Apparently, true love is staged in the North End, Boston; at least, according to my childhood dream. My earliest memory is not a memory at all, but a reoccurring dream that used to haunt my sleep. When I recollect this dream, it feels more real than life itself. Even now, I feel as if I could reach out and touch the brick walls of the buildings around me, the dirty cobblestone street under my feet, and feel her hand taking hold of mine.
The dream always began the same way. I can see the sun setting; a golden summer glow casts long shadows around the corners, the way sunsets in cities do. My family and I step out of an Italian restaurant, my small hands clutching a bag of cannoli wrapped in white paper. Across the street, I notice a young girl with dark brown hair and eyes, watching me. In my dream, I have no trouble reconciling that she is wearing a perfectly fitted wedding dress. In fact, the draping lace and pure white fabric seem to suit her naturally. She stares at me, unashamed.
At first, I shy away from her eyes, fixing my own on the cracked sidewalk and my shoes. Some nights, this is as far as my dream would play out. I would soon awake, confused and unsatisfied. But other nights, I was bold enough to return her gaze. We stand there for a few moments, on either side of the street, interlocked in silent conversation. Then, without hesitation, she crosses. She takes hold of my hand and speaks, “I love you; I will marry you.”
At this moment, I understand the meaning behind awe-struck. I am silent, taking in her pure and forward affection. Then a voice in my head comes back to me, the voice of a small boy who has just been accused of having a crush. “No! Who is this girl?! I don’t want to be married!” My family begins to point and laugh in amusement. Shame crushes my chest with sadness, yet I cannot help but also feel a contentment and joy as her hand grasps onto mine. Eventually, the voice of shame overpowers me, and I try to pull my hand from hers. She only holds on tighter. I turn to face her with a bitterness swelling in my jaw, but as I make eye contact with her once more, all my fear and anger melt out of my small frame into the sidewalk below. I realize then, that I love her as well. It is in this thought that she suddenly begins to pull me down the sidewalk. Our feet lift off the ground as we glide in-between the tall buildings at incredible speed. Her force is like a river, unstoppable.
It would be decades before I would fully understand this bizarre love-nightmare. Like staring at one small fragment of blurred colors, it was only after I found her in this reality, that I could step back and see the magnificent painting which this dream was a piece of. Every event in my life that has happened since–the baffling coincidences, intricate events, synchronistic meetings could only mean this dream was placed Divinely into my small childhood consciousness. The dream was perhaps the seed to an epic journey, or just a motif of a story already unfolding.
My remembered life began with this inner battle between shame and love. And as this dream remained night after night, I would wrestle with these opposing forces anew every morning. Many days, I would wish I could live someone else’s life. But in the end, I would accept this struggle as the indispensable grist that would wear me down and break me open to knowing and accepting what unconditional truly means. And it would lead me to realize that the plague of shame and longing for love is a human journey we all share. Whether we identify as religious, spiritual or agnostic, most of can agree that Love is our most sacred gift and birthright, embedded with incredible potential to transform, heal and spread Grace upon each and every moment it touches. When we get to know what Love really is, we begin to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
Despite my Boston-themed love story, I did not grow up there. I was born outside Boston and perhaps at a much younger age, we did take a family outing to grab cannoli in the North End. At a young age, my family moved across the country. I grew up tucked away in a deep wooded island in the Pacific Northwest. I still live there now with my two boys and my wife. Let me by more specific–my Italian wife with beautiful dark brown hair and eyes.
Since the night of the dream, the girl’s image kept showing up like an old friend who checks up on you from time to time. One memorable instance was in college. I rented a house, with décor deeply seated in the 70’s, shared with five roommates. I woke one morning to a loud knocking on my door. One roomie, in her 30’s, was ready to take me to a Reiki circle. She had assumed I was coming, yet, I had not seen the invite, for if I had, I would have conveniently “had other plans.” Ex-hippies holding their hands over one another was not what I considered to be remotely cool. With no excuse, I caved and ended up in a circle of Ex-Hippies holding their hands over one another.
One particular woman claimed she was a psychic, yet she also admitted to having a gambling problem. This did not booster my sense of confidence in her abilities. She put her hands up to my chest and immediately pulled them back as if I had electrically shocked her.
“Wow!” she said stunned, “I see you falling-in-love with an older woman.”
Great, I thought to myself. This lady is hitting on me.
“She has dark brown hair and brown eyes.” This woman had bright blonde hair, so I sighed with relief. Yet, I was also shocked, because I knew who she saw.
When I met my wife Elisa, three major things happened which shook my Soul awake. First, I discovered this apparition of a woman was real–I had not been imagining her all these years after all. Second, I could no longer deny, from the constant images and messages I received, that there was a real spiritual force guiding my life. And third, perhaps the most profound message, through this simultaneous meeting of someone I have fallen deeply in love with and accepting that there was a Divine plan, I also was forced to accept that both Truths were somehow intertwined. The line between awakening to the Divine and awakening to Love was very thin. We can not only see and find Divinity everywhere but we can love Divinity within anyone. The spiritual path is how.