Yesterday, Angela, an old family friend, called to give me some bad news.
Her husband of fifty years had passed away.
They buried him on Friday.
As I learned of his last days, her reaction to his demise, and her confession of feeling suicidal, I didn’t know what to say.
However, knowing that at a time like this, there’s nothing you can say to make the person feel better, I opted to listen attentively and not say much of anything at all.
Through her tears, she managed to tell me that she felt lost, incomplete.
Her soul mate had died and she didn’t know how to get through life without him.
I could literally feel her pain and it was heart wrenching.
Later that night, I pondered Angela’s words.
I was first introduced to the concept in my freshman year of college, when I studied The Symposium by Plato.
A novice to the likes of Greek philosophy, I was fascinated by the recreation of the philosophic discussion.
I sought to answer how such an abstract emotion had the ability to hold us in its grasp; to seek its meaning and origin.
It appeared the Greeks were just as fascinated and one after another, they strived to define it.
Yet it was Aristophanes’ explanation of love that held me captive.
People in love, argued Aristophanes, felt whole.
He elaborated how the original people were very powerful.
With doubled bodies, joined at the back, they represented three sexes: the all male, all female, and the androgynous, half male and half female.
However, it was their attempt to scale heaven that resulted in Zeus cutting them in half.
The divided souls were then dispersed; left to search for their other half.
The romantic in me wanted to believe that this story beautifully represented our quest to find our soul mates, to discover who we were attached to.
I wondered if Zeus’s actions were the reason that single people felt incomplete.
And if feeling “complete” when in the presence of a loved one, meant that we had been successful in finding our soul mate.
I was consumed with these uncertainties and needless to say, I spent most of my college years searching for “the one.”
One after another, candidates were eliminated.
Some didn’t make me tingle.
Others left me wanting.
And others, simply didn’t feel like a “right fit.”
When I married the first time, I was sure I had found my soul mate.
Fourteen years later, I was convinced I had wasted a good chunk of my life with a soul who was most definitely not my other half.
At this point, I gave up on the theory of soul mates and instead, strived to feel complete on my own.
Damn Plato and his symposium.
I wished with all my heart that I’d never given him and his theory the time of day.
One afternoon, as I ranted about how lucky I was to not be on the soul mate quest, nana interrupted me.
Bella, she said, “You’re going about this all wrong. You’re convinced that a soul mate has to be someone you’re romantically interested in and nothing could be farther from the truth. A soul mate can be a sister, a friend, a lover. It can be anyone you love, feel a connection to, or who has a positive influence on your life.”
With this explanation, nana rocked my world.
I instantly knew my sister was my “soul sister” and nana was my “karmic” soul mate.
Gone was the notion that there was only one soul mate for every person.
It was replaced with the belief that soul mates didn’t necessarily have to be romantic partners.
Instead, they could be people who grounded you, brought out the best in you, made you believe you weren’t alone.
Years later, nana confessed that my grandfather had been her soul mate.
He was the reason she never remarried.
In her words, “One couldn’t replace that which was irreplaceable.”
Reflecting on nana’s words allowed me to understand how Angela felt; to understand why she thought her life was over.
After all, how do you go through life without the one who makes you whole?