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.

The Anniversary Approaches


About 20 years ago I had a friend who told me that if I stayed with my partner we’d have to go to couples therapy for the rest of our lives.

She wasn’t exactly a big fan of the relationship.

So as our 26th anniversary approaches, and I revisit, well, everything because the over-examined life is…well, worth living though it could be suggested that I might give myself a break once in a while (note to self:  get off my back!), I remember what she said and the extreme emphasis she put on every syllable.

Now anyone who has read this blog knows that my partner and I go through couples therapists like toilet paper (sorry, couldn’t think of a better comparison).  In fact, we have just fired The Stork for the 2nd time.  We don’t exactly like couples therapy.  My partner even begged me to not even look for a new therapist for a while.  (This is new, since I’m usually the anti-therapy advocate.)

So, we can’t be in couples therapy for the rest of our lives.

Nor can we be like that ad for E-Harmony saying, “My wife is a blessing to me,” or “I finally found a man of quality.”  We more closely resemble Ben Affleck’s Oscar remarks to Jennifer Garner.  “We’ve worked really hard on this marriage and marriage is hard, and it’s the best work there is.  Thank you for working with me.”

Add to the above statement the following:  “Because I know I am an unbelievable pain in the ass and completely whacked out.”  (Me.)  “Because I know I am an unbelievable pain in the ass and that my neurotic monologues about details drive you crazy.”  (Her.)

So, to get to my point.  Closeness is hard!  I mean, yes, of course, it feels good, maybe better than just about anything else, but then you get really scared and you start to freak out, so you have to distance a little (or a lot) just to not freak out in super unskillful ways and then your partner senses you distancing and starts to freak out and gets all clingy, and then you freak out that she’s getting all clingy just when you need space and then you have a massive fight and have to work on admitting all your own bullshit so you don’t get a divorce.

I exaggerate.  But only slightly.

26 years.  That means we’ve known each other for 30.  The other day I woke up and said, “How come I married such a goofball?”  And she said, “I don’t know.  Why do you think?”  And I said, “I guess I couldn’t find anyone better.”  And she said, “I’m taking that as a compliment.”  And then she hugged me for a really long time as if I’d said the best thing ever.

The truth is, I’ve never found anyone I liked more even if she is incredibly neurotic and can’t make a decision to save her life and buys every pair of pants in her size on her Gap credit card and then brings it all home so she’s have MORE time to decide and then loses the receipt and has to keep 12 pairs of pants from the Gap.

However, right now, this week, I bought her two pieces of furniture for her birthday, because believe it or not, that’s what she likes, but the colors were just a shade off and she’s like, “I want to do something small for my birthday so we can save our money and you can go to New York and be an actor.”

Like I said, I couldn’t find anyone better.

Of course, three weeks ago she yelled at me and I felt really hurt and she was appalled at herself, and I had to admit I’d raised my voice first….it was an exception to our usual, but there have been years where that kind of fighting was our usual, though thank whatever/whoever it is now some 15 years in the past (1998 was a suck year in this marriage).

Anyhow.  It upsets me that romance is idealized so much, because wanting the fairy tale, believing it’s the thing, led me to stay in my first real relationship, which was romantic, and passionate, and eventually destructive.  It upsets me that we understand so little about intimacy.  How much forgiveness it requires, how much being in reality.  I can only know my partner if I am willing to see her, as she is, and I can only see her as she is if I set aside illusions about what it means to be human, as well as all my illusions of how love will save me.  Then I can know the sum of her.

My partner is incredibly unbelievably loving, and she loves to take care of me, and she can be generous, and connected, and grounded and so inside her own goodness…and she can be mean, and passive aggressive and wanting her own way no matter what, and sometimes she tries to change me and sometimes she’s just plain grouchy.  Besides the daily neurosis which is alternately my entertainment and my frustration.  Is she a blessing, a moment of grace?  Yes.  But sometimes grace is kicking me to change where I really don’t want to, and sometimes grace is turning and telling her (or her telling me) that I’m me, and this thing that bothers her isn’t changing because I don’t want it to.

What I love about marriage is the attention.  Both the attention she gives me and the attention I get to pay, the way my consciousness rests and wrestles and battles its way to more light, all the time, as I fall into shadow with my partner, as I work my way out, or as we do it together.  There may be periods of pure light, but the shadows will fall, again and again, because that’s what marriage is…continuing to pull yourself, each other, the coupleship, into growth, into closeness, into the kind of knowing that comes from admitting all of who you are–insecure, gifted, warm, distracted, loving, passionate, moral, broken.

I have never known anyone as well as I know my partner, and so I have never loved anyone as much.  I am humbled by knowing my partner, and frustrated, and enlightened, and brought down into my own failings and then made better by how much I love her, which causes me to work on those very failings, or at least on more honesty, all the time.

It’s not ideal.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe this private, wonderful, irritating life is the ideal.  Only Jesus, can someone besides Ben Affleck admit how irritating it is?  How difficult?  He had it right.  It’s such hard work.  And the best work there is.  Marriage is a human making experience.  I am made human by the struggle, by the forgiveness, by the sheer fun and ridiculousness, by seeing how I want to get even when I’m hurt, by seeing how hard I’ll try to stop hurting the person I love most.

26 years.  My narcoleptic genius of the mundane will read this on her Facebook page and then she’ll say, “How about a little more on your faults?”

 

PS–I could have written more about marriage equality.  Metta for the Supreme Court.  May they have the sanity to know that making second class citizens hurts all of us.

 

The Stork Returns. I mean, REALLY!!!!


My partner is in love with the Stork.

As we interviewed couples’ therapists and fired one after another (nicely, since I now practice Buddhism), she finally started crying and saying how sad she was we couldn’t see the Stork any more.

I told her if he meant that much to her she could always see him alone, so we went back in to do closure as a couple so she could see him as an individual, and he turned out to be kind of great (meaning honest, sorry for his mistakes).  In his Stork way.  He even kind of got me, for the first time.  (I seem to be heavily inscrutable to these people–it took him a year.)  So closure turned out to be let’s-check-it-out again, and I started tagging along while my partner did the sessions.  Once I fell asleep while she talked to him.  The Stork was like, “Lyralen must finally feel safe if she falls asleep.”

My partner was like, “Am I that boring?”

I was like, “Hey, it’s all you, all the time, don’t complain.”

Of course, I’m still traumatized from the therapist who fell asleep on me when I was 21, but who’s counting.

Meanwhile, the Stork yawned through the only session I talked in, so I can only say that payback is a bitch.

And there is this–comedy reigns in sessions with the Stork.  He’s more or less promised not to cook rice or make telephone calls during our sessions, so things are looking up in the sanity department.  I expect it to last a month or two, tops, before he goes super annoying again and provides me with much blog material.  Stay posted.

Of course, get this–even though I knew, in that super intuitive way I have, that my partner and I belong with the Stork, I insisted we try out another couples therapist who is smart and boundaried.  I knew it wouldn’t work with her–no, not because she’s smart and boundaried.  She has this funky dark edge to her energy that seems pretty judgmental (not my favorite).  But really, I had to actually apologize to her, because me fighting reality (that I am destined to a farcical couples therapy with a very honest Stork) isn’t a good reason to start some therapeutic relationship that has no chance of succeeding.  I mean, I didn’t mind firing the other 7 therapists after mostly 1 session interviews.  We were spending money we didn’t have; and the therapists were either out there controlling (that’s partly the couples’ model, but hey, supposedly they have a brain…they could figure out it’s controlling and get innovative)  (What am I saying?  Most therapists would not come anywhere near Mensa status.  Or any award in independent thought, either.) or completely insane (the one with the gorilla puppet stands out in my mind particularly).  Like, who cares about firing them?  They totally deserved it.

But, my fight with reality causing us to go to someone I know we’ll not ending up seeing who I kind of liked when I met at Kripalu…that felt lousy.  So I apologized last night in an email.  That’s my second apology in a month to a therapist, so the practice of Buddhism is seriously changing my personality.  It’s quite frightening.  Almost as frightening as the occasional lack of chatter in my mind.  I’m like, “Whoa, that is way too quiet.  I’ve gone stupid.  I’ve gone boring.  What am I supposed to do without all these neuroses?”

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from attending the Letting Go of Fear meditation practice group on Tuesday nights.  People in the group laughed when, after announcing I had no fear, I had to ask the meditation leader to repeat his descriptions of unskillful reactions to fear because I kept forgetting everything he said as soon as he said it.  Clearly I am about to join my partner in the land of Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude in which a whole village loses its memory and everything has to be labelled with its name and function.

