Over the past 10 days, I have been in a process of redefining what “soul mate” means to me. “Soul Mate” is not a one and only love interest. It is not a solitary life defining monogamous relationship. Soul mate is a plural. It is soul mates.
Soul mates are people who challenge us. They turn our world upside down. They get us to think outside our comfort zones. They are people who agitate and push us to be better people. They are people who don’t always share our world view. They are people who make us curious and push us to want to know more. They question us in ways we may not like. They are our brothers and sisters in literal and figurative ways.
I spent the past 10 days with a soul mate, Jen Gwirtz. Jen is a friend. Jen is an artistic colleague. Jen is one of my soul mates.
I’ve known Jen for 20+ years now. Back in the day, Jen showed me a different way of thinking about dance, performance and art. Her approach was/is outside of the standard academic canon. She introduced me to new philosophical thought and methodologies. Jen introduced me to happenings. She introduced me to pop up performance that was quirky, funny and subversive.
Through Jen, I started to think of the creative process as modular; as packets of data and information. That excited me! That inspired me to go back to school and pursue my master’s degree.
Jen and I are sisters from another mister. We agree on most things but not on everything. She considers herself a liberal capitalist of Jewish heritage. Myself, I’m a Buddhist with socialist leanings from a working-class background.
Jen is a woman with strong and stern maternal instincts. Me, maybe not so much. I have intentionally dismantled my biological clock. If you knew my family background, you’d most likely understand my decision.
Both of us love to cook. It is one of the ways we explore and share our creativity. We are both artists who are in the process of continually honing our voices.
Jen and I started planning my trip to Portland about 7 or 8 months ago. On Feb. 21st, I flew out to Portland.
The two of us haven’t inhabited the same physical space for nearly 10 years. The last time we saw each other was maybe 2010. During that visit, I might have had an hour or 2 with her, her husband John and their daughter.
We met at an ice cream shop in the Richmond district in San Francisco. I remember wanting to spend more time. I remember feeling a deep need to spend more time with her, John and their daughter. However, I felt a tension from my husband (now my second ex). He was anxious to get on the road. He wanted to head back to Las Vegas so he could gamble with impunity.
Now it was my/our time. Someone else’s agenda wasn’t dictating the schedule. The only limitation was winter break.
As I rolled my luggage out of baggage claim, I felt a wave of emotion overwhelm me. There was Jen, all 5’ of her. I felt a lump grow in my throat. A quiver in my voice and that all to familiar need to fight back tears. Cause Detroit girls don’t cry.
We gave each other a huge bear hug that felt like home. Sisters reunited on a creative mission! We spent 10 days talking about relationships, art, art creation, social issues and politics. While we were mostly on the same page, there were times we weren’t in lock step. Then it was listening. Deep listening that honored each other’s position.
We spent time in rehearsal creating. We paid attention to the differences in our body types and artistic approaches. Deep listening played a crucial part in our collaboration. Now we have a 10 minute piece (a sprout of a piece) about mushrooms, mycelium and trees. Its a metaphor for our long distance relationship and how I seem to just pop up in new locations like a mushroom. (More on that later.)
Jen is a soul mate. A soul sister who continues to challenge me. She opens me up. Makes me feel vulnerable in ways that are safe. And yes, this woman from Detroit working class roots made room for that vulnerability. For that I am deeply grateful.
As my soul mate, she makes me realize that I have many soul mates. Brothers, sisters, friends, work colleagues. People who temporarily cross my path. Others who are there for the long term. People who make up a vast mycelium network (pun intended) and become family. Soul mates aren’t a special one and only. They are a vast network of people who can pop in and out of our lives and they are often right under our noses.