Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bloggerview Question #3

3. Considering the content of your blog (which is riviting, btw), what do you find sacred in an intimate relationship, if anything at all?

Sacred is such an opinion word. If you don't believe me, ask a Bush Republican about marriage. What will they say? "Marriage is the sacred bond between a man and a woman." That's a statement of opinion, not a hard and fast fact. This is borne out by the facts about marriage in America today, as evidenced by the divorce rate and even by my own situation. My married guy clearly doesn't view his marriage as sacred -- if he did, he wouldn't have a Special Naked Friend Who Isn't His Wife.

I do have my own opinions about what is sacred, but I'm trying to pay attention to those opinions and just observe that they are opinions. I have the opinion that the environment we live in is sacred, and yet I contribute to the destruction of that environment. I smoke, take long showers, drive, use an air conditioner, buy books. Ah, see, even the things that we might assign to be "good" things (air conditioning and books), have an impact on the environment. I will pay more for organically-grown fruit, yet walk an extra block out of my way to save 50 cents on Charmin Toilet Paper (virgin, bleached tree fiber). I sneer at East Coast suburbanites in their huge SUV's and pickup trucks, yet I take a much more benevolent view of the mountain residents I knew who drove the same things -- Marc lived on the side of a mountain where the winter weather and heavy snows made a 4-wheel drive vehicle seem necessary, rather than self-indulgent; Bruce used his pickup truck in his contracting work and attached a plowblade to the front of it to clear driveways for the residents of Breckenridge.

So you see, for every thing we claim to hold "sacred," some other thing in life comes along to remind us that nothing is ever just one way all the time. No right, no wrong, just is. We can go back and forth on the teeter-totter of duality all the time -- and we do. Another example: I believe Republicans are stupid -- except, of course, the Republicans who are my friends. Try it yourself, it's actually a fun little exercise in awareness.

As for sacred relationships? The minute you attach that much meaning to a relationship, suddenly you're caught up in the whirlwind of making sure you do it right, and that the other person is doing what you believe they should be doing, rather than just allowing it to be what it is, at the moment that it is, right here, right now. It becomes positively fraught with expectations, and because of that, inevitable disappointment. This goes not just for "intimate" -- I interpret that in this context to be "intimate with a level of sexuality." -- relationships, but for friendships as well. Whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we each have our own list of "shoulds" that we put onto relationships. That's neither good nor bad, but something to be aware of. You may believe that the person you're an intimate relationship with should know to call you at least X times a day to demonstrate how much he cares for you. You may believe that the person you're in an intimate relationship with should know when you want to be alone. By saying (in a relationship), "This is what I hold sacred," you are setting yourself up for disappointment down the road.

My attachments and expectations and disappointments in this relationship have actually been an amazing gift to me. I try use them every day to practice conscious, compassionate awareness, paying attention to my own reactions and in particular my belief system with regard to relationships. It is challenging, aggravating, exhausting and exhilarating to have those moments of "aha," when I have some insight that is an insight into how my mind works. I can never have any insight into how his mind works because I am not in his mind. I can only know myself, my beliefs, my projections, my thoughts, and my emotions.

I dated a man who used to call me several times a day. Let's call him "The Unemployed Sad Sack." At first I found it extremely flattering, but over time, bothersome and irritating. One day, during a particularly busy period just prior to a website launch, TUSS called me at 10 in the morning to ask if I wanted to go to the movies in Bryant Park. My response was, "I won't be able to go. We are launching a site at midnight tonight, and I will have to work late."

Well. TUSS called me at noon to tell me what movie was playing. TUSS called me at two to tell me what time he was meeting his friends at Bryant Park. TUSS called me at four to tell me what time he was leaving his apartment. He called me at six to tell me he was leaving his apartment. And he called me at seven to tell me he was in Bryant Park and where I could find them. Each time he called, I repeated that I was going to be working late and would not be going to the movies. And on the day after The Day of The Six Phone Calls, TUSS called me to tell me how disappointed and upset he was that I didn't go to the movies with them. He was so caught up in his expectations and the shoulds of what couples do that he never heard what I said. And because he had those expectations, he was disappointed. His disappointment had nothing to do with what I did or didn't do, did or didn't say (though he would probably tell you differently), but he was so attached to his expectations that he chose not to hear the "no".

Matt used to say something that made me crazy, "Expect nothing, get nothing, and you'll never be disappointed." I hated it, because my perception of myself as a person who is hopeful and optimistic was very, very important to me. Or rather, my projection that I needed other people to see me as hopeful and optimistic was very, very important to me. But in retrospect, I appreciate Matt's statement as one of the most Zen statements anyone has ever made to me. (One of the others is from my father, who is wont to listen politely to one of my anti-Church rants, then quietly say, "Is that so?")

Expect nothing, get nothing, and you'll never be disappointed. Give up hope, for hope is about sizing up the past and projecting it into the future.

Everything is sacred.

Nothing is sacred.


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