Monday, September 27, 2004

Relationships Are Not For Sissies.

(This one is long. Sorry. But you know how it is when stuff just has to come pouring out...)
Relationships are not for sissies. It's not always a smooth flight. Too much turbulence can knock you unconscious, if it doesn't cause a fatal crash. And it was a close call, but I'm still alive.

Yesterday marked 2 years and 9 months since Renard and I went from being just friends to "more." For a while, I thought it might mark the end.

SIDE NOTE: Why isn't there a decent word -just one word -that describes a solid, long-term relationship between two unmarried people?? "Boyfriend/girlfriend" sounds like high school. "Couple" is so generic that it could mean almost anything in terms of the nature of the relationship. "Partner" has become the term of choice