Today is a special day.
One year ago today, I arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, for Strongman Corporation Nationals. Then I went to Walmart.
When I got back from Walmart, Ben was at the team’s AirBnB.
It was the first time we met.
Not the first we’d spoken; we made acquaintances on Instagram and had a casual internet friendship.
But it was the first time we occupied the same physical space, and it’s hard to describe how funny, and electric, and alive I felt, just looking at him standing a few feet away.
Five amazing and wild days later, we agreed to try dating long distance. One year later, we’re engaged, and I’m moving to Sacramento this winter.
I fell hard and fast. The next day, I was asking Linden what I should do. Thankfully she is very wise, and said “nothing, just be yourself, and get to know him as a friend.”
That whole weekend was more powerful and life changing than I could, or want, to explain or share in detail, but one thing is certain; I have so much faith now in showing up.
Showing up with, and in service, of the best parts of myself is a portal to the joyful unknown. When I show up, beautiful, wild things happen.
Meeting, and connecting, to Ben showed me what can happen when I let go of the need to control what I think is happening, and surrender to the beauty of what is all around me, and in front of me.
I knew I wanted to sit down and write about this, in part because we are not physically together celebrating, and words are one thing I’m good at, that I can use to show him how much I care.
Words also aren’t everything, and there is so much they cannot ever possibly convey – the unspoken, quiet, exchanges that only he and I will understand completely. That’s for us. But this is also for us — I’m an artist, and words are part of how I decorate the world with the beauty I’ve experienced. A gift I can give him, and us, and myself, is to declare that gift sacred, and make my world know about it.
Love itself has made a profound difference in my life.
I feel compelled to share, not out of some sense of obligation, but because I had started to harden my heart in a lot of ways, and my trust issues were deep and jagged and sharp…but I made my way back to something better.
I am a true believer now.
LOVE IS A WAVE
I believe love can change your life, and it can change your world. It’s not just something you feel for another person, it’s a wavelength you access that already exists within you. And once you start riding that wave, it can take you anywhere.
Back to Nationals and Alabama. Montgomery, a sleepy little city. I had no idea what to expect out of that place, but it delivered me to a total life catalyst event.
The second day there, after weigh-ins, we all went out to eat. Obviously I wore a snake print catsuit-onesie thing (I’m not known for my in-person subtlety). I was also not mad when we all squeezed in the back of Heather’s jeep, with me sandwiched between Ben and Linden, my arm pressing against his. It was a strongman clown-car situation and I was enjoying it (I think he enjoyed it slightly less, as being in the back seat with a driver as enthusiastic as Heather is not his most preferred activity). The day was fun and uneventful; we all bonded and joked around, and refueled. The whole time, I was hyper aware of Ben. I had to actively try not to stare at him at times.
I was smitten, hard.
Wasn’t I competing? Didn’t I have other shit to think about? Completely. But in the wild growth of overlapping events that led up to Nationals, I had mentally decided to really give myself a break.
I had decided to consciously let go of anything and everything I could worry about, as much as possible, and have an amazing time.
I had a great time from the moment I left my Brooklyn apartment to the moment I got home (legend has it, I’m still having a great time).
There was a lot going on in my life at that time, as there is now. I definitely wasn’t expecting, or planning, on falling in love. But I had decided that I was going to go to Alabama, and celebrate my own existence by having the best time possible. 2020 had been too hard, too challenging (In retrospect, just hard and challenging enough) and I consciously made the decision to make Nationals the best experience of my year.
I deserved it, I needed it. I had ended a long term relationship earlier that year, I had the meat of my personal training career, and the stability it gave me, ripped away; not to mention the utter peripheral chaos, fear, and uncertainty of my home city of New York.
Anyhow, Nationals was going to be a good experience, no matter what. It takes a lot for me to concretely decide I want and CAN HAVE something, in my heart. But when I do, completely, reality seems to bend around me. Going into Nationals, I had made that decision.
I guess I point this out to say that, competing well and enjoying myself wasn’t just a priority, it was my default, and everything around me seemed to simply amplify this emotional-experience.
And then there was Ben, and it was like he appeared as an expression of this joy I wanted to participate in. I also point this out, because it’s possible that if I had not relaxed about my own performance and released any and all mental performance anxiety I could, I might not have been able to grab the moments in front of me.
I might not have been able to listen to my heart and connect with this amazing person.
But I also credit this to him. If he had not decided to try something new in strongman, if he had not been open to connecting, it wouldn’t have happened.
We connected, together. We were in the right place, at the right time, and we made something happen, together. Mysteriously, somehow. I can pick apart and analyze any one circumstantial factor, and point out why or how it could have gone differently, but it doesn’t matter.
Ultimately, what I know is that I showed up with an open heart, and truly awesome shit happened.
