December 12

Posted on 12 December 2004

My daughter arrives “home” tomorrow. I am excited. So are her father and brothers. I told her, in an email, that I had thought it was the MW Intensive that has caused me to feel unsettled, alienated, since I arrived home from Europe. I see that life without my daughter nearby could also be a contributing factor.

The last few days I have been thinking about relationship.

Saturday evening, Rob and I went to dinner at a younger couple’s house who we’ve known for twenty-six years. We met them at the beginning of their relationship. Saturday, they barely had a civil word for each other. Their harping on small detail, belittling the other, made me uncomfortable.

They have all the ingredients for a harmonious life – two beautiful sons, a fancy house with spaceage kitchen, more than enough bedrooms for the four of them plus house guest, money for travel, and a good retirement fund – but, on the surface, they didn’t seem to like the other much.

Oh I know we all bicker on occasion with or about our partner, wife, husband, friend. I don’t expect perfection but I’d like to see that the positives of a relationship show up in more than the furniture and RRSPs.

I am probably being melodramatic but as I sat with this women listening to her speak of her work and plans for the future, I found myself growing more and more desolate.

Also disturbing yet not without interest, Gill chose to compare returning to Vancouver to a marriage: “And it’s as if I’m returning to Vancouver, my husband, is returning to a man who just doesn’t know how to touch me right. We have too much of a history together. When Vancouver calls my name I just don’t get that thrill I used to get. The butterflies flew out of my stomach years ago.”

I wonder if Gill’s source is her parent’s marriage. Still, I do not desire butterflies (although I have them on occasion.) I love the comfort of familiarity. Still, I desire something more, something that makes me feel rich and full.

You see I want a lot

Perhaps I want everything…

You have not grown old, and it is not too late

To dive into your increasing depths

Where life calmly gives out its own secret.

Marlene reminded me of another Rilke quote:

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible

for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky.”

I think Rilke brilliant. D.H. Lawrence too. Way back when I returned to university I wrote an essay on “Love versus Star Equilibrium” in Lawrence’s “Women in Love.” Birkin, who is the Lawrence-like character in the novel feels that love should be relegated to the level of any emotion that “you feel or don’t feel according to circumstance.” Specifically, he is against the word “love” itself, feeling that common use has “vulgarized” its true essence: “One must throw away – everything – let everything go, to get the one last thing one wants… freedom together.”

There is another wonderful passage, where Lawrence explains that each individual is always a lone, isolated being and that the state of love, of meeting and mingling, is only a delusion:

“… there is a beyond in you, in me, which is further than love, beyond the scope, as stars are beyond the scope of vision… There is… a final me which is stark and impersonal and beyond responsibility. So there is a final you. And it is there I would want to meet you… where there is no speech and no terms of agreement… What I want is a strange conjunction with you… an equilibrium, a pure balance of two single beings: as the stars balance each other.”

Marlene also reminded me of James Hollis who asks what do we want from our partners that we can (must?) give ourselves (or some variation.) What do I want from my partner? Support for those things I feel I need – like alone time – and I am fortunate as Rob needs this also and he rarely if ever questions me about the hours I spend in my little house. Besides solitude I would like a searching heart-felt honesty – the kind that digs below the surface and arrives at an individual truth – the kind that does not sugarcoat truth for fear of hurting. (The kind my friend Kate wrote in her very honest personal essay.) Yet, I would also like to maintain some mystery (which should be easier as there are many things in myself that are a mystery to me.) I would also like kindness – the patient sort – not the hurtful kind that I witnessed the other night between my friends (it is so much easier to see this in others though I know I am guilty myself.)

One Christmas I gave Rob the gift of a fantasy. I gave him a pseudonym and wrote him a fictional account of our relationship thus far. He was to meet me at a downtown hotel. We went out for dinner and I told him the small details about my day. I spoke of my relationship to my husband and children. I waited eagerly to hear what he had to say. I did not lose patience with him. I did not know what to expect from him. It was an extraordinary and enlighening evening for me. I wonder how he remembers it.

In one of her biographical texts, Erica Jong, writes that it is no longer safe to seek zipless fucks in today’s world, that monogamy is the order of the day, and the imagination will save two from boredom.

I see now – thank goodness for writing – that our evening with our bickering friends was worthwhile – beyond the food and wine which were excellent.


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