Number 36

  
Tonight I raise a glass to you my long time mate on our 36th.

The reels we’ve spun can replay for decades to come, still

If we have them, for the lottery winnings pile in daily, you,

Me and this old house, decaying like two old yard cats, long

After the children have sought their own, riches strewn to 

The wind of fates, our progeny spinning their own records.

So let us look in the eyes of cheer and sound a resounding 

Reidel clink to another year’s pantomime time bound 37th

(Hurry home; the Insignia’s in the cooler heavy-breathing).

 

Happy Anniversary!

Here’s to delightful surprises! May your lives be full of them.
 
A toast of good cheer I have made many times, sober or not, today I toast a special anniversary–mine.
 
I married my charming good friend 35 years ago. I loved him then, one of a couple of jackass kids we were back in 1980. Flippantly striding through college campus defying accepted authority and unearthing sacred ground, we were irreverently youthful. So when he asked me to marry him for a practical solution to an impractical problem of late registration and the French military, I did. After all, he was my good friend-sometimes lover. I did love him.

 

To this day I am unsure of the depth of our love–even if he loved me–to what degree or intensity. It did not matter. We galavanted through the crazy years together as a pair. And when my car blew up and my job went south, I moved in with him, only to move out nine years later and then move back in 6 years after that. 

 

To our sometimes amazement, sometimes knowing nod, we have lasted this long together, through the soaring and sinking. To our surprise, we built and destroyed things together without destroying each other. To no one’s surprise, we have tried our best to be good friends, lovers, parents, children, siblings, friends and citizens of the local and larger world we inhabit. 

 

Even more surprising than our lasting is our having met in the first place. What were the chances that we would meet at Golden West College in Mrs. Strauss’ World Literature class and start a conversation, me, who never initiated conversations with anyone, whispering that first opening line: “Where’re you from?”

 

I was an awkward, self-conscious, earth-shoe-wearing 18 year old poor student with visions of backpacking through Europe some day and a sucker for an accent, while he was a suave, self-assured, French-accented European of means with a late 70’s expensive shoulder-length haircut, collar-less shirt and American boorishness critique. We were caricatures of Romantics–righteous anger, cynical disdain and ironic amusement–back then.  

 

When I married him, I was aware his eyes turned for delicate boned petite beauties with eyes the color of the sea set in sand-polished skin while I adored tall, dark-haired brown-skinned rugged bad boys who seldom smiled. I was a tall, clunky hippy, a brown-eyed brunette with freckles who hugged her knees into her chest while conversing in wild waves of gesticulating hands. He was fair-haired, small-framed metro with polite manners and a sense of decorum. 

 

Somehow we found our meeting. Somehow we have survived the mountain of small frictions of daily living atop the chasm of disappointment, misunderstanding and alienation that one human being can produce in another. Steadiness steered us through the rocket ride up and back as it does now.  

 

We share a steadiness, a vibration like the P wave of the electrocardiogram, where the spikes are measured against the dips to tell the story of a heart’s patterns and rhythm. Call it history, maturation, transcendence, or regeneration like severed nerve endings in the brain organically reaching out and reconnecting, we share a communal past and an ongoing present. We grew up together.
 
To my daily delight, we survive days that lapse into years. We co-exist, unconsciously in each other’s often silent presence puppeteering the motions and emotions of two people conducting a marriage, a family, and a life as we wander through moments, sometimes colliding, clashing and crashing, other times melding and mooring, uplifting upon the same softly rocking sea of a cul de sac world we look out to sitting on our lawn chairs in the sunny warmth bathing our suburban front porch.
 
There is peace in constancy. I am surprised to write that, me, whose constant throughout my kick-ass twenties and thirties was the belief that contentment was a fate worse than death, a killer of creativity and therefore life. Without the itch, the striving, I thought, there was only collapse into the hum of the daily, the numbing hum of contentment. But constancy is not always contentment. 
 
