Discover more from WRITE, TO HEAL by Mimi Zhu
Romance as Deep Presence
A Look Back on Mimi's Love Life
i’ve been home in australia for over two months now, and i’m so very happy to be here. i have been spending so much time with my family, reconnecting with lifelong friends, and merging with many past versions of myself. i’m in my old bedroom and i see all of my different phases displayed before me; manic pixie dream girl, rockabilly appropriator, literary nerd. i’m still all of those people at once, with many more divine layers, and i remember all the emotions i felt as i was experimenting with my interests. i was always looking for something outside of myself, someone to see me, a community to belong in. i am reminded that i was such a lonely child.
i am called to remember all the times i’ve been heartbroken, all the boys i trusted and let into my room, all the tears i cried because i had all this love with “no one to give it to”. it didn’t occur to me that i was the source and that i should have also been the reciever.this spiritual loneliness led me to believe that romantic love would fulfill me in the places i felt malnourished. i searched for lovers in all the wrong places, attracting the attention of people who were equally as lost. i’ve had a string of unhealthy romantic relationships, ones where i felt deeply unfulfilled and small. i compromised so much of my being to teach my lovers about their own emotions. they usually ended poorly, and we never stayed friends.
the last five years have been gruelling in their lessons in love, especially after the demise of my relationship with my first love. after that, i went to the polar opposite side of the spectrum. i stayed far away from the prospect of partnership and kept my heart guarded. i did not think of myself as worthy or capable of falling in love again. i kept my cool, shunned my feelings, and ran from any semblence of intimacy. my hyper-independence became a coping mechanism for me too.
in the last two years i have felt a huge shift. i have become both the giver and the reciever of love. i learned how to channel my lingering loneliness into learning my needs and enjoying my own deeply stimulating company. i transformed my yearnings into the constant practice of loving myself and letting love echo out toward my relationships. i have experienced intimacy and kinship with my queer friends who have completely reshaped what romantic love can look like. i have learned to ask for what i want, and certainly what i deserve.
i have dated friends, and i have learned that the friends-to-lover trajectory works well for me. romantic love used to mean sizzling attraction and butterflies, though it has morphed in front of me over the last few years. now, it means feeling free, safe, and comfortable with each other, without feeling the anxiety of maintaining gendered performances. it’s still exciting, although now the foundation is stronger. i never thought this could happen, but with the friends i have dated, even though our romantic relationships have shifted, we still remain friends today. i want to dedicate this year to melting down the hard protective barriers i have made in compartmentalizing love, romance, friendship, intimacy and sex. what i thought impossible in my lonely teenage years feels like second nature to me now. love, in all of its many myriading forms, cannot be categorized nor even defined. it is constantly imagining and imagined, and there is so much more to learn.
this time being home in australia, i started seeing someone.
this sweet someone (who has given me permission to write about this) is a friend who i used to have a casual relationship with four years ago. way back then, i was in a very emotionally chaotic place. i was emotionally unavailable, though my loneliness led the way and still seeked physical affection. my friend and i shared a mutual understanding of the bounds within our relationship, and we were deeply fond of each other. although we spoke to each other with mutual adoration and respect, a lot (for me) remained unsaid. back then, i was terrified of expressing my feelings, and it was difficult to be present when vulnerability was required.
four years later, we have reconnected, and to both of our surprise, it has been very romantic. this is a layer to our relationship that i think neither of us were ready for four years ago. we have both grown and shapeshifted in ways that have brought us closer to ourselves, and it’s beautiful to see that it’s brought us closer together too.
the added layer of romance started to make me nervous. my protective defence mechanisms came swarming back and i started to conjure many reasons to “take steps back”. i have always taken a shallow pride in maintaining a sense of placated cool, and i started drifting back to my usual guarded tendencies. while i knew that our romance can only last the australian summer, i was also hesitant about this change in our dynamic. i was reverting to the self i was, four years ago, the self who kept a distance because i was too afraid of getting hurt.
one day, we were lying in bed together. it was a sunny summer australian morning and i could hear the trees rustling outside the window. while we were both experiencing this slow morning, entwined in this newfound intimacy that we never dared to explore, i found myself overthinking in his arms. all of those fears were swirling in my head, asking me questions that started with, “what’s the point?”, ‘what am i doing?”, “what if he…?”, “what if i…?”. there was so much noise erupting in my head that i drowned out the sounds of the morning birds. my rapid intusive thoughts were overcoming every sensation in my body. i didn’t believe that i deserved this sweet and slow moment.
then, for whatever miraculous reason, i stopped thinking and had a moment of repreive. this is when i thought of the love meditation. i’ve been a practicing buddhist for a while, and i have learned that meditation is not the practice of escaping your thoughts, but being one with every sensation, even the thoughts themselves. instead of adding to the clattering volume of my intrusive thoughts by telling them to stop, i told myself this: “i am thinking these thoughts, along with all the other sensations i am experiencing.”
and then i started to feel the other sensations emerging. i could feel my own shallow breathing, though it began to deepen as soon as i noticed it. i also felt his chest beneath my head, slowly rising and falling with his breath. i could hear his heart beating, constant and strong. i felt my fingers entwined with his, and the tactility of both of our skin. i then felt the warmth that we had incubated between both of our bodies, and i started to feel myself mingling with the moment. every element of the moment enhanced, calm, and in sync. my fearful thoughts started to quiten, all on their own, and my eyes closed as i allowed myself to bask in the pleasure of the now. that was my love meditation.
i call it that because i believe that falling in love, or in this case, experiencing romantic pleasure, is an experience of deep presence. it is like a meditation, merging with every tiny detail and feeling that surrounds us. we can only enjoy it when we are fully submerged in embodying and experiencing each surreal sensation. when we are enraptured in romance, every sensation can feel so visceral. looking into someone’s eyes, breathing in unison, hearts beating in a shared rhythm…these all begin to become blessings that we ordinarily overlook. it is allowing yourself to feel the full expansiveness of our shared aliveness. it is merging with the miraculousness of sharing a moment of closeness with someone. closeness not being falling in love with the traits or qualities that you like, but more so about just seeing them be alive, and seeing how that life fuses with yours. this love meditation liberated me from second-guessing and doubting myself. it allowed me to experience a warm embrace that i deeply deserved. i am grateful for every moment that allows me true closeness.
i will always stand by the fact that romantic love should not be heirarchised as the most important form of love. so much of my loneliness stemmed from that misguided sentiment. i cannot however, flee to the other extreme and denounce romance all together. i love love, in all of its many forms, and i think that romance is miraculous, visceral and intense in its own unique ways. i still invite romance into my life, and i can finally appreciate the moments i get to experience it.
while i meditate in solitude, i forget to meditate in my relationships. meditating in love and intimacy has been so lifechanging because it has helped me calm the tumultuous fears that have come with my romantic trauma. while i know how to discern the red flags that come with dating, i have also finally allowed myself to enjoy the company of others without telling myself that i’m afraid/undeserving of that pleasure. i do deserve pleasure, and romance provides such a specific and beautiful joy that i no longer wish to cut myself off from it. i’m ready to recieve, not just from myself, but also from those who wish to provide for me.
i’m not free from the pangs of my childhood loneliness nor my adult heartbreak, and both of them come to visit me every once in a while, especially when i compare myself to others. but when i do, i try to practice my love meditations and fuse with the romance of the worlds within and around me. i savor the sensations that comes with crushing and infatuation and i watch my heart blossom open. i am deeply grateful for everything in the universe that allows me to welcome the presence of romance and love. that is my love meditation.
happy valentine’s day.
a playlist for first dates and fig trees and crushes that make you happy: