Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Balancing, Balancing

To protect the innocent, I have purposefully refrained from writing about relationship in this very public forum. My personal laundry is one thing, but the linen of others—no matter how clean it might appear to me—should be kept off the line.

That being said, a friend of mine suggested recently that as much as I may be tempted by this fine spring weather and the fragrance of a particular blossom, I am not yet ready to embark on the slippery slope of a committed relationship. Since she has come to know me well over this past year, her advice shook me for several days.

So much of our lives, we are trained to believe we are not complete without the partnership (or at least the shell) of a committed companion. Until recently, it was defined specifically as marriage. Anything less than that invited whispers and sympathetic or judgmental nods of the head.

Today, there are more options approved by general society and tolerated by even the strictest moralists. It is even acceptable to believe a man or woman could be OK living emotionally independent, but I assert that deep down in our hearts, not very many of us trust this model.

So I went back into my cave, nursing my cold and thought long and hard about the pronouncement of my friend. Did this make me unwell? Unhealed? Emotionally unbalanced? No matter the solid ground I begin to confidently leap from under my feet, I wondered if I appear palsied and pitiable to any who see me, a friend to embrace, but only at arm’s length.

This woman has been cheerfully bearing the brunt of my euphoria and bravely dispelling the clouds of my little depressions over this past year. She has edited the first drafts of many a scribble and critiqued some songs practically verse by verse as they came out. Better than anyone, at this point, her insight has the power to stop me short, and knowing this, she is careful how often and with what gentle words she doles it out.

Though I have silently wrestled with it throughout my life, her finger landing on the pulse of my priorities interrupts the flow like an alarm clock in the middle of a sweet dream. From the distance, detached and admiring, each one, or a few of my activities together, may appear as a noble endeavor, enviable and worth celebrating with accolades.

Closer in, however, the ensemble burns with an overwhelming chaos in danger of consuming itself with unleashed, unfocused energy. One hour I am a musician singing away, working on a CD, and finding others to make a band for a merry trip down the proverbial road. Moments later, my latest blog entry adds words to the fantasy of publishing a book and appearing on Oprah’s show as the newest expert on midlife crises and new warriors who will no longer suffer abuse.

I have become fitness compulsive, throwing myself down mountainsides on two sticks, or standing in the way of a soccer champion built like a tank, thinking I am happy to get the ball away from him one in ten times. Desperate to avoid a paycheck attached to carpentry, I am thrilled to frame paintings for another friend and install window trim for yet another.

Needing to get a Real Job with benefits and paid vacations, I volunteer instead to write a grant that might pay a small stipend to help organize youth around the world working for a sustainable planetary community of peace. Another friend offers me just enough dollars to write some publicity for his production that lets me talk as if I now have a career in film-making.

Scratch the surface and I am a whirlwind, making plans and rescheduling to fit some thing or some one else into the mix. Enamored of one flower in particular, distrusting myself, I gaze across the entire garden, wondering if others might ignite an interest so sweet. This morning, I nearly accepted a place on a board starting a school, simply on the basis of having done so twice before.

So why not now?

I paused in my cave and listened to the words of my dear friend resonate profoundly off the silent walls. A week later, I find myself no better prepared to answer the question, but willing to explore it whole-heartedly, to try to dance in the rain and learn to sit in the shade when the sun shines too intensely. I continue to play music, enjoying last night the wonderful response to the premiere of my new band, and type away gleefully this morning when I should be finishing the renovation of my bathroom.

This mixture of priorities, all individually reasonable and commendable, resembles the diverse series of building projects I took on that combined to destroy my business, and ultimately my marriage, forcing me out of my home and family. Without a clear focus in my personal life, a commitment to some thing or some one else is hard to make, and harder still to keep. No matter the longing to feel the embracing arms of comfort and security, love, passion and reassurance that is possible in the middle of the night, it cannot be sustained in the daylight until we are strong enough within ourselves to select, organize, prioritize and finally reject things that ultimately do not serve us well.

This I could not do in my business and previous marriages. I was lost though I thought I was found, and in longing for that completeness, I was overwhelmed by the complications of giving and receiving from a less than whole place of heart.

Healing is taking place. Day by day, doors open wider and priorities now allowed to prosper, watered by kindness and encouraged by my own tender attention, seem to thrive, while others take care of themselves. Am I so different now? Perhaps more cautious, probably more self-directed, definitely more soulful.

In the meantime, I am grateful to the good friends, sisters and brothers all, who can poke me so gently with their sharp fingers of discernment.

Please share with your friends


laughingirl said...

"Without a clear focus in my personal life, a commitment to some thing or some one else is hard to make, and harder still to keep."

This must have been a difficult truth to face, but know you are not alone.

Laurie said...

If you are looking for someone to complete you, you will never find it. Kip, you must be completed by God and yourself and then offer that completeness to others. Differentiation is not needing another to make you whole but sharing your wholeness and exploring the synergy from that. Your friend is wise but so are you.