The average, the mean and the median are constants, not so much as compromise but as perspective. The sum total of existence is the graph of heart palpitating thrills of victory measured against the torpor of stultifying loss. Quality of life, in retrospect, is calculated by that range of emotion, the depth of terror and rage against ecstasy and bliss. My husband-partner-mate and I have reached, stretched the limits together, and so have bonded, grown neurological tendrils of connections in the doing.
 
And we stumble over and with each other still, amazed that we awaken to yet another shared morning, that we grew two healthy, happy humans despite ourselves and manage to move through time and space as we do–mindlessly mindful of the beat that syncs us, he sometimes the high and me the low while other times he the wide and me the far. Wondrously, unexpectedly, we make it–together.
 
Happy Anniversary, to you who will not read this tribute to endurance. If you did, however, you would find in this lovely duet, a surprise akin to our own song. Cheers!

Happy Anniversary! Now Let’s Break Up.

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Today is the first anniversary of this blog. I embarked on the WordPress train a year ago on a whim, an undeveloped plan and foggy urge to write in hopes of something undefined. Having never blogged or even read blogs much before, I plunged in, posted a few portraits, a poem or two, and left it for six months, life having ramped up ridiculously like a nightmare on steroids. Some of the hardship of the last year–my world upturned in too many ways to list–inspirited and compelled me to pick up the strand I left six months prior for this endeavor, consciously choosing to capitalize on the lessons learned and the beauty that is born from horror sometimes.

Like anything, even getting up each day, it takes faith and courage to believe all will be all right, so long as I conduct myself with open heart and mind sprinkled with a little savvy. To illustrate more concretely, I was approached by a woman at the gas station adjacent to a Motel 6 today. She was a fairly well dressed young woman who asked me with polite but firm insistence for a ride to a mall 20 minutes from there. I knee-jerk declined, pretending to another appointment destination in the opposite direction, but she persisted–not with tears or sympathy, as she gave no reason for her request, but with sheer calm insistence.

She forced me to that place of challenging my beliefs. She needed help, I had time and means to provide it, but I had an in-built reaction of mistrust. After a quick assessment of my motives and her size (I thought I could take her in a fight), I leapt in faith that helping another human being in need (or even no need) was worth the assessed small risk of harm befalling me, and that my instinct was correct in her sincerity.

The choices we make tell our story to ourselves and others. Some might tell the story of picking up a stranger as a lucky escape from potential danger, one that would be terribly lopsided in risk to benefit. My children could have been orphaned over something terribly easy to avoid, had she robbed or killed me. Others might tell the story of picking up a stranger as a good deed, one performed in calculated risk, which is contributive to the larger world–mine and others’.

If I live in mistrust, my world is less free. If I help others when I am able, those I help may teeter over the edge of consideration, airing on the side of helping too, expanding rather than contracting connection. My choice reflects who I am, and knowing who I am determines the choices I make.

Reflecting on yesterday’s question of befriending an ex lover, the adage of knowing self, having faith in and love for the self, is requisite to loving another. Sometimes the same gut instinct, knowledge of a sort, that agrees to chauffeur a stranger in faith chooses to end a relationship in faith. Breakups are called breakups and not pauses or hiatuses when it is time for a relationship to end. Whether amicable or not, breakups are painful, making friendship nearly impossible.

How many people are strong, logical, self-aware, honest and forthright about their own shortcomings and strengths as well as others’? How many know the difference between self-delusion and following true desire, loving the self like no other? How many would live lonely rather than enjoy the comfort of the familiar company and intimacy regardless of the potential for danger, justifying it as compassion?

I read an article about breaking up first thing this morning on my daily journey through the Internet.

Rebekah McClaskey, an intuitive relationship counselor specializing in breakups, according to her bio on elephantjournal.com says breakups are hard in The Laws of Breaking Up & Getting Over It. No shit.

She says more, however, offering intuitive advice, which appears to be a combination of homegrown knowledge, common lore, and researched Internet offerings. Of 29 points, 14 interest me, in particular:

1. The grief you now feel due to the separation has less to do with the past and more to do with grieving over what could have been, which makes moving forward seem near impossible. Also known as: Break-ups kill the future dead.

