What I Know About Marriage and Homicide


I wrote this for a friend when she got married.  So she’d know what she was in for.  Enjoy!

 

What I Know about Marriage and Homicide

By Lyralen

  1. Being known is great. Except when it’s not.

 

  1. After 26 years, I’m still waiting for her to turn into the suave, handsome, rich doctor or lawyer I was supposed to marry, instead of this completely authentic, loving, neurotic putz who makes me laugh.

 

  1. Loving her so much challenges all my fears. So I try to be friends and keep getting back on the same side. Otherwise I might kill her.

 

  1. I can only do as much intimacy as I can tolerate—so I don’t open my heart all at once. Or I might kill her.

 

  1. It’s better to tell on myself than to confront my partner. Because then she won’t kill me.

 

  1. I have a part of me that sees her as every monster from every nightmare and thinks my survival is threatened. When this happens, it’s time to go in my room and hide. And then try to soothe myself. So I don’t kill her.

 

  1. Marriage is a disappointment factory. I keep creating expectations or recycling old ones, just so I can learn that she’s not here to take care of me. (This makes me want to kill her.)

 

  1. For 28 years, she has told me, over and over again, that we don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, that we can go as slow as I need, that she never wants to hurt me (even though she does), and I forget this the minute she says something stupid. (And then I want to kill her.)

 

  1. When the voice that tells me I’m better than her, and she doesn’t deserve me, gets activated, it’s better if I don’t share that with her (so she doesn’t kill me), or believe what that part of me is telling me (so I don’t kill her).

 

  1. Once in a while, we get close, and no one freaks out, and I notice, one moment at a time, the way her hands seeks for me, the way she touches me as if I am the most precious person in the world, and the way I explode with joy (and make inappropriate jokes) at all of it, so grateful to be alive and know what this feels like.

 

I’m Crazy, You’re Crazy, Let’s Get Married


I’m writing a book with this title. It’s all about getting to know and love your crazy, and then putting out the welcome mat for another person’s crazy, either the one you don’t yet have, or the one who is sleeping next to you, snoring her head off.  Sorry for the tease, but not yet ready to share!

Tongue out

I will say this–we’ve been having some conflict about an impasse issue, and I’ve been trying to take space and contain my irritation and criticism of my partner.  (She says she can hear every word, whether I open my mouth or not.)  But I miss her.  So today I had this full body fit, trying not to hug her, because once that happens all bets are off.  I end up in the bathroom, where I say, “Let’s fist fight.”  So she puts up her palms (standing there in her sports bra and jeans, hair wet and sticking up like Alfalfa), and I baby punch them, screwing up my face as hard as I can like a mad cartoon character.  Then I put up my hands and she baby slaps them until I tell her a slap fight isn’t a fist fight and then she baby punches them, finally doing it right (I do make the rules here, at least about important things).  And then she holds out her pinky, this soft compassionate look on her face, and I hold out mine, but I don’t touch her (still trying to take space).  And I say, “ET phone home.”  She looks at me.  I say, “But I can’t get a connection.”  And then, almost at the same moment, we both take our hands to our ears in fake cell phones and say, “Can you hear me now?”

This is what passes for sanity around here.  Just saying.

What I Know About Marriage and Homicide (For a friend, on her recent nuptials)


1. Being known is great. Except when it’s not.

2. After 26 years, I’m still waiting for her to turn into the suave, handsome, rich doctor or lawyer I was supposed to marry, instead of this completely authentic, loving, neurotic putz who makes me laugh.

3. Loving her so much challenges all my fears. So I try to be friends and keep getting back on the same side. Otherwise I might kill her.

4. I can only do as much intimacy as I can tolerate—so I don’t open my heart all at once. Or I might kill her.

5. It’s better to tell on myself than to confront my partner. Because then she won’t kill me.

6. I have so many parts of me that see her as every monster from every nightmare and think my survival is threatened. When this happens, it’s time to go in my room and hide. And then try to soothe myself. So I don’t kill her.

7. Marriage is a disappointment factory. I keep creating expectations or recycling old ones, just so I can learn that she’s not here to take care of me. (This makes me want to kill her.)

8. For 26 years, she has told me, over and over again, that we don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, that we can go as slow as I need, that she never wants to hurt me (even though she does), and I forget this the minute she says something stupid. (And then I want to kill her.)

9. When the voice that tells me I’m better than her, and she doesn’t deserve me, gets activated, it’s better if I don’t share that with her (so she doesn’t kill me), or believe what that part of me is telling me (so I don’t kill her).

