• Shalini Devi

Our Love Story

Updated: May 6

It was Christmas time, snowy and full of magic as it is every year at this time. It was one such magical Christmas when I met my soulmate. And yet it was unlike any other. I had met him a few weeks before at a bowling event being held by the Temple’s Youth Group. My dear cousin had insisted I come join them even though at the time, I was battling with my unknown illness for 6 months now with the only known facts being I had gotten the Epstein Barr Virus on April of that year, and had been assured the extreme fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms should last no longer than 6 months. It had now been 7 months and between perplexed doctors and important insurance companies and my health failing me – I wasn’t in the best of places –

But when my cousin asked me to join them, I said hey why not bowl while I’m at it?

It was then that I had glanced my soulmate and gave him a smile and we began talking to one another at the bowling alley (while apparently my cousin and his brother had been trying to figure out how to get us to meet one another – the said plan in the background all along unbeknownst to us. I still remember glimpsing their high five over my soulmate’s shoulder as they realized we solved that problem for them and their work was now done) lol I had seen him once before at a debate in March that year before I had become ill, so I remembered he lived and worked in New Jersey so we talked about how that was going and all such matters, me conveniently avoiding my current circumstances but speaking about school and the work I had done and the likes. This conversation lasted for all of 5 minutes when my soulmate gave me an offer I could not resist. Literally, because I was in Sales just like him, I knew it was the way to pose a question without the possibility of the other party saying No. He said confidently, in his charming way, I’m leaving for NJ tomorrow but I’d love to get your Facebook info and we can talk. So of course, I acquiesced and there it began. As Christmas approached, we had been messaging one another back and forth with what started as a couple lines here and there to paragraphs upon paragraphs all through the day and late into the night. It was almost like an addiction and I remember sanctioning myself and telling myself I had to rest or the fatigue would get worst. But even my own protests couldn’t hold back the connection that was beginning to form between us. We talked about music, movies, travel, our views on the world, and all matters of things. Then the more juicy – past relationships and what we wanted in life. By now I did mention I had been unwell and I was taking some time off to focus on my health and just healing myself.

Eventually, after watching Love Actually and passionately telling him why there is still hope for humanity because love exists – love that is as simple as loving your dog or your grandmother that as long as such love existed there will always be light, to overcome the darkness we face in these difficult times in this world. After that quite deeply intense monologue, without delay he asked me if I’d like to go out with him for dinner, literally the day he arrived back home in Toronto for Christmas, December 22nd, 2014.

By now, I liked him quite a lot, enjoying our conversations about everything and being quite amazed someone like him existed. But of course, there was this doubt – is this for real? And what will happen when he finds out about what’s happening with my life situation because of my health? I tried to be envogue and stick with the present moment as it was fun at the time, so why not, and I agreed happily to meet him.

Due to some rescheduling on my part, our first date was on December 23rd, just two days before Christmas. Funny enough I’d never really been on a first date with someone I didn’t already know, so yes, I was that girl googling what to do on a first date- eye contact suggestions and all.

And although I was planning to dodge the whole health issue that even I could barely comprehend (along with the doctors) my Aunt & Uncle wisely suggested I tell him from the start so we begin with the truth. (yes, I consulted them on all things romance in my life) Or in other words, Ghada would extract it from me with her undying curiosity, thankfully balanced by Mamoo’s one or two comments of guy wisdom bringing us back from some crazy what if tangent.

So, we rehearsed how I would tell him about what was now being called by the doctors as “post viral fatigue” which had no treatment or cure and could take an unknown time to get better, and simply required rest and self-care, in their words. Great, I remember thinking, he’ll probably just be running out the door by this point. I know I probably would have been.

So, date night arrived and thankfully he proposed to pick me up (much to my relief because my symptoms prevented me from being able to drive and the famed Distillery District Christmas Market was closed (which again to my relief saved the day because I couldn’t actually walk very far). I felt like a bunch of spare parts trying to somehow step way outside my comfort zone – to go on a first date – of all things, even in the midst of what I was going through.

Looking back on this, I was a serious champ. But somehow, I felt something within me was driving me, telling me this was worth it, telling me somehow, it was going to be ok.

I remember the moment I got in the car with him, and he flashed me a quick smile as he was pulling out of our courtyard parking lot, there was a feeling that hit me so strongly. A strong knowingness in the feeling of his presence that filled the space between us. And I knew in that moment, this is going to be something. Somehow, I just knew. This was no random date and no random person. And with that I felt at ease, going with him to Liberty Village and having our dinner at the first place we stumbled upon – The Brazen Head Pub.

The only way I can describe our first date is the word: magical. I remember the way my soulmate looked at me, his eyes sparkling, as we talked and talked and talked – sitting in that restaurant for 4 hours, but what felt like not enough time even still. I remember his smile as he smiled at nothing in particular, but just everything, as if he was just amazed with me and wondering if he was in a dream. I was in a similar daze – which for once didn’t have to do with my fatigue – as I wondered where this guy had been all my life. The most pivotal moment for me when I casually refused wine because of “my health issues,” as rehearsed, except he didn’t take the alarmed bit as I was expecting, and I pressed on telling him everything from the Epstein Barr Virus until now and all the crazy uncertainty in between. I remember how he looked at me, with such concern and compassion, I was wondering if I was telling the story right. And after I was done, he told me how sorry he was I had to go through all that, and began to talk about his own experiences and how amazing I was handling it all. Essentially, this man just acted like all I told him was my favourite colour is blue, and he accepted that and moved on with our engaging conversation without skipping a beat. At this point I really did wonder if I was dreaming, no alarm, no judgement, no awkwardness – just him, just my soulmate. And if you knew him, you’ll know what I mean when I say that as he is one of the most caring and compassionate people I know.

