I looked out my bedroom window. I only saw darkness and shadows. The dream box portion of my brain sifted through all color and shapes to reconstruct a city called Montréal. A series of thoughts and random acquaintances landed me in this bed, city, and time. If my family had favored Spanish over French, would I have wanted to learn French? If the first love of my life had not been a native of Montréal, I was almost certain I would be in Paris that same instant.

Deep hatred and anger worked their way, like invisible bondage ropes, across my body and mind. Why had the women I loved more than my very self betrayed me, time and time again? The first was married, and happy. The second refused to leave her family behind and explore the world by my side. The third refused to believe in my faithfulness.

I reminded myself none of these women were entirely to blame. I blamed myself for putting the first in an awkward position. The second had shown wisdom in her decision, especially now that she was facing serious health problems, and needed the support of her close family and near friends. I also had the deepest respect for the third. With the history of infidelity in my family, it is only wise to question my motives. I have to choose to want to break the cycle, and I had not demonstrated adequate will to do so. I was culpable for a large portion of my pain. I needed to take responsibility, but instead, I now chose to lose myself to hedonism of the flesh, and distance myself from feelings and mind.

One new Montréal acquaintance reminded me a lot of the first woman I loved. They were very different, but a deep basis in spirituality remained. She soon became my favorite, of many. She reminded me constantly that it would have to end, and I knew it would, yet did not want it to. She needed to find a mature man of faithful stability with whom to start a family. I knew on some level that this would make her happiest. I, on the other hand, was still too hurt to want to connect to anyone, or myself. I offered little, yet wanted much. When she told me she found someone else more promising, my ego was crushed, but not my heart, because I unfairly locked that away long ago.

Some believe ego is a shadow self. If it is not mastered through personal growth and self-compassion, or elevated into its eventual absence, it can do the most harm. As the saying goes, ‘Vanity comes before the fall.’

Thought after thought, day in and day out, but which was ego-self? These trains of desire have no depot, and change direction in directionless-ness. This is how ego goes to egoless-ness: accepting peace in knowing this is a limited lifetime of finite chances. You must find the strength in wisdom to seize—win-win, win-lose, lose-lose, draw—each opportunity, and learn from it.

I thought of the first woman I ever loved and looked over her city, with another woman at my side. I focused on the woman in my bed, in my present. Weeks of gratification and thrill caught up with me, and suddenly, what should have been giving me ultimate bliss, only made me feel more numb. This was the first time I ever had that sensation: complete numbness. The numbness crept all over my body into an intense chill that would not end. I realized that I was killing a part of myself in my hedonism. I do not know what part of myself almost died in the despondent coldness that almost engulfed my entire body, but if I had to try to describe it, it would be the part of my spirit that believes in love. I almost let it go, but I could not, as hard as I tried to forget and run from it.

I told my acquaintance that I had things to do, and she excused herself. I immediately google searched the first woman I loved. I found a book she authored, and read a random chapter. One passage was on the inappropriateness and pain that eros love can sometimes bring. I realized, as I read on, that there were references to myself. For years, I imagined that what I felt between us was only a youthful, one-sided crush, and after all these years, learning that she loved me as well made me feel sadness as well as happiness. She hid her emotions well, but learning the magic was not my fevered imagination gave me hope. If you find it once, you can find it again. She wrote on about her work with the homeless and those addicted to drugs, and I felt ashamed. What would she think if she saw me now? She would be disappointed I was not living up to my full potential to love and be faithful, as she knew I could be.

As I look back on my life and childhood, I am reminded of the Christian allegory: you know a tree by the fruit it bears. If the fruit is good, the tree is good. If the fruit is bad, then the tree is bad. Looks can be deceiving, and actions speak louder than words. People will show they care, and if they do not, then they do not care. What fruit was I bearing—fear, pain, and mistrust? I did not want to end up like my philandering father, with a broken family, angry wife, and scarred children.

In that instant, the first love of my life, hundreds of miles away, reminded me that I was going down the wrong path. I was prioritizing quantity of experience over quality. I could waste more of my life chasing hundreds of empty encounters with women who cared little for me, and more for my money and resources, or I could spend that time looking for the few quality women, with whom I could have a real, lasting connection. Our desires and dreams would merge to become stronger in inter-dependence, only becoming better with time.

I wanted that woman. The first woman I loved was such a woman. I deserved no less.

Going forward, I will not be my father. I will be faithful. I will be monogamous. I will have a mentally and physically healthy family. I will give my all. I will prove my faithfulness to the woman I love day in and day out. I will work so that she never doubts me or my love.

If I could go back in time, I would work harder to prove myself to the third woman I loved. I still would if she gave me a sign she was open to such possibilities, because she’s still one of the most amazing women I have ever met. If life is a cycle, perhaps we will align again. If I had the courage, I would call her now and ask for a second chance, long-distance or no. I am sure I still have proving to do though.

Either way, quality over quantity: you will know a tree by the fruit it bears.

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