Sunday, August 28, 2011

Acidulous Anti-Love Letter, or Percipient Pro-Real Love Manifesto Outline

A recent emergence of some connected feelings for a former "just friend" of mine has reminded me of some of the unpleasant yet healing lessons of the past year. My prayers are to stay grounded and realistic and honest, baldly, boldly honest and without any agenda or behind the scenes, under the table secrets.

Here's the text of an email, amended slightly, that I sent this morning to this friend:

I do not think either one of us was or is foolish, but human. Optimistic. Inclined toward what feels good. Knowing you and being known by you definitely felt and feels good. It is foolish to want more, I guess, (or for whatever this fantastic gift is to not be sufficient, to not simply be enough) or to try to name or control it, or to try to manage it, or make it all stand still, or roll back, or pick up tempo, or whatever it is we might do when wrestling with it or trying to direct it, wishing the river would wait, or change course or shaking our puny fists at the ocean, as The Poetess used to say. But not recognizing it is part of its charm, for a time. Yes?

As for you being closed down, I am sure this is a factor in the "equal and opposite reaction" that the thermodynamics of the soul and heart seem to adhere to. Lots of analogies come up.

One of the saddest and most baffling things about this love business is how undesired we feel after a time with our lovers (and it is we who feel it, even if we are still desired), especially after a stretch of domestic business and all that bald humanity. When that desperate hot flame gets muted or perhaps snuffed by partnership, by irritation, over-familiarity, by the inevitable disappointments, by the loss of the magic. By the other person seeing us all too clearly and our resultant resentment. I think you remember the phrase "ruinous numinosity," and how the gods and goddesses start to walk the earth embodied in the lover, awakened in ourselves loving. But then they retire, go off to the mountain top, get distracted and wander off to addle some other poor saps, take the bus back to their condos in Florida, go back under the streets where they came from. What is left is altogether too real and broken and full of pain and emptiness to cause much excitement. Simply a couple of puny humans, staring each other in the face, sobered by the vacation of the invisibles.

I have often wanted to stay with the person as a partner at this point, because I still enjoy her company, her mind and imagination, her humor, her history and our shared history and memories and obligations and even purpose and our knowledge of each other. But I have not been able to reconcile the loss of admiration, desire, passion, interest and excitement (really, the blow to my own ego of being a disappointment) with the enduring partnership of friendship, respect, ease, sometimes deep connection, growing intimacy. Is there anything more anathema to romance than a shared bathroom? Unless you swing that way, of course. But then it will be another room in the house that does it. Let's say, the kitchen. Or the "TV room" which is now in many houses every goddamned room.

Maybe the worst trauma any long term love can weather is not sexual or emotional infidelity, the death of a loved one, terrible secrets, financial insecurity, debilitating illness, but in fact loss of passion, what The Poetess used to call "bed death." I am not at all referring here only to sexual passion, of course. You know how there's that inevitable moment early in a new connection where we are up all night, talking, and the sun starts to come up and we are amazed and we have been tricked again into thinking or even saying "wow, I have found someone who really gets me, at last, and I get her, and I want this to be the way it is from now on!" And how the "really getting and being gotten!" might be true enough, just might be, but the last impulse, the "here on out!" part contains in itself already the kernel of DOOM. And then somewhere down the line there we are at dinner (like in that bittersweet movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and we just have not one thing to say to each other, not even for 45 minutes. And when the check arrives it just feels like the Governor called and there was clemency and we can hurry home to book or computer?

I remember after about 2 years together, I grabbed a book to read in bed before falling asleep and The Poetess got pale and I thought I saw a tear form in her eye and she said "well, that's the beginning of the end." It was a funny and sad moment. At the time, I thought her pronouncement was awfully over-dramatic. But for the rest of our time together we did not read in bed together without unease. For me, the death knell sounds faintly on the horizon if I start to watch television, either alone or with my partner, or for that matter, too many movies on a Saturday night, altogether too cozy and like a filial slumber party. Of course, other, much more unsettling death knells have always and without exception arrived for me, including magnetic attraction to other women, a gradually exaggerated fantasy life, shame, guilt, silence, secrets, acting out behavior, resentment, rage, suffocation and constant crushing sadness and remorse and desire for escape. The good stuff.