By the end of that night, my confident soulmate was literally taking all kinds of curve balls and hitting them out of the park, declared he was throwing the rules book out the window and as he handed me a pretty box of macarons, from LaDuree in New York (my favourites he remembered from my time living in France) he told me he really likes me and he knows he lives in the States but he would be willing to drive up often to see me, to make it work somehow even though we were long distance.

By now, if you know anything about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which I didn’t yet know I had) and its cognitive symptoms, such shocking propositions of a guy actually going beyond feigning some interest for you and doing the half ignoring texting routine after the first date to not look “too interested” you can imagine my head was in a spin. I was amazed at this genuinely honest guy who just declared to me he liked me, without worrying what the guy 101 handbook said but it was certainly a lot as I sat in the car ride home trying to make sense of it all. I knew deep down this was amazing but he had officially sent my mind for a spin in disbelief land, especially after telling him about how unwell I was. I was floored, to say the least.

Thankfully I had some very good support who reassured me it was all ok, and to just give him a chance. When I was breathing again, I couldn’t stop smiling at how amazing it all was, a Christmas Miracle I said…

I think from then on, it is safe to say, my soulmate has never failed to surprise me in the sheer strength of his love and dedication to me. Against all kinds of odds.

Our second date on December 26th lasted all of 10 minutes with me so dizzy & unwell that I couldn’t stand and wanting to crawl in a hole, because I couldn’t believe this was happening to me in front of him, when I had just met him! But he was the one reassuring me and when I had to ask him to leave after just 15 minutes, he kept saying yes, and I look forward to seeing you again another time.

That night I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital as my symptoms had intensified so greatly into what is called a “crash” in CFS and I couldn’t even walk down the hallway or speak and I felt the room was spinning. When I woke the next day and realized I probably wouldn’t be able to see him again much less talk on the phone, I texted my soulmate a long message thanking him for his time with me and for wanting to be here but unfortunately, I was very unwell and couldn’t really engage with him.

And to that he replied – I don’t need anything from you. All I want is to be here for you.

And be here for me is what he has done.

From the times he would drive 10 hours through the snow to come visit me for the weekends, to the times he’d fly to Toronto every weekend when my condition was most severe to sit next to me for 15 minutes silently and leave because that’s all I could handle. To the times I couldn’t even speak to him or text and he’d simply message the words, I love you Shalini.

To the time I got my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which had no cure or treatment and could range in severity from being bedridden for decades, to unable to work and everything in between – with no timelines or predictions of when or how it would get better, and he responded to me telling him this just a few months after our first date by saying, ok here’s how we will get through this.

To the Valentine’s Dinners, when I couldn’t leave the house and he brought in Federick’s take out and dressed up in a suit so I could wear my red dress & feel special too.

All of this he did. Even when I was really scared of commitment and what was happening to me and just wanted to run, even then, he flew here and talked to me about how he expected nothing from me and if when I got better and I didn’t want to be with him anymore, he’d accept that. He asked me if I’d just be with him in the now, in this moment and take it one step at a time as we navigated it all together.

His smiles, his good morning and good night texts, his undying perseverance from his beautiful love is what I will always remember. He was my light in the darkness, and as I would say after that extremely difficult time of my health, he held on to me as I fought to hold on to myself – and he never let go. Not once. And it has made all the difference in my life.

My soulmate told me he loved me a month after we met, and I knew in my heart I felt the same. But knowing where we stand today, three years later from that magical Christmas of 2014 and all we have been through in the process together, I can say I truly know what it is to love. I realize how much courage it takes to truly allow someone into your inner world and to allow their love to transform you. It is not always rainbows and sunshine as you go through all the challenges that come your way, but love is what overcomes it all.

I have seen that, and I have lived it. I have seen how our love has conquered CFS, and all other obstacles that rose before us. I have seen how I was able to support him & be there for him despite my illness when he faced some of the greatest challenges in his life so far- through the power of my love and nothing else. I have seen miracles that have shown us there is so much more to life that only true love can bring. And I feel so blessed to have gotten the chance to live this with him.

Thank you to my soulmate, for never giving up on me, for never giving up on love. You have taught me the power of love – and that there is Nothing in this world it cannot conquer. And for all it does to force us to look deep within our own beings to transform ourselves into all we can be, and to be willing to feel all the emotions & pain & uncertainty it brings to love so deeply – it is worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I choose Love. Again, and again, each and every single day, I choose love.

I learned,

Love is the path. And the path is Love.

Love for ourselves.

Love for one another.

Love for the world.

Love for all there is.

I learned,

Love is all there is.

Jai Maa. – SDS

I leave you with this,

“When love beckons to you, follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north winds lay waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you, so shall he crucify you.

Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the Earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear, you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,

Then it’s better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing floor.

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh,

But not all of your laughter,

And weep, but not all of your tears.”

- Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

And from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani (2015),

“They stand testament to Eternal Love…

Love that knows no Religion

Love that is a Gift from God

Love that in itself is Supreme.”

It is to that love, I continue to bow.

Thanks for listening. Talk again soon,


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