10. Once in a while, we get close, and no one freaks out, and I notice, one moment at a time, the way her hands seeks for me, the way she touches me as if I am the most precious person in the world, and the way I explode with joy (and make inappropriate jokes) at all of it, so grateful to be alive and know what this feels like.

Family Legacies


I don’t know how people do families.  I mean, seriously.

Take me, for example.  I don’t do family well AT ALL.  I barely do my in-laws.  I find all the relationships and intersections and anger and history so overwhelming.

I have always admired Thoreau.  And anyone else who takes off and lives alone for years.  (Though his mother did bring him food.  I love the idea of being a hermit who gets free takeout.  I could fully embrace the idea, especially if my partner had the next cave over, because she is the one person I don’t care to do without for more than say,  5-10 days at the outside.  When we’re getting along, that is.  But adjoining caves with free takeout?  Sign me up.)

Anyhow, I have recently had the opportunity to see myself reflected in my family members, and I am struck, more than anything else, by our competition and arrogance.  I mean, first of all, I have known for at least a decade that competition, constant comparing and keeping a score sheet, and thinking I’m better than other people, were persistent problems in the way I construct the world.  And, okay, I’m one of six, so the competition was going to be a given under the best of circumstances…and it wasn’t the best of circumstances, believe me.

I will say, speaking of my own arrogance and my struggle to get a lot more honest about what it covers up, that the piece I can’t let go of is thinking that I’m the smartest person in the room.  Well, the city, probably.  Maybe the state.  Who knows.  The universe?  It’s not out of the question.

And my ridiculous memory makes it look that way a lot.  My partner has no memory to speak of (although she has an incredible talent for finding things I’ve lost), but what I’ve learned is that she is often wise, caring and decent.  She’s also much more intelligent than she gives herself credit for.  I find that while we laugh at my arrogance and are able to hold it lightly, this is only possible because I respect her kindness and really want to know her view on things.  There are many kinds of intelligence.  My partner is a deeply emotionally intelligent person.  (Except when she’s not, and boy do I remember every single one of those times.)

Anyhow, I am beginning to see that the sibling competition(which comes from wanting love and attention that was just plain unavailable) leads to arrogance.  Basically, in my family, everyone thinks they’re better than everyone else.  The sober ones think they’re better than the drinkers, and the drinkers think the sober ones are conformist bores, and the religious ones think they are morally superior, and the ones in therapy think they’re better than the ones not in therapy and the thin ones think they’re better than the heavy ones and for all I know the men with hair think they’re better than the bald ones.  Any excuse.  The comparisons never end.

Because I have avoided my family so assiduously, I thought I was the only one who was so ridiculously screwed up and arrogant, but with just a little bit of contact in the last 6 weeks, I’ve learned it really is a family condition.  I’d love to write a play in which there was a multi-media component advertising the thoughts of all members of this huge family in which they’re secretly comparing and judging.  Only of course it’s not a secret and everyone’s hurt that they’re being judged and judging each other even worse to defend themselves against the hurt of feeling judged.

Human beings are truly insane.  All of us.

I would like to cop to the fact that with my family, I have a lot of one-up thinking.  And yet I can see that some of my relatives have good things in their lives that I wish I had–even if I don’t like their behavior otherwise.  And I can certainly see that when it comes to being complicated, difficult and high maintenance, I can hang in with the best of them.  Especially the complicated part, I like to think, but here it is, me constructing the world, so who knows what is true and where I’m letting myself off the hook.

I don’t know how we do families.  Maybe people just love each other without the pain and angst that fuel the competition and arrogance in my family.  I don’t know.  I kind of doubt it.  So I am just grateful, every day, that I am allowed not to know, and that I can watch myself constructing the universe and laugh about it enough that in the end I have a brief opportunity to just get present and know one right thing at a time.

On my good days, that is.  I’m hoping this is one of them.

Metta for all of us, in and out of families, doing our best to find love instead of competition, wanting so much to belong to something that we hope will last.

Metta.  I can’t change any of it, maybe not even myself, but still, metta.  Peace.

A Little Fairy Tale I Wrote for My Partner for One of Our 26 Anniversaries Resurfaces


The Story of Two

            Once upon a time there was a little dryad and a great brown thing that that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.  Now the little dryad was always running around the forest far away from the tree that was her home.  And the Brown Undecided often sat on a hill far away from the forest crying, because nobody loved him.

“Don’t leave us,” said the trees of the forest, but the dryad was too busy playing to listen to anyone.

“Stop crying,” said the birds of the sky to the Brown Undecided.

