Partner Lesson #2: Ebb & Flow


Even before we both got interested in Buddhism–I mean, really, really interested–my partner embodied certain qualities of zen.  I mean, she has a little belly, and she remains calm when certain unnamed people have little drama fits.

And when a certain unnamed spouse gets all frustrated and dramatic, and is like, “I’m so over this.  I’m moving back to Spain.  There must be some local festival I can go be ridiculous in and have it blamed on the fact that I’m a foreigner.  I won’t run with the bulls again, but still.”

“Ebb and flow, honey,” she says.  “It’s okay.  I know you don’t remember, but we do usually make-up after we fight.”

This is on her better days, but you get the gist.  My solutions to problems in my late teens and twenties numbered exactly one.  Move.  To another country.  As soon as possible.  I have only slightly gotten over this tendency.

My partner, obviously, believes more in waiting it out.

It’s kind of like she’s my mantra, when I can’t be it for myself.  Of course, if you want to see real panic, watch me when she has a drama fit.  OMG!  I panic just thinking about it.  I try to choke out the ebb and flow words, but mostly I’m like, “Turn off the drama and give me back my Buddha!”

My partner’s parents have been together over 40 years.  She lived in the same house from age 2-18.  She always says that she was friends with a girl in 1-5 grades, then didn’t hang out with her, then became friends again in 11th grade.  She believes in cycles, she believes that things return, she believes that if you do nothing things might just work out on their own.

I went to 4 different grade schools and my parents changed houses even more frequently.  My favorite move occurred in the 80’s, when my mother kicked my father out and eventually bought a condo.  He immediately bought a condo, too–one identical to hers and only one block away, in the same development.  He used to jog by my mother’s house in his hunting vest (no shirt, and he weighed 225) just as my little sisters were leaving the house to catch the bus.  They huddled together at one door or another, behind the wooden geese my mother liked to collect, one dark head, one blonde, waiting in their Catholic school uniforms for him to finish that particular cycle around the block so they could run out the door and miss being seen with him.

That’s the kind of cycle I relate to–avoiding the man in the orange hunting vest and grayish tie-dyed sweats (from washing unlike colors together) in his turns around the block.

Sometimes, now, after 25 years, I can guess when my partner might pull out her trump card, but she still beats me to it.  “This is one of those times, isn’t it?” I ask her.

“Ebb and flow,” she says.  “Calm down.”

“I hear Spain is nice this time of year Ms. Buddha,” I usually answer.

“Fine,” she says.  “I’ll come with you.”

I have begun to believe that you can’t avoid ebb and flow, no matter what you do.

And perhaps avoiding it isn’t quite the thing to do.  I mean, think of all the love you’d miss along the way.  Spain really can’t compete.

(But it does come close.  Temporarily.  Especially in the Spring.)

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