I first learned of Frida Kahlo in Women Studies class in grade 12, almost a decade ago. I instantly fell in love with her, admiring her creativity, feminism, sexuality, art – her expression of self. A lot of people don’t know Frida the poet, but it’s hard to ignore that even her being was undeniably poetic.
The way she talked about love, too, inspired me. I enjoyed the way it seemed she could get lost in love with most anything. She expressed her passions in a way I wished I could mine as they quietly stirred inside me.
She was in love with the philandering artist, Diego Rivera. I could see the enchantment of two political artists in love, however, their ‘love story’ was plagued with alcoholism, infidelity and tragedy. It was the kind of all-consuming love that makes lovers want to possess one another. For all her magnificence, she was foolish. This made her so humanly relatable to me.
At the time, driven by the naïveté of adolescence, I romanticized their relationship (as many people do.) Metaphorically, I was Frida. I was battling a chronic illness that I numbed with alcohol. I desperately yearned for someone I could share my creative expression with, or even the dark corners of my soul. I so badly wanted to be accepted by another person for all my imperfection and to be consumed by the madness of love.
When it finally happened for me, it was more than I ever could have idealized.
The beginning of my epic love story begins with me. I remember the first time I began to feel comfortable with loving myself: it was the last session of art therapy for sexual abuse victims I would take before going out into the world to face my demons with the new tools I’d learned for coping. I told myself, “I can do this!”
I wasn’t nearly as ready as I thought I was in that liberating moment. I got knocked down plenty with barely enough time to pick myself up and regain my balance before getting knocked down again. It was almost a false sense of accomplishment for a while. I still drank. I still stood in front of the mirror hating myself.
The healing journey takes time.
A lot happened between then and the moment my partner, Josh, walked into my life.
I met Josh on November 4th, 2016 at a friend’s birthday. I’d been sober for less than a year and was slowly making my way in the world. I was okay doing that on my own and okay with accepting help when I needed it, too. I felt that spiritual sense of ‘purpose’ in life and found it increasingly easier to share with others.
His energy was magnetic to me. I wanted to wrap myself up in him instantly. I didn’t. We spent weeks being ‘friends,’ which was more like a platonic relationship of lovers if I’m being honest. Thoughts and feelings of him consumed me in the most delightful of ways. I wanted to know more, feel more. I resisted because I was afraid of what it might mean if I gave myself to another. What if I’m less me?
After a few weeks of courtship, poetry, and spiritual conversation, I finally gave in to myself with a preconceived notion that we spoke to each other’s souls; It reached a point that I knew it’d be more foolish to deny us that than it would be to succumb to the divine feeling of the love between us.
Only a few months later, barely given the chance to enjoy the newness of our relationship, my dad fell ill. Josh’s arms were there to tenderly hold me while I wept the plenty of nights leading up to his death. He wrapped me in an intimacy of love that people only experience with someone they’ve known their whole lives.
Who I was the day he came into my life is nothing compared to who I am now. He changed my life. I don’t say that with the unrealistic expectation that I couldn’t have done it myself or that I owe him everything, but every experience always seems more beautiful with him by my side. I’ve been so hard on myself, and though I don’t need his gentle guidance, I welcome and appreciate it.
He grounds me with his dependability, and I move him with my adventurousness. We’re both artists, so different from each other like Frida and Diego. Unlike them, our love is free, not suffocating. It says, “I have a choice and someone to hold my hand down whichever path it takes us,” and the life we create is a vibrant masterpiece of our togetherness. We are bound by our love for art, culture, social justice, poetry and, of coarse, each other.
Frida Kahlo said,
“Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.”
But what’s more is that every day we wake up and make the sober choice to love each other, and if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
The tragedies are the ones we will face together.