But he liked his tears.  “Don’t tell me what to feel,” he said.

So one day the dryad danced out of the forest just as the Brown Undecided fell asleep after a long night of crying.  Now dryads, when they go too far from their trees, grow weak and pale.  They can even die.  The little dryad didn’t know this.  She didn’t know why she felt so awful.  The world was open and beautiful.  The sky was so big.  But as she spent her last strength cusping a hill, she started to cry.

“I’m tired,” she said as she collapsed on a brown lump that seemed like it might be a soft place to sit.

“Oomph,” said the Brown Undecided.  “You’re kind of heavy for a wood fairy.”

“I’m not heavy!” the dryad said.  “I don’t get fat!”

“Well, I am not a place to sit,” said the Brown Undecided.  “If you would get up I could cry like I do every other day.”

“I’m the one crying,” said the dryad.  “And I thought you were nice.”

“I am nice!”

“No, you’re just a stupid lump.”

“Now I’m never taking you back to your forest,” said the Brown Undecided.

“Fine!”  said the dryad.  “See if I care.  I’m just going to die right here.”  Then she gave her best pout with the last energy she had.

The Brown Undecided looked at her, fuming.

Elsewhere there were dragons falling and fighting, elsewhere there were warriors sleeping, a princess singing the world into being, a prince practicing music alone in a meadow.

The Brown Undecided stood suddenly on his tiny feet.  It had been a while since he’d moved, so he was kind of wobbly.

“Where’s the damn tree?” he said.

The dryad, who really was fading, lifted one thin hand and pointed.  She couldn’t even fight any more.

“You’re not really that heavy,” said the Brown Undecided as he picked her up and took his first wobbly steps.

“I sat on you because I liked you,” the little dryad whispered.

Which is as close to romance as dryads and Brown Undecideds ever get.

I mean, after arguing like that, they had to get married so they could continue to drive each other crazy for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, they crossed a stream.  The dryad fell in a little bit and threatened to sue.  The Brown Undecided said it was the last time he’d play knight in shining armor if this was the kind of appreciation he was going to get.

But the trees in the forest shifted and danced, though no wind blew.  A sound of singing came toward them.

The wet dryad climbed onto the Brown Undecided’s back.

“This is my home,” she said.  “Do you want to stay here while you figure out who you are?”

“Will you always climb on me?” The Brown Undecided asked.  “Or will I actually get a little peace?”

“I’ll never climb on you again,” said the dryad, crossing her fingers behind her back (and not getting off).

And so they lived ever after, arguing and nit-picking into eternity.

Part 2: Ayn Rand and the Person Practicing Buddhism


I live in gratitude for meditation and Buddhism.  Because of Buddhism, I noticed this:

  • I wrote a blog about a writer I loved when I was 17-22.
  • This was very controversial.  People wrote comments.
  • I had to go meditate, because some of the comments were personally insulting.  Or at least I constructed them that way.
  • I watched my mind.  How when someone disagrees, or argues, my mind starts arguing back, trying to prove I’m right, trying to win.  My body floods with adrenalin and I get all racy.  It’s not pleasant.
  • Then I decide to write a blog about watching my mind go nuts and my body flood with adrenalin.  Of course, while I’m deciding this my mind is still plotting how I’m going to slip in insults and witty comments and prove I’m right.  Because that is what a mind does.
  • I start to think about why bipartisanship seems impossible, and how a controversial blog shows that once the mind decides a disagreement is an attack the body floods with adrenalin and no one learns anything because they are too busy defending ideas they had in the first place.
  • Of course this is also my mind saying how much more enlightened I am because I am noticing my mind being crazy even while I’m still being crazy.  Ayn Rand’s not the only one with elitist tendencies (as in, I still think I’m smarter than everyone, and I notice this because I practice Buddhism and besides it’s pretty obvious.)

As it turns out, I am a person practicing Buddhism whose life was saved over and over by books, among other things.  Little Women, when I was about nine.  To Kill a Mockingbird, when I was twelve.  The Fountainhead, when I was seventeen.  Another Country, when I was 20.  I am still, in many ways, nine, twelve and seventeen.  I still remember vividly the moment those books gave me, and the permission to be myself.  I am grateful to the writers, and I love the feminism in Little Women, and the character of Jo, the compassion in To Kill a Mockingbird and its rage against racism. I love the passion for individual freedom and expression in The Fountainhead and James Baldwin’s profoundly complicated understanding of how all our prejudices intersect even as we try to reach each other, exemplified in Another Country.  Right now, in this moment, I am focusing on my personal experience of these books, and the need I had for their ideas, for their images and rising song.  I am doing this on purpose, because I do have an idea I want to explore here, and the idea is that all our ideas come from personal experience, and nothing is objective (sorry Ayn Rand).  Perhaps that is why we defend our ideas instead of questioning them–it is so, so personal.

One of the commenters on my last blog wrote about Ayn Rand’s ideas of personal freedom and integrity as adolescent; he said that freedom and integrity must be connected to community, and the complexity of community must be reflected in the morality of the individual.

I don’t really know what he means.  It’s a philosophy I’ve been reading and hearing about–this idea of caring about your community and your place in it, about making your decisions with this larger picture in mind.  About developing your self with this larger picture in mind.  I’ve been interested in this philosophy because I can tell it comes from a life experience I haven’t had, and that always makes me curious.

And so, it comes to the personal.  Ayn Rand was obsessed with communism and its dangers, enough to testify for HUAC, not against individuals, but against a movie that had, in her opinion, communist propaganda.  Oh, how we become what we hate.  That HUAC would do more to violate rights of free speech and to destroy that lives of innovators, that its legacy would be the Hollywood of today (with its plastic values and oversimplified stories), makes her testimony a complete act of self-betrayal–and she was a champion of individualism and individual integrity.  I can only imagine how blind she must have been on the subject of communism, how angry she must have been at American communists, who had never had her experiences of deprivation and oppression.  She believed in the individual because of what she lived, saw, breathed.  Because of what it did to her psyche and soul.  Betrayed by a country that destroyed lives, how would an Ayn Rand develop a philosophy based on group anything?  (And when she developed a community, she had to dominate everything about it to feel safe…so totalitarian.)

It’s personal.  I have listened to the Obamas, to their life stories, to their ethics; I admire them and envy how deeply loved they were by such decent people.  But much of what they speak about is foreign to me (minus A More Perfect Union, I get that).

I grew up bullied at school, oppressed by my religion as a girl and a queer person, oppressed by my country as a woman (the ERA failed when I was still in high school).  At home the oppression was more personal, with as few personal choices as they could give me–and the oppression of the religion showed up as a philosophy of self-sacrifice…meaning that I was to sacrifice myself for everyone in my family, as well as anyone who asked, with no hope of return (because that would be selfish).  Then I escaped, and found that I was queer, and that the world wasn’t really having it, and I might get fired, and I couldn’t get married.  I turned to the queer community, but bisexuals weren’t exactly popular there, either.

Intellectually, I have come to understand that community is important, but my experience, right up through my twenties, taught me that groups of people were not to be trusted.  Like Ayn Rand, my experience didn’t lead me to a philosophy based on making decisions based on altruism (which I understood, as she did, as a tool for manipulation because that is what it had been in my life).  I didn’t base my way of seeing the world on a larger vision of community, either.  Frankly, I was like, “F785 these people.  Get me out of here!”

At the developmental time of life when we decide what we believe about other human beings and life (adolescence, as it so happens), I decided that morality was about being true to self, not true to family (they treated me poorly) or community (just as poorly) or even country (female and queer, a 2nd class citizen).  I defined true to self against what I saw around me, not in emulation of it.  Honesty was and is the center of my value system, because growing up in the bourgeoisie, I saw only false values and people who lied to impress others.  I didn’t think about being loving or kind then, even though I often was, mostly because I loved my siblings and friends so deeply.  I did start to think about those things, eventually, and when I did I realized that I could never consider lies to be loving or kind.  I’m not talking about walking around confronting people (though I did this as a teenager and then some).  I’m talking about telling the truth about my inner reality as best I understand it as a form of caring, instead of telling white lies to make people feel better.  It can be said that I hate any pressure to take care of people’s feelings.  I’d rather know them, tell them the truth, and trust them to be honest with me.

So I’m intrigued by this intersection of morality and community, because I hope it’s not the same old song and dance about how I should sacrifice my life to make other people feel better or more comfortable.  I don’t quite know what to make of it.  I know my own well-being has to factor in; and I’m certainly not interested in oppressing anyone else because I see that as about as contrary to my own well-being as pretty much anything on earth.  So what are people talking about?

If I want to defend myself, I can say that some of the hardships and oppression in my life made me capable of seeing life differently, and some of them deeply hurt my ability to participate as someone with less oppressive experiences might be.

