White doesn’t look like it fades but it does. Things fade. Interest fades too. Adoration. Devotion. Titillation. Lust. Desire. All those things we use to measure a relationship. They break down and lose their luster. And, of course, we make decisions based on that curve of deterioration.
I wish I had a penny for every person who said to me “I love him/her. I’m just not in love with him/her.” It’s a code and I’m not sure there’s a Romance Rosetta Stone to unlock what we really mean by it. Sometimes it means “this has become hard work and drudgery.” Sometimes it might mean “I made a mistake.” Sometimes it could mean “I don’t know how to stay connected.” Sometimes it means “I’m bored because s/he’s not keeping me entertained.”
The one that intrigues me the most is “this is getting too intimate and I’m scared.” As long as we’re entranced by the excitement of it all, we can avoid the reality that we are two people with needs. We’ve fallen into each others sphere of influence and now the translation codes of what I want and what you can give has to be tested. And testing often means tolerating both failure and uncertainty. So much easier just to focus on excitement.
Closing off from the relationship is compelling because it feels safe, at least initially. The energy of self-righteous hurt powers a million ways to secure the perimeter against attack. Re-direct the blame somewhere else. Focus on all the ways I tried harder than you. Point out your unwillingness to meet me at the appointed time and place of my need.
I was talking with a friend, itemizing the basis of my rationale that the relationship I was in was oh-too-hard. And she asked, “When you’re in that room with him, mentally taking apart his every move, documenting his every negligence, listing all the reasons this is not going to work, who else is there?”
I was curious about this plant which was growing out of a clump of hosta. Technically a weed – something I didn’t put there and which isn’t included in the scheme of things. But I was curious and let it grow enough to produce delicate white flowers. The texture of the petals is like a brushed cotton, the kind my favourite summer shirts are made of.
Landscapes are comforting when they have that same soft, nubby texture. Rolling fields punctuated by hills and carved into high relief by gullies. In early Spring the edges are fuzzy with new growth and by Summer the haze of greens add to the sensations of an oft-wrapped shawl or a worn quilt.
These days, I do best in relationships that have this lazy, undulating flow, textured with comfort and soothing encounters. There are few expectations other than an agreement to be gentle with each other. We say things like “thank you for understanding” and “that’s such a relief to hear” or “let me see what I can do.” Life’s too long for anything else.
Frank was cleaning out the last two boxes of our vegetable garden while I worked on being fixated by the weeds coming up from the “weed-killer” landscape covers. In a moment of rest, I saw him sitting in the earth of the 4 x 4 box looking for all intent like a child in a sandbox. “You make a beautiful child,” I said – knowing full well his life had not included the luxury of sandboxes. We laughed.
It’s never too late to change the landscape of our lives.
It’s a brave man who walks his wife into Tiffany’s in NYC and walks out without buying her anything.
Well, he didn’t actually get all the way out. He got as far as the elevator and asked the deadly words, “So, what would you like to do now?”
I am a long time practitioner of Buddhism yet short-lived on the practice of ahimsa. Fortunately, he was saved by my never-ending optimism that he can be trained in limbic telepathy. The limbic system is made up of organs in our brain that is sometimes referred to collectively as the “emotional brain.” It’s actually not so much a “system” as a complex network of interconnections among structures that deal with threat assessment and responses, memory and learning, and keeping the rationally-driven frontal lobe off line. It is also apparently sensitive to being shut down in Tiffany’s. In NYC. At the ring counter. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
After I pushed the elevator call button into the elevator shaft, I think he caught on because I found myself ushered back to the ring counter. It’s cute ring. Thin, unassuming. Squarish yet round. I’m not much of a diamond girl so these itty-bitty chips are quire acceptable.
We dance with this particular expectation in our relationship. I suspect, all relationships do. Why can’t s/he just know? All the cues are there. All the anticipation. So when there is a huge disconnect between what I anticipate was going to happen and what does happen, it’s a shock. I watched this happen a few times recently; observed it closely. There is a subtle assumption that I’d missed in previous experiences: “You’d think someone who knows me so well would…” There it was! Just as no good deed goes unpunished, all good marital sensitivity gets held against you. A wacky “if—>then” sequence that can get quite deadly in the trenches of neediness, craving, and insecurity about the relationship.
It is a cute ring. The edges have just enough sharpness to remind me that my expectations can make things messy. They also remind me to ask: what do you believe should be happening now?
White on white is fascinating – and likely one of the most difficult ways to depict shape and texture. I took a little tour around the garden to see how an expert does it. Nature after all has been painting white-on-white for eons and perhaps there was a hint or two in how I could achieve the effects of pure-on-pure without resorting to pigment props.
Apparently not. There isn’t a real “white” – at least not when we talk about light. But there is when we talk about pigments. It’s complicated. Like the purity of my relationships, one cannot say it is or it isn’t because it all depends on what it contains and where it comes from.
I’m working on this. The good thing about white is that it is very accommodating to other colours. It has to be because without a dash of grey either as pigment or shadow what it transmits is lost in fuzzy splotch. It’s not a stretch to think that relationships are like that. The shadow side certainly brings out the highlights. Well it should anyway.
Someone asked me what it is like to be with the same person for 30 years. “I wish!” We’ve lasted 30 years because he’s not the same person I met. And thankfully neither am I, so that helps too. We’ve spent a number of those years on the stuff that defines the relationship. The dark shadows, the grey murky pigments, setting boundaries, defining likes and dislikes. Necessary virtues and vices when crafting a work of art.
But what we never figured on was the organic nature of growing older together. That much of this was beyond our small self and even beyond our imaginings. That something more powerful would shape that enso, would toss pigments into it giving it heft, depth, and topography. We don’t know what that is, where it comes from, or how it will leave us irrevocably changed. But it has been, is, and will be marked by a blending of white-into-white.