Saturday, February 28, 2015

Between Knowing and Not Knowing

I had written this piece ages ago, didn't publish it and came back to it after a conversation with a friend yesterday touching on trust, using your words to tell people what you want, need and expect and the dialogue that has to happen after to ensure everyone is on the same page. Trust is a bitch.


I have an image in my mind of myself in fourth or fifth grade, seated at the edge of the big pull-out bleachers in our gym-cafeteria, an expanse of collapsed bleachers a skinny ledge with a 15 foot drop creating a bridge across to the other side where on the wall I can clearly see my name written. The name appears courtesy of someone who hates me and makes my life miserable on a daily basis, my stomach a knot at what must be written there but my nervous system in full blown panic mode at the thought of shimmying across the expanse and sheer drop off (on to tables and chairs) to see. I simultaneously want to know what awful thing has been said and hate myself for the fear of heights and falling that keeps me from to finding out. So my younger self sits with the knowledge on a daily basis that something lingers out there unknown and not dealt with and she sits with the knowledge that it's her own weakness that prevents it. Even as I write this, my skin prickles and my hands sweat just at the memory.

I'm spending some time thinking and feeling through what it means to trust and what makes for a good and trusting relationship, what it means to be open to trusting someone, how you have to sit on the edge and contemplate moving across the expanse of all of your prior conditioning to get to there and then work your way back, broken or elated. Part of what I am pondering is the worry that pops up of not knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, remedied quickly by actually using your words to ask (miracle!). But, in truth, the wounds that still hang around from my childhood lead me to need closure, that I feel like I can handle pretty much anything as long as I know the truth or another's version of it. Learning to articulate it well, to request feedback, to stay on top of things with communication, build verbal agreements. It's all part of it, but it's not the whole thing.

So much of relationships are about the edge of the cliff, moving through our fear and pushing there and back to find what we need to find. Pretty much every moment of it is not guaranteed. But it's made in those moments of moving yourself out, inch by inch, making yourself face your fears anyway. It's really fucking complicated and takes so much work and, in truth, it's work you need to do for yourself and without the aid of others. It's you, no net, nobody spotting you. It's being solid at the core so you can be solid for others, especially the person with whom you are building the trust.

[I feel like I've just written myself into a totally different understanding of what I'd started out to write. Hilarious.]

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Somehow this is not how you envisioned it, midday grey skies coaxing through the windows that you notice are in need of polishing before the people come to look at what is there. You envisioned bourbon in glasses and smoke and arms fisted up into clenched hands wrestling over who gets what. But it's not that. It's a Monday and you are starting with the bigger things when your partner of so many years lays it out for you. There isn't a lot there, honestly. Extracting the family pieces that you've either dragged with you or recently dragged in, there's not a lot there worth keeping. Old mattress 10 years on that may need replacing (that saw both of your children home), bunk beds the kids no longer want, too many items from IKEA to warrant a move across half of the nation. Save a few pieces of furniture, all of the accumulated knick knacks and a heavy lift in the kitchen, glassware and dishes, there simply is not much there. Easier to pitch it, give it away, parse it out and buy anew than to spend what it would take to bring it along.

You are not ready for the gut-punch that this brings, the sudden thought of this person you've been with for so long starting a life with barely a trace of his old, your history's imprint erased from the smooth arms of the chair, wiped clean off of the glasses, not nuanced in the myriad of future choices he would make about his accommodated life. But it's not the you being erased that is the gut-punch, it's the history, it's the together, the starting over and moving on.

And for the next few hours, you ruminate over what investment means in a marriage. What not having a lot in common to divide up means. You want to lift this metaphor into the narrative of your marriage, to use it as a tool to make your case. It's proof, you think, because the bigger truth is your heart is sore, because accumulating/not accumulating objects feels like it should mean something, because after 14 years you expected more to be there, because you can't quite erase the image of your partner's back entering a home, not your home, to start anew.

You would be foolish to leave your thinking there, so you don't. You remember hours in the garden, great meals in the kitchen, small people at soccer games and school board meetings and graduate school. You remember moving and packing and unpacking and fishing trips and the long stretch of time that this house you are leaving has afforded you during beautiful summer weather and magnificent fall leaves.  Fourteen years, not measured in big things you bought, slippery to hold onto save for the two bright and amazing beings the world will delight to receive someday. Slippery to hold on to save the small objects from faraway places that you hope his future partner won't ask to remove, the pieces that were too beautiful to let go of, the pictures you stack to split up, the wedding invitations you set aside for the kids, the bags and boxes of life moved through that you haul to the curb. It's all there for the viewing, all of the miles and years of hopeful emotions that you relive in each pile, your heart too soft for this work of winnowing what's worth keeping and what's worth leaving behind.