Fantasy is a powerful motivator and critical component to our pleasure and pain, and I don’t mean just sexually. To make things work, whether we are poring over in our mind the prospect of a new job or a new lover, we imagine ourselves happily or at least contentedly in that imaginary place in order to choose that position or partner. And once we choose, we continue to construct the relationship by filling in what’s not there, pushing some things to the shadows and others to the forefront. In other words, we craft our world to fit our needs. That makes for prettier pictures but hard letdowns when the painting turns out to be a poor imitation of reality.

We try to make things work especially if we see shiny objects that attract our attention and desire. I have loved men who read poetry or debated philosophy, deeply affecting my heart and desire, while I sublimated those other traits I saw but didn’t measure as highly, like their propensity to fuck other people, or their lack of ambition or care for my safety. I closed my eyes until they were forced open, and the relationships eventually ended.

2. You did your best. No, really you did and continue to do your best. Your personal best can also look way different than choosing wisely.

This speaks to forgiving the self for being human. Yes, we do fool ourselves often despite our best effort to make the best choice with as much information possible. I have stayed with partners who could not give me what I needed by rationalizing that there were so many other good things the person brought to my life, have allowed myself to be fooled into believing I could overlook another’s crucial incompatibilities, even as I knew better, and had suffered hurt because of the selective blindness. It’s easy to self-flagellate for the sins of loving the wrong people, but accepting our own imperfection, that we are all just trying to make things work the best way we can, is much more difficult.

3. ….we are all just faking it.

Yep. We think we have the answers, got it together, but in braver moments, sit down and face that we are all frauds to a large extent. We don’t know shit. All we do is try to figure things out as we go along to get what we need.

6. Unconditional love is just letting go of what could be or could have been by appreciating what you have now.

Acceptance is hard–not just word dedication, real acceptance. This is self-love. It alleviates the crazy making of she will change or I will change or learn to live with this or that because it is a worthwhile trade off to something else. We bargain when we should just open our eyes and see, to accept.

7. There is no cure for pain. It is just a part of living.

Enough said.

10. He is not coming back. She is not coming back. And if they do it is just part of a cycle and not actually a new beginning. (That is a hard one to admit out loud.)

AKA the extended breakup. The scales tip for or against staying with someone, and at some point the liabilities outweigh the benefits. When it’s time, the breakup should be fast but is too often prolonged for that most evil of betrayers–hope. And some people love to pick scabs until they bleed. At least they can control the pain, as opposed to one that overtakes and overwhelms uncontrollably, like loneliness.

12. A friendship that occurs within the first year after separation is not going to be functional. It just won’t be. I’m not joking about this. What I am saying is that a full year must go by before a healthy friendship can take place.

I have known this to be true and untrue. Some people just didn’t bring me anything more than they already had and so had to disappear from my life.

15. There is no replacement for sex or intimacy or intimate sex. It is okay to miss these things.

It can be borne. Hold out for more than a quick fix.

16. We learn by being in relationship (even after it ends).

Yes, we do. So long as we keep our eyes and ears open.

18. Having sex with your ex is like sticking a fully loaded heroin needle in your arm. It will kill your soul.

Ahhhhh, yes, it will kill you slowly but surely. Only, heroin is a real physical need, sex with an ex is imagined. But the analogy hits home hard.

20. At some point, everyone is immature; not just your ex.

It’s not true (stomping my feet)!!!! 😉

25. It could take your whole life to learn to love yourself. The best time to do it is now.

To repeat, knowing the self is foundational to knowing what to expect in others. Since life is lived in our heads telling ourselves lies we believe, knowing the self takes work, a tremendous vigilance and attentiveness that is exhausting for its subtlety and dividends paid in agonizingly barely perceptible increments. It takes a life-long practice to unfold yourself from what has been socially constructed to find the real you, your voice. You are your relationships.

27. Contrast is our greatest teacher and similarities are what bond us together. Everyone is both all the time to different degrees (brain warp!). A.K.A Right person + wrong time = wrong person.

But what’s logic got to do with it? We’re talking love.