I’ve never met anyone like Ben. He was, and is, so utterly powerful, open, joyful, and kind. I felt completely at ease and at peace around him (as soon as I got out of my self conscious “I want to impress this guy” head jitters, hah). His sense of humor, his graciousness, his easy and thoughtful manner with everyone. He’s so acutely aware of others and considerate to them, and also so himself.
To be truly individuated, and unapologetically oneself while also giving others the space to do the same is very difficult, it seems. And it is something he does with love and steady, humble courage.
Being around him was like being in the sun after a long, dark winter. I felt myself completely relax and come alive.
Falling in love with him, and then growing with him over the past year, has freed me in ways I could not have fathomed when we met. It’s been the best year of my life.
What It Does
A good partner holds up a mirror, without judgment, and shows you who you are, and what you can be. He sees past my insecurities and doubts and gives me all his support, appreciation, encouragement, and love. He is all in, and does not hold back.
I want to show him how strongly I feel, and how much I appreciate him. Words are powerful. I write them, but they’re the waves and ripples on top of the ocean.
Ben is in my actions, every day. Loving him has opened a potential future I’d never dare dream about. Now that vision gets clearer all the time. Everything I do, even the things that are pure self expression, are more potent, more true, and more enthusiastic, because he helped me open my eyes to the joy of being who I really am.
Long distance is very difficult. It can really hurt, being so far away from him. But, by now, I have a lot of trust in the mysterious ways things work out. The physical distance has created a deep appreciation for all the love in my life, and how I can hold it in my body, no matter where he is, physically. Because he is always with me.
When someone loves you and sees the best parts of you, and treats you as the holy, powerful, multifaceted, mystery that you are, you can be reminded and shown, better than you can show yourself at times, just how much love and joy wants to be expressed through you (Romantic love is not the only thing that can do this, and I would not have even been open to this level of romance and emotional courage if not for the support of my best friend, Jack, and the emotional growth he has helped me through).
Loving Ben, and being loved by Ben, has helped me become a better friend to my loved ones, and a better friend to myself. Not because he “fixed” me or some cliche like that, but because he helped me create space within myself to open my heart. To actually feel the ways I want to connect to people, that I had shut down and diminished over the years.
I’m a deeply sensitive woman, who has been through more than enough heartache and mistreatment, romantic and otherwise, and it took its toll over the years. I’ve done a massive amount of healing on my own, and a massive amount of growth. It seems like that growth and my refusal to settle for anything less than joy and fulfillment is what enabled me to connect to Ben at all. I’m very proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished in terms of intentional emotional and psychological growth.
All that is to say, that while this is about Ben, and my love for him, this is also just about love itself. It’s really, really scary to trust someone. I know, really. But surrendering to that unknown, can do something almost incomprehensible in its power. It can open a way of being that is, to me, more real and more valuable than anything else out there.
It cuts through the fear and the doubt and the anxiety and the need to control, and replaces it with a deafening but elegant knowing, a knowing that we are powerful and capable and perfect. We ARE love.
This experience that I have been in with him, of this magnificent and intense connection, does not erase the “work,” parts of a relationship; it makes me value and think about all my relationships much more thoroughly, and has helped make me aware of when I am behaving from a place of love and gratitude, or fear and resentment. It’s helped drive me to become a better, clearer, more honest communicator. It’s confrontational by nature to become more honest with yourself and others.
This is maybe one of the greatest gifts of this love. It cuts through to the truth, always.
The truth of my wounds, my insecurities, my needs, my desires, my wants and my joys. It’s scorching and illuminating and I cannot hide from it. It’s terrifying. It’s perfect. It has helped me free myself from mental prisons I had constructed to keep the world out when I was vulnerable and wounded. It’s helped me feel again, just how strong I really am.
I am a true believer in love. I love Ben, and I know that our relationship, our partnership, and our future marriage will be an ongoing expedition on the frontiers of emotion and experience — we’re both just naturally very intense, very emotional people. And I’m so grateful for that.
We joke that we started dating “Playing on Hard mode,” — late 2020, long distance, at tumultuous points in both our lives. It has not been easy. But it has been one of the bravest, and most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and even when it has been challenging, the challenges have reflected the deeply positive currents at work.
I hope everyone gets a chance to experience something like this in their lives. I hope more of us fight to ride this wave. It gives me hope, it gives me fuel, and it’s what we all deserve. I wrote this today as an ode, more than anything else. It’s a ripple effect of the good Ben has helped me create in my life.
I believe in love.
Thank you, Ben, I love you.
Love is mystical
Love will break the chains
You might feel invincible
And you might be afraid
Light in darkness will show you the way
Give you the power to believe again
-Cold War Kids
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