Hmmm.  Fear.  Why am I taking this workshop?  Well, we’re supposed to acknowledge 3 moments of fear each day.  I had my 3 by 5am yesterday, though I ended up acknowledging only one of them.  So I guess I have fear.  Hello to worry, panic (that was in a traffic jam…I’m claustrophic…oh, right, that’s a fear, I must have fear), anxiety, terror, etc.

It should be said that after acknowledging the panic, calling my partner, and pulling over to sit with it, I was able to do a terribly long drive in relative peace.

I practice Buddhism because it works.  Unlike therapy.  In which the therapist gets to act like they’re way more enlightened and sane…a complete lie.  At least in Buddhism we’re all insanely constructing realities that don’t exist.

I am nothing if not egalitarian.

Samskara: Round and Round and Round We Go


You can’t cure the mind with the mind.

In other words, thinking is useless.

Okay, it’s not useless.  You need it to bake bread, till the earth, work at the corporation.

But here I am, back investigating the nature of the world ala Buddhism.

So…you can’t think your way out of a paper bag.  Or a pattern of bad relationships.  Or an inability to tolerate ticking clocks (yes, of course that one is me!).

I am enraptured by thinking about samskara, knowing it won’t do any good.  But still, I have to find some way to spend my time.

Seriously, we’re all in the business of repeating–in relationships, in work, in decisions.  Somehow, we make the same mistakes again and again.  Somehow, we keep walking down the same street.  The utter powerlessness and frustration, the inability to change at will, the way the flaws in our own characters persist and persist.

When I stop fighting it, it’s just samskara.   The Jungian complex.  The human condition.  The very thing that puts money in therapists pockets.

I like to image it like wood-burning kits you get when you’re a kid.  A metaphor:  etching lines into the wood, making patterns, labyrinths.  You can’t erase them.  Life burns them into your brain–what they call neural pathways–and they become your fate as much as anything else.  The first relationships, the first losses, the way we say, “Never again,” and yet when relationships and losses come, they are eerily similar, always.

Why, you might ask, would anyone be enjoying thinking about such things?  Maybe because I’m starting to see that there is only surrender, and surrender is such a relief.  All my life, I keep trying to wrestle my samskara to the earth with will and force, with the hatred of the repetition, and now I’ve just let go and it’s suddenly okay.  I’ll relive it or I won’t.  I don’t have to know how it’s going to turn out.  I can just wait and see, and trust that in the moment, I will know.

Of course, there must be effort, at times.  There must be an attempt at something.  But if I wait until I know, then perhaps that will be right effort.

There may be such a thing as right effort, instead of effort flung around at everything, diligently working every moment, trying, trying to get it right, make it right, prove some thing that no one wants you to prove anyhow.

This is my brain on meditation.

This is my remembering Don, and his last two phone calls to me, and the feel of his hand, swollen, as he lay in his hospital bed.  This is my gratitude for no samskara with Don, for the newness of knowing him, for how honest we both were.

The terrible letting go of loss, the necessity, the continuing to love.

The letting go of who we once were, not knowing who we will be.  The enough of that, the relief, the moment rising up and filling everything.

Good-bye Don, again and again.  May you be free from all samskara, well-loved and loving.  May you be free.  May you be welcoming, as I am, the unknown into your heart, curious, if nothing else, at how it might change your fate.

Ayurvedic Cleanse: Day 1, No Drama. What?


I am not homicidal.

Neither am I hungry.

Of course, I’m mostly asleep, so that’s not particularly difficult.

I like the gruel.

I like my partner.

I like my devised theatre project.

I have micro-waveable Buckies to put on my stomach and a choice of three eye pillows.

I have already meditated once today and may do so again.

But for right now, it’s all about sleep.

I realize without something to complain about, I’m pretty boring, but I could complain about becoming boring for a while.

Nah.  Sleep it is.

Ayurvedic Pre-Cleanse, Day 2


I am not hungry.  In fact, I am embarrassingly full.  This is because I went to Whole Foods and bought 10 organic avocados this morning (they’re legal on this pre-cleanse).  I figure I’ll work my way through them by lunch.  They’re $2.19 each, so that’s approximately $23 a day, but hell, it’s a small price to pay for some degree of satiation.

I ate another warm smoothie for breakfast with avocado and a ton of rice protein powder (also legal).

I may actually feel a little sick.

Before I went to Whole Foods, I ate a very small amount of the green soup.  Turns out my partner doesn’t like the soup.  She was eating it last night, making one scrunched up face after another and I said, “Please don’t tell me this means I have to eat it all myself.”

