The Space Between

Originally posted: June 2006

The Space Between

I’m the last to give advice on marriage. Because, like the people who inhabit them, marriages are diverse and unique and complicated unto themselves. What works for me, isn’t likely to work for you. And, despite being married for 16 years today, and despite the fact most of my friends are working on second (and third) marriages, it still doesn’t mean I know anything about the subject of making it work. Don’t ask me what our secret is. I don’t know.

However, what I do know is that no matter the individuals involved, marriage (or long-term committed partnering) creates another entity entirely of its own. And it doesn’t automatically happen with the “I Dos.” Consider all the ceremonial stuff fertilization because becoming a “WE” can’t evolve overnight. Every “I” and every “You” must practice at “WE”again and again and again. Practice.

Sometimes practice means rumbling at each other like gods in the heavens throwing insult laden thunder clouds. “Well, YOUR mother is a meddling know-it all –try cutting your apron strings!”  Or, “Yeah? Well, YOU can’tt wash a dish to save your soul! You call this clean” All this clattering in the skies of marriage eventually leads to fighting fair, but it takes practice. Because, real marriage isn’t always getting along and having unlimited sex — the movies lie. But you can practice.

Sometimes practice means choosing the other when you’ve been conditioned to choose yourself.

Practice involves holidays and customs being navigated with care. It involves being patient and forgiving and hopeful of the future. Always hopeful of the future. And if you cease to be hopeful, practice involves asking for help to find that hope again.

Sometime practice will produce progeny. This makes the “WE” an “US”. And you can get lost in being an “US”, so much so that you forget you were also working on becoming “WE”.  Little people, especially when they are little, are sirens belting out lullabies. If only we could sleep. Sleep deprivation induces visions of leviathans until we become the sea creatures we imagine–twisting and turning, roaring in our exhaustion. It’s not choosing sleep over sex that puts us out of practice: no, that choice is an act of survival. It is the all-consuming nature of care that induces an form of marital dementia. We forget.

However, in time, if we are lucky, if we are blessed, if we are intentional, if we remember, IF. . . we return to our practice, to our discipline of being “WE“and in it we discover that time has worked its magic. That there is a “WE” being formed, so distinct from our individual selves it seems a pity it does not have a name of its own. It is like no other “WE” we know. We may look around and see others of its kind, but never just the same. Like the “I” and the “You” who form it this “WE”  is unique.

This “WE” happened in the space between the storming, between the lovemaking, between choosing and the sleep. It happened between the coffees on the deck, the walks along the beach, the countless hours between the sheets. It happened as we practiced. And what that practice produced was a space where you and I could meet and gradually become WE. 

I suspect, that those who stick it out for as long as they can find that space between to be sacred space. This sacred space has formed me in ways that nothing else could. Becoming a “WE” has made me a different person, a person I would not have become outside of the practice. And while I still remain myself on so many fronts, it is a better self. I am blessed beyond measure to have lived this long with you and to have had the opportunity to experience all that We have together. I love you beyond measure–there are not words. And because there are no words this is simply inadequate to express my immense wonder and awe for having been here, in this place, this time, this HOLY space with you.

Thank you for being who YOU are. And being willing to practice with ME. WE are so blessed.

The only secret I have, is no secret at all. I love you. Happy Anniversary.

Brave Heart

This post originally ran February 2005

Brave Heart

Next Monday is St. Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure this hasn’t escaped your notice–not if Hallmark has anything to say about it.  But just in case it escaped my attention, in the Young Man’s (I’ve been told, and I quote, “STOP! calling me Little, MOM”) homework was the a very terse announcement Monday is Valentines Day! Please have your child bring in valentines for their classmates

Are we feeling the love yet?

So the Young Man and I headed out to our local chain drug-store to acquire said valentines.  Our little borough is small enough that you have to get a jump on these things when the homework dictum comes down on Tuesday afternoon.  Or, Lord help you, your kid will be sending out the Strawberry Shortcake Valentines–and that’s if you wait until Wednesday.  Any later and you are relegated to handing out tiny boxes of the “OOP’s Conversation Hearts.” Evidently, spelling counts in these matters.  You can just imagine the outcry when some kid hands his mother a small candy heart and says, “Mom, What does ‘Good  F/*/C/K’, mean?” Or the confusion that would be created by the ever popular, “Be Dine” heart.  No, no, one must not procrastinate.

On our journey to the store I was informed that not only were we in the market for official valentines, “With Candy!” for his class, but the Young Man would also be purchasing a gift for the lovely and oh, so unattainable fifth grader, Chloe.  Yes,  that Chloe!

Really?” I inquired.  “What brought this on?  Last I heard you were only giving out Valentines to your classmates.”

“I don’t really want to get that deep into it,” he mumbled from the backseat.

Uh-huh, I bet.  “Well, Ok, I guess that’s not a problem.” We spent a few minutes wandering the aisles looking for appropriate Valentines for the class.  In eight-year old boy speak that means Valentines devoid of hearts and flowers but inclusive of some form of sugar, preferably the sort that creates a real mess.  Once we picked out a suitable box and ascertained that there were plenty enough for left-overs (also a crucial requirement for “appropriate”) the real pondering began.  What to get Chloe?

He finally settled on a heart shaped box of  Ferrero Rocher truffles and a nice but not too gushy card.  “What made you change your mind about giving Chloe a Valentine?” I asked.

“That falls under not wanting to go too deep into it, Mom!”

My kid never ceases to amaze me.  He has managed a way to say, “I love you” without uttering a word to a girl he has admired for two years and who will probably always be way out of reach (and so she should be–he’s only eight!).  That takes courage of the rarest form: the kind that risks being made a fool by the one you love.   And I can’t help but think about all the lost opportunities in my life to risk, all the times I wished I had stepped out in faith, knowing full well the odds were against me.  If you can’t risk for love on Valentine’s day, when can you?  You know, and I know, and even he knows he’s going down in flames.  But he  bought the Valentine just the same.

All I can say is that Chloe is a lucky girl.