Monday, September 23, 2013

Deposits and Withdrawals

http://therumpus.net/2011/02/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-64/
In all our relationships, whether they be romantical, friendly or familial, there is a sort of common sense equation we can employ to maintain equilibrium. We make deposits towards the strength and health of the relationship with consistent kindness, integrity and presence. When our feeble humanness overtakes our angelic nature, we make withdrawals from the relationship with our bad behavior. If we have taken the time and effort to make deposits into our account with the other person, the relationship will not become overdrawn when we have those moments that everyone refers to when they say, "Well, everyone has their moments..." The greater and more regular the deposits, the stronger and healthier the connection, the more of your humanness it can withstand.

One of my special witchy gifts is the ability to accurately predict the long term potential of couples I know. It's only partially due to psychicness, and mostly the result of being good at math. If both halves of the couple are making loving and respectful deposits into the account, and only making withdrawals of a reasonable size periodically, or of a larger size sparingly, the couple has a good shot at happy longevity. If not, well, they have a good shot at making each other pretty miserable until one too many checks bounce, and one or both parties call it quits. It's pretty simple: give more than you take, offer more than you ask. Sharing is caring.

Of course, it's not like we're keeping track, assigning some kind of ethical monetary value to the behaviors of our friends, family and lovers. Texting just to see how I am? How sweet! +20 relationship bucks! Forgetting to take out the trash when I've already asked you so many times? RAWR! -30 relationships bucks! It's not about "being even," or being sweet now to buy yourself some asshole time later. We do the right thing simply because it's the right thing. Sometimes we're hungry or tired or depressed and the right thing is impossible. Luckily, because you have invested so much so consistently into the account, your loved one understands that you love them even if you're not acting like it right then.

Unless you haven't been. If you experience a sudden lack of support in a relationship that was formerly supportive, it may be a good indication that you have exhausted your resources with that person. Relationships of all kinds require an exchange of energy. If you see a therapist, they listen to you talk and you pay them. If someone besides a paid professional listens to you talk all the time and you never take the time to ask how they are and listen to them, don't be surprised when they stop listening. Everyone has a limit to how much they're able or willing to give, and it's usually directly proportional to the effort you expended before. This is where we see what we've sewn.

Because human relationships are gloriously complex and messy, even the best math doesn't always apply. Sometimes the deposits you make don't end up in the account. They are immediately spent or outright rejected by a person whose account with themselves is so empty that they have nothing to offer or feel unworthy to receive. When you're momentarily unloving, they cease to believe their status as your loved one because they don't actually believe themselves to be loveable. Alternately, they will take all the love you have to fill their own void and offer you little or nothing in return. This, my dears, is what we call codependency. Someone is offering more than they get, someone is getting more than they offer, and it's not ultimately sustainable or healthy for anyone involved.

There are some withdrawals that are simply too massive and damaging. There is no preparing for or repairing later. The real sneaky killers, though, are small daily withdrawals that are not replaced with sufficient, consistent deposits. The degradation that is done to the account with days grown into years of little slights and lack of appreciation is terribly hard to make up for later, if it can be made up for at all. Both parties have to shift radically in order to bring balance back to the account, and change is challenging, especially in deeply established habits and patterns.

As it is with all shifts, the change begins within. Every relationship in our lives is built on the foundation of our relationship with ourselves. If the inner environment is unhealthy, unkind, unbalanced, it cannot be expected that the outer environment will be any different. I am loath to quote Rumi anymore, but he wrote this smart, true, applicable thing: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." Once some inner love and balance has been established, it becomes much easier to feel the areas in our lives that are lacking and either let them go or work it out.

And how do we work it out?
We make our relationships a consistent exchange of respect, gratitude, time, attention, and kindness big and small.
We make far more deposits than withdrawals.
We recognize our responsibility to give ourselves the kind of love and approval that can only come from within.
We hold onto grace.
Because it is ultimately grace that we are gifted when our loved ones choose to unsee our foibles.
They know we love them because we show them all the time, and they have the grace to overlook it when we don't.
We say Thank You for this act of faith and unconditional love.
We return it when the time comes, and it will.
Because we all have our moments.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Gilded Cage of Magical Moments

Time stretches both languorously and lightening fast between that moment and this one. The more time that I feel there between us and our eyes and their first electric meeting, the more I begin to wonder about The Magic that I've spent the last three years steeping That Moment in. I gave the millionth retelling of The Story the other night before a new friend suggested that These Magical Moments could simply exist in their particular time and space without attempts to prolong them. Some story arcs span decades, some only a matter of hours or days, but the length matters little. Strangers can transform our lives in an instant with their love or hate, kindness or courage. Just because a moment doesn't last "forever" doesn't mean that it wasn't magical.

Por ejemplo: At the beginning of summer I took a spectacular, sweet, sweaty trip to New Orleans. One afternoon found me solo adventuring, as I'm apt to do, through the French Quarter on the way to a yoga class. I stopped to admire some street art and was engaged in conversation by a wizened older woman eating ice cream. Set behind her network of yawning wrinkles and weathered skin were eyes of an unfathomable depth and complexity. She ended up being one of the most profound and authentic spiritual teachers I've yet to have, a living sage who blessed me with her clarity of vision and powerful prayer. It was a deeply moving, magical exchange, the ripples of which may still be spreading, but which I will not attempt to retain or extend.

On the other hand, one can try to write forever into the narrative, which we'll call "future building." Even if a moment with someone was magical or cosmic, it doesn't mean that we will be sharing long term destiny with them. I'm not a big proponent of the one night stand, but the usefulness and natural flow of some connections really doesn't extend beyond an evening. However, we interpret The Magic as a lighthouse in the otherwise terrifying and unknown darkness that is the future, and begin building an as-yet-nonexistent reality based on this Feeling which may be meant to expire very soon. There is no way to know what It means in reality without being willing to walk into the darkness and find out as your story unfolds. As scary as that can be, isn't part of the fun of life marveling at this intricate and delicate unfolding, at how many things go right for us every day?

Of course, there is challenge and heartache built into the experience of life. Future building doesn't inoculate us against that, though. If anything, nonacceptance of the transitory and ultimately terminal nature of all things creates more suffering as we cling to our ideal vision. The narrative is ever evolving. You don't know what It is and what It means until you know, and it's okay not to know. It's okay to fumble through the darkness without understanding the nature and scope of the entire arc. You may never understand.

Perhaps through the wisdom of time and space, though, you may begin to see the arc. Perhaps this will calm the nervous bird that wanted so badly to perch forever on the moment that you spent years gilding. Perhaps you will begin to be able to appreciate that that singular moment pales in comparison to the flow of grace and magic that followed. Perhaps you will find that you were right; the moment was magical and important, just not in any of the ways that you could've imagined at the time. Perhaps you will see that today's reality is far better than the previously built future. And maybe, just maybe, you will let the magic moment take its rightful place as something nice that happened one afternoon three years ago that initiated you into a wholly transformative, massively magical adventure.

You will finally understand what It Is and what It Means (for now) and in this knowledge, you will be free.