These acidulous observations meet boisterous objections, both within myself and from others. "The trick is to...." (fill in blank). "It's not that bad!" "You just haven't found the right person yet!" (uh...well, here I am at 50. I'd assume the right person is actually me. I just haven't found me yet.) All of these negotiations are similar to what ill advised and well meaning people say when a loved one dies. All in fact very similar to "well, he's in a better place." Or "At least his suffering is over." The reality is lost in the rescue. Love is love. Death is death. The death of love is the death of love. What's left is partnership, friendship, mutual history and mutual support. Or rage, jealousy, bewildering and killing loneliness, violations of our values, blame. I do not think there is much "better place" until or unless reconciliation, forgiveness and honesty create some freedom for both partners. Have the goddamned funeral and get it over with. Nothing new can come in if the whole partnership is directed toward CPR. This is why I think "couples therapy" is probably often a waste of time and money. If I were a couples therapist, the first thing I would say would be "you are here because your love has died. I cannot help you revive it. It was entirely delusional to begin with. You will either form an entirely new kind of partnership or you will split." Who wants to hear that? Especially at $225/hr.

Now it gets down to the crystalline vision I have been having for the past year. This vision has proven to be a tremendous gift, in spite of its diamond sharp edges. It goes something like this: relationship is delusional. Delusional in the spiritual, fundamental sense, not psychologically or any other way. A true delusion. There is no such thing as relationship. It is a convenient fiction we tell in order to rest. We use the story to assure ourselves that we stand somewhere. Relationship cannot seem to come into being without duality, emerging from the false appearance of a real separation between two people. To have the security and story that buoys us up and makes us even willing to take the risk, we *must* reinforce the illusion of separation. In fact, this fiction of relationship emerges most strongly the more powerfully we encounter another at a core level and the more profoundly this reminds us that we are not separate. This is how we create the fiction of relationship. Now, relating is much different, and real, and mysterious, and not a story we can tell, and not anything at all that holds still or has any definite name or shape. It is protean, dynamic, unmanageable. It is a true encounter and all true encounters are with the divine, with the infinite, with capital R Reality. But in relationship, we are actually meeting only ourselves and the story we are telling. Then we begin to wake up to that crushingly disappointing fact ("oh, damn it! It's YOU again!") and rush to try to diagnose and fix "the problem."

It is comical, because *it is impossible to fix a delusion*. There are no tools for that. We can't fix it because, not only is it not broken, it *doesn't exist*.

I'm not talking about partnership, by the way, which is a set of manageable agreements consciously negotiated and renegotiated. Of course we can do that, with the universe's help, in some limited and realistic way. I do believe partnership requires a spiritual basis and is not possible otherwise. I also believe that from a spiritual perspective there is no particular reason for any one partnership to weigh more heavily than any other. We are not called to love one person or a few people and be entirely indifferent to or even outright hate the rest. That is not what this life is about, in my opinion. That is the crappy bill of goods we have been sold by Romantic Love Vendors, anachronistic tribalism, Nationalism and the consumer society. Materialism, for example, thrives on loneliness. The GDP would crumble to the ground if we all grew up and loved each other.


Anonymous said...


Heidi said...

Very well less than what I could expect from you. I think what is entirely missing, though, is a recognition of the very real neurochemical component of love. These great, deep, meaningful, passionate conversations we have deep into the night, these are all about being high on love. It's not that relationship is the delusion. The delusion is that the love will always look like this.

Love that rolls with the changes is quite comfortable with choosing TV, is quite comfortable with quiet presence rather than constant connection. Of course you find yourself attracted to other women, it's part of the biological pattern of love chemicals. In my experience in polyamory, the simple expectation that my significant other could not possibly meet my every need also makes meeting my needs up to me, and my love can take many forms and find many objects of attention. The beautiful upside, my love does not fade. It doesn't behave the same way it did when we met...and could we sustain that crazy roller coaster anyway?...but it doesn't have to step aside for the new. Rather than dying, it transforms.

It is the expectations that are the delusion, not relationships, not love. If you expect it to be a certain way, then it is inevitable the love will die. That love will die. How about allowing for a bigger love that can roll with life with all its messiness and its quotidian routine?