Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Time, Space and Jungles
Since stepping outside of my comfort zone is such a great learning tool, a relationship is like orienteering in a rain forest. Love is such dangerous territory. Sometimes it is hard work just to find sunlight on the jungle floor but when you shimmy high enough, the view is breathtaking. Love is so exotic and exhilarating, its highs are so enticing. First kisses are almost addictive. If we could only bottle those first moments, somehow hold onto them and pull them out like a quilt to warm cold feet. For when the instinctual buzz wears off and it is no longer connubial bliss, the daily devotion becomes work.
I have had to really buck up in this relationship. I went full circle from taking care of myself to demanding my partner becoming a nurturing caregiver and really, somehow she was never meant to be. She is devoted and loving, but not a nursemaid. She likes to know what to expect and asks questions incessantly to stay on top of things. Being on my own, before Laura, meant taking care of myself (so I already know its possible for me to be much stronger than I've thought lately than I am capable of). I became pretty proud of being in charge, and that was fine for awhile considering how hard I had to fight to gain my independence. Hyper vigilance was name of the game and even though I could have defended my position then, to retain that hyper vigilance in the face of a supportive partner who just wants to have a role would only serve to create a barrier between us. It is so easy to go one of two ways, in the extreme of course on both ends, and either be fiercely in control (or trying to be) at all times, or be weak and dependent, searching for stability within someone else, hoping they can solve your issues and take care of you. I've seen both ends of that spectrum and they are both recipes for disaster in any relationship.
I married my boss. Any arm chair shrink could analyze that one. All I found was instability and someone who needed me more than I thought I needed him. I knew that he was exactly what I said I never wanted but what he was offering was something that I'd never had. I lost my head and I aim to be more clear headed in the future. But love, and its doppelgangers takes no prisoners At that time, it did not serve anyone, even my children, to go looking to me for support. I still had growing to do, and we all do in our twenties. I call Sage my "after 30 baby" and the difference in the way I parent and live my life is pretty extreme. It seems like too many of my lessons were hard earned but apparently I have really embraced the process. I am creating the most amazing experience of all time and if nothing else, it is exciting.
After that calamity, and the casualties it created, I thought the lesson was to trust no one but myself and to watch my back. I'm still working on the hyper-vigilance, but I have learned to drop my defenses. I have learned to stop comparing this relationship to the last relationship. I have learned that sometimes the issue is all mine and I am projecting my own DRAMAS onto someone who did not help create them.
Not to mention usually the people around me have their own personal dramas to contend with and quite literally do not need or cannot handle me interfering with or adding to their own pain. If we all recognized each other as pieces of ourselves more often, we would not hurt each other so much. What do any of us need so badly that we would hurt someone else to get it? I am actually glad that I have gone without enough times to know that there is little, on a physical level at least, that I would want or need bad enough to hurt another person to get it. Emotionally, I have hurt other people to feel stable or because I thought they hurt me first or because I thought I should protect myself. I have definitely hurt people I love out of anger and I have been asking myself lately if hurting anyone out of anger ever helped the situation.
Even if it makes our ego feel better, it only makes things worse on a deeper level. When we hurt someone, we throw that energy at them and between each other. We can't ever take back what we said or did and even when we are forgiven, somewhere that hurtful thing that we did that time is out there. If we remember that the person that got us mad enough to hurt someone did it because they too were hurting, it becomes easier to manage. If we remember that they were hurting and did not have the strength to take the breath first, it makes taking a breath for ourselves possible.
If everyone has issues, I think it is more true that we tend to bond with people like ourselves and that when we have life experiences in common, we are drawn to each other. People with issues tend to befriend other people with issues. When I was balancing myself, I had to take a period of a couple years on my own to gain the ability to only take on what I could handle. And when I thought I could, really before I even thought I was ready, I began to date. I was not ready to handle another persons issues; not up close and personal, not like that. I am not sure that we are ever fully ready to commit to loving another person day in and day out, forever. I am afraid to tell anyone I will always be there. But I am not afraid to tell Laura that as long as we are growing together, I am in for the ride. She forces me to grow. And I have watched her grow by leaps and bounds and love who she is, was and will be.
Loving someone as they are, without expectation, is a challenge. As a mother, I love unconditionally but still there is expectation. Or...hope. Yet, my children grow and leave the nest and I hope then that I have taught them how to fly. With Laura, I have no hope of teaching her. I tried, and it was insulting to her and belittling. Trying to change another person is not loving them. Loving someone means loving their annoying little habits as well as the little smile they get on their face when they sleep. It is loving them for the big gestures on good days and for the days of depression that will inevitably come. When the garbage is still in the kitchen and when she comes home early with surprise take-out. When she is speaking to me out of love...and when she is speaking to me in anger. Love is a garden that has to be weeded and mulched and fertilized and watered and tended, tended, tended. Love can be dirty and sad and angry and exhilarating. It's still there when the hair thins and the sex is rare. It is there in the dirty dishwater and the sick children.
Love bears so much upon itself for being so tender. In three years, I wanted to give up at least a few times. The last time it happened, I was almost positive that I couldn't do it anymore. And I knew that a decision had to be made. Admitting that my issues were getting in the way meant letting go of some things I felt perfectly justified in hanging onto. Was the cost of hanging onto the control worth losing Laura? I was still making progress. My growth had by no means been stunted. I just needed to take a step back to reevaluate. I think taking a retreat every so often is important. I have to get a fix on things, remind myself of my priorities, take time to connect with spirit and if I am on full spin for months at a time, I need to recharge. Space is important. And so is quality time alone. And with those two ingredients, I see years of good things ahead of us.
What would it be like if I didn't have Laura for comic relief? Laura is the one who leaves me little messages in open magazines, something interesting to read here or there when I am escaping into the bathroom. Laura taught me how to sit quietly by a pond and to drink a cold beer on a hot day and not think it is a bad thing. I have my drivers license because of Laura. And because of Laura, I think I can achieve my dream of having a homestead someday. With Laura, I think about becoming old with someone at my side, instead of scared and alone.
There are days when loving another person means effort when I can't seem to find the strength. It means a little bit more patience. It means making room in my heart and at my table and in my home. It means sharing my children. And it means I am climbing another summit and feeling the rush of insight again and again for as long as we take this journey together.