She said, “No,” rather unconvincingly.  Then her eyes both went to the side.

I looked at her.  Her eyes went to the side again.  I was like, “Yes I am going to have to eat it.  Whenever your eyes go like that, I know.  I am on to you.”

She said, “My eyes didn’t go to the side.”  Then her eyes went to the side again.

It should be said that since she subscribes to this blog, she received yesterday’s 2nd blog at work, read it immediately, then called me.

“Are you okay?” she asked when I picked up the phone.

Turns out she thought I spilled the entire pot of soup and then somehow got it into Tupperware.  She thought she’d be eating floor soup.  Maybe she imagined me lying spread eagle in the soup and aduki beans and wondered if I’d get up by the time she arrived home from work.

Anyhow, and get this, she said, “You know, you’re supposed to enjoy this cleanse.  If you’re all stressed out about it, your body will hold on to toxins and it won’t work.”

I said, “I plan to enjoy complaining about it.  Does that count?”

She just looked at me.

I said, “I mean, I’m Jewish now by osmosis.  And if I haven’t learned to kvetch after 25 years with you, I’m in big trouble.”

She said, “You may have a point there.”

Then I’m thinking, “Enjoy?  Enjoy?  I would enjoy flying to Costa Rica on the miles we’ve saved on Jet Blue and lying on a beach doing nothing or occasionally renting a surfboard if the waves are the right height.  How is that supposed to compare to eating gruel and coating your body with oil every day?”

Of course, if this cleanse performs the miracle I’m hoping for, I might actually be able to digest my food in Costa Rica without taking 25 vitamins with every meal, which would be quite a boon.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m no long embarrassingly full.  I’m only a little full.  Maybe I’ll go to the kitchen and heat up some water and sip it.  You’re supposed to do that about every 15 minutes.  By the time I’ve finished with the water, I probably won’t be full at all.  Then I’ll have to stare at the 9 1/2 avocados that are left.  And decide whether eating another one is a good idea.  Or whether I should wait 3 minutes.

It’s a good thing I work from home.

Partner Lesson #7: Creating a Monster


My partner HATES pretentiousness of any kind.  Therefore she often hates the world of theatre, where people are always remembering that the next gig might come from whoever is right in front of them, and are therefore to-your-face nice most of the time.

My partner is also not terribly ambitious.  She loves a daily life, and a sense of meaning, and the idea of making a difference, but she has never dreamed of being rich and famous.

But then, this spring, she had an acting role for the first time.  In Saint John the Divine in Iowa.  We couldn’t find someone 40+ who was truly butch and could play the comedy and the heart of the scene, and when she read it with me she did really well (surprisingly, since mostly she sits there and reads everything in a monotone trying to get me to let her off the hook (she doesn’t enjoy being the line-learning helper)).  So she ended up in the play.  Shaking, on opening night, with the cast being sweet to her and teaching her how to handle the nerves we all get.  And then she got her first laugh.  And her second.  Then she got her own private round of applause at the end of her scene (which began to happen regularly).  Then she figured out how to make the scene better, how to keep it alive.  In other words, she sort of became an actor.

Then she’s all like, “It was fun, and I liked the laughs, but I wouldn’t do it again.  I didn’t get hooked or anything.”

Then she’s like, “But I was good, right?”

In other words, she sort of became an actor.

Then, this weekend, we’re driving home from our weekly date night, and she tells me she wanted to go down to the Sandra Bullock set and just walk around because she had a fantasy that they’d like her look and offer her a part, and then she’d talk them into giving me a part and we’d both be in a Sandra Bullock movie.

I was like, “OH MY GOD!  YOU ARE SUCH AN ACTOR!  I AM GOING TO DIE!”

So, lesson #7 is that no one is immune to fantasies of Hollywood.  Not even my neurotic love of a partner.  This is so disappointing, on one hand, since her hatred of pretentiousness is really kind of great.  On the other hand, it does give me endless get-out-of-jail free cards when I start obsessing about myself and my performances.

Do not doubt I will use all of them, even if they are endless.  I will be dead and still using my get-out-of-jail-free cards.  Watch me!

**The end of 7 blogs of partner lessons.  My partner had a topic she wanted to suggest, but I told her to go get her own blog.  But since I’m about to start a theatre gig, and will be heavily unavailable, I may give her a guest appearance on this one.  No doubt this will also lead to unforeseen consequences.  I’m starting to have 2nd thoughts.  Right now.