I went to see my son yesterday. We talked, went to a movie, and had dinner. I like him, always have and always will, though we have been annoyed with each other at times. Those annoying times are rare and don’t really matter. Yesterday, like the majority of the time, it was good to be around him.
I feel the same way about all three of my children, though I’m having a very hard time with my youngest daughter right now, at least internally–on the surface all seems well. For her and me, that is rare, at least as far as I know. She has a habit of avoiding conflict and that makes me suspicious sometimes about what is really going on with her. But, despite that and despite what I perceive as our current dissonance, it doesn’t really matter, I feel the same way about her as I do my son.
My oldest daughter and I are also doing well, though we also have had our moments. But, again, I cannot help but like and admire her. She has accomplished quite a lot in her journey toward maturity.
In a world of slippery and uncertain relationships, my feelings about my three children are about as comforting as comforting can get. They have provided me with a sense of stability that has made it much easier to be open. Without that sense, I suspect I would not be feeling or writing about the relationships that have been and the relationships that might well be–if I can learn a bit more about navigating the terrain.
In any case, there was a woman in the movie my son and I saw, who had eyes like my former lady friend. While I felt great loss when I saw the eyes of the actress in the movie, there is nothing I can do about my most recent relationship. I know that I did all that could be done. The movie, and my thoughts, reminded me about the foibles and successes of control. I felt painfully aware of loss, even though I’m also aware of opportunity. The waves of these two thoughts, merging into one feeling, do seem to come and go.
After the movie, my son and I talked about his conflicts at work, which are about to come to a head, and about a recent argument he has had with his lady friend. We talked about my conflicts at work and my recent relationship. We talked about what lengths one can go to increase the probability of success, at what point one can go no further, and about how that is the best that can be accomplished. There is nothing new in this concept, but it remains, and will remain, contemporary.
The fact appears to be that sometimes things don’t work out, despite our best efforts. In relationships, whether work or personal, there is more than one person involved. And while either one or more persons can screw things up, it takes at least two to make a relationship work.
While I’m sure that there would be at least three who would disagree, it seems to me that I’ve done the best I can do. I know that it is not ego or defensiveness that is driving that feeling, it is an awareness that comes in the silence of all that background noise. I have the same feeling about my work relationships.
While I have made more than my fair share of mistakes in adding to the potholes of my existence, whether in relationships or my career, I have worked to overcome them and to be honest and open. It seems to me that it is not glory that drives me, it is not ego that I pursue, nor recognition, nor power, it is truly communion–to be a part of the process of healing, a part of the process of growth and learning, to be a part of the process of transformation, and to be a part of the process of celebration. To be anything else is to add to the illusion of loneliness and isolation, to add to the false sense of nobility in going it alone. That illusion, that false sense of nobility at bravely carrying the angst of one’s destiny is strong, it is the crucifixion syndrome and its drive compels us to go over the cliff like lemmings. Perhaps this syndrome is so compelling because that’s where we think our salvation awaits us.
I will not do it. Nor will I grovel and whine at the feet of my loss and give up my life force to the illusion of others, or to the illusion of myself. Standing on being right or wrong is not the point, genuinely facing ourselves and others is. Even that stance does not set me apart, and I will not get caught up in constructing any nobility from it either.
A character named Jerry Stocking has said that the test of a good relationship is the number of broken hearts per minute. According to him, when we can realize that our set-ups and our upsets are related (our upsets are set-ups and our set-ups create upsets), we can cycle through the illusion of abandonment much quicker, making it easier to see the illusory quality of it all.
Certainly the breaking of one’s heart and the learning that one can only do so much is a path that imparts great humility on the one hand and great dignity on the other. And when those two hands intertwine, wholeness will have had its way.