and supply my own adventure. He had shown me my portal, yet I would instead attempt to crawl through his, with him. Two months after meeting we planned a trip to Algeria. Berber, the name of the indigenous group belonging to North Africa possibly means “free people” – how fitting.
Everyone told me I was crazy for planning a trip with a complete stranger. In hindsight, I was. It ended up being the most surreal experience of my life. It could have been dangerous. And still, I knew I had to go. He was my alchemist, he had something for me. A piece of a puzzle I’ve been waiting a long time for.
From day one the trip was not what I had expected – and I know not to have expectations. When you have expectations you are not living in the moment and you may miss the message. But I felt like an intruder on the trip, on his trip. And I kept asking myself how I had ended up in this situation. If I was an intruder?
I happen to believe that we create circumstance to bring parts of ourselves to the light, to heal them. That people around us and situations act like our mirrors. Well, what was being reflected back to me was awkward, uncomfortable, confusing and at times unpleasant. I realized that I had hired a man to pick open old wounds, I still wasn’t willing to do the work to heal. And I had placed myself in a check-mate position. I could buy a plane ticket home and end up in the same emotional space in the future or I could suck it up, do the work and wait for my puzzle-piece.
The first few days I was confused. The next few days I was in denial. Then I entered acceptance. Curiosity took over. I would go with the flow and see what could happen. This was a semi-dissociated state. Almost like shamanic journeying.
“He’s what you want, he’s what you want, I’m what you need, what you need……”.
He’d been singing The Weeknd’s song on/off the past few days. On one of our last days, walking trough the old Casbah in Algeria’s capital, he turned to me and said: ”I’m what you need”. As I mumbled back: “there’s a difference between want and need”, it felt as though the whole Casbah, the whole universe came crashing over me. Giant waves of clarity. I realized I had needed him. I had needed what he represented. The adventurer… I had needed him (and men before him) to give me what I longed for, because I wasn’t able to give it to myself. Because I was unwilling to be self-sufficient.
If freedom comes from non-attachment, how do you exist as a social animal, in a social world? This question has been my driving force the past two years and I’ve explored the difference between independence, (co)dependence and inter-dependence. Until recently, I lived in a world where independence was the highest achievement, while being very (co)dependent. How do you achieve inter-dependence, as a social, vulnerable yet non-attached being?
I realized that ‘needing’ was dependency. Needing someone to fill something inside of me. Needing someone to push me forward and give me my desires. The surroundings we were in made for a perfect backdrop. While I felt safe, walking through the Casbah was probably not the ideal place for a woman, who clearly had not managed to dress the part. It was interesting to observe how the attention of the men increased or decreased depending on my companion’s proximity and body language around me. The first wave of awareness said “No, while I may not need you, because nothing will happen to me, I do want you to want to walk by my side and make me feel safe”. The second wave followed and adjusted my first desire so quickly and elegantly, I hardly noticed it.
“He’s what you want, I’m what you need”. I wanted him (and men) to give me a feeling. In this specific moment it was safety. The whole reason I had ended up in Algeria was adventure. But how many times had I ended up in sticky situations because of wanting someone else to give me something, I was unwilling to give myself? I want to emphasize the difference between ‘unwilling’ and ‘unable’. I am more than able to give myself adventure. But because of my unwillingness to do so, I had placed myself in a situation where I was dependent on another human (again). And on top of that, a human who was unwilling to give me what I wanted. Poetic justice for me!
What I really needed was me. For me to stop putting myself in situations where I become dependent on others. This trip had been an insane caricature of my dependency. Yet again had I placed a whole set of responsibilities onto my ‘partner’ that I wasn’t willing to take on for myself. How many more relationships would I burn through due to my refusal to be self-sufficient. How many more times would I attempt to crawl through someone else’s portal?
In that moment something shifted inside of me. Inter-dependency became all too clear. The chains that had previously trapped the energies of my adventurer were dissolved. Freedom. Freedom from the check-mate position I felt I was in and needing my companion. I cut an invisible cord with him. The following 48 hours were a mess. He slipped away from me and I know he felt me slip too. The beauty in all of this is that there was a gift for him too, a puzzle-piece. Free people.