But here’s the thing–the person with Michelle or Barack’s experiences of community and love–that’s not the only world.  That’s not the “real” world.  The real world holds their experiences and mine and Ayn Rand’s and the survivors of the Holocaust and Kosovo, and people of privilege.  Whose view is idealistic?  Or negative? Or correct?  All our experiences come from the same world; we just live in different parts of it.

In Buddhism, no view is any of those adjectives.  Judgment is removed, and one looks at what is.  How can we put the many views into conversation?  I mean, we’re human, it will be construction of reality rather than the real thing, but if we can step back from aversion, craving and “I’m right,” we might construct a more accurate mosaic, or at least one that offers the possibility of peace.

Ayn Rand’s deepest mistake, for a person believing in freedom above all things, was forgetting that all voices should be heard.  Buddhist or not, I believe that.  I believe I may figure out why someone might trust a community, when my own experience tells me that’s insane.  If I listen.  If I let the adrenalin drain out of my body, and just consider.

Because, hell, Buddhism or no Buddhism, thinking is really FUN.

Buddhism Is All About Realizing You Are More Insane than You Could Have Imagined


So, my partner and I had a fight.  An argument.  A discussion of whose fault it was (this makes it a fight).  I blamed her.  She blamed me.  We both tried not to do this, but we failed.  I hung up on her.  She threw a comment at me.

Then, I went away to hang out with my enlightened friends from NYC, so my partner and I couldn’t really talk about it.  Giving me plenty of material for the Letting Go of Fear meditation practice group homework.

I tracked my fears.  I wrote them down, and then tried to sense where they happened in my body and how they changed my behavior.  My behavior was mostly not calling my partner, though I did send a text message, “metta,” spelled, “Meta,” because Siri inappropriately corrected me.  (Incidentally, I asked Siri if she loved me, and she said, “You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”  This made my NYC friends howl.)

Among my fears appeared a kind of panic that my partner’s friends would tell her to leave me.  Also, that I would cave first and therefore not win the game of chicken I’d created in my insane mind.  (It goes like this–my partner tries to have the make up talk a couple times, but I don’t like her sallies into the game, so I say no.  Then she gets really mad because I won’t play, and when I try to have the make up talk, she says no.  So I decided I wouldn’t try to have the make up talk and see if she’d crack first.  (She didn’t, but I started the make up talk with a question so she had to be vulnerable first, which came a close second.))

In case you were wondering, this falls under the category of “More Insane than I Could Have Imagined.”  It falls under this category because Buddhism has made me capable of realizing that I’m doing these things, whereas before I just thought I was right and justified…or needy if I wanted to make up really badly.  Now I know I’m crazy.  My partner seems to prefer this…though I think she could have skipped the 3 days of playing chicken.

Anyhow, the good news is that when we had the make up talk, about, one might add, the same issue we’ve been arguing about for 25 years (is she being passive-aggressive, am I invasively describing what’s happening inside her head and is either one of us being really, really, really bad…or, even further, are we reminding each other of our mothers (answer to all questions, yes, yes, yes, and yes))…we actually made some F%$#ing headway!  After 25 years!  We are aiming for satya…you know, some relentless honesty about what we do, what we’re up to, and how much we’re defending ourselves when we want to just love and be close but are, guess what?  scared of being hurt.

My partner said, “I’m trying so hard to hear you and be honest,” and I really believed her, and I was trying, too, and we both do know the score, after 25 years.  I always say that the script is really well memorized for these arguments, and I could say her lines, in order, just as she could say mine.  There are, apparently, couples who don’t argue, and instead don’t talk at all and just resent each other endlessly.  We talk, resent each other, talk some more, resent each other some more, confess we’re scared, especially now, as we’re taking this Letting Go of Fear workshop together.

Tonight, at dinner, my partner was like, “I really hated the middle of this fight.”

I was like, “You know, I just started watching the procession of my own reactions, and I got really interested in them, and then curious, because I hadn’t seen it this way before, so it wasn’t that bad for me.”

She started laughing really hard.

I was like, “I’m just like that.  I get curious, and then it’s like, ‘Hey, someone just cut off my leg.  I’ve never had my leg cut off before.  It’s really painful.  But I didn’t know it felt like this.'”

She’s like, “I know.  I know what you’re like.”

Which is, in the end, the sum up of being married for 25 years.

I can say, for example, that I know since I didn’t print her out a check sheet for the fear homework (because we were fighting) she probably didn’t do it.

Here’s the surprise–I didn’t do it perfectly.
I only did 1-2 most days, not 3, because I was too busy being with my friends from NYC.

Miracles happen.  All the time.  We just have to stop moving and see them.

Metta for my partner.  Who I love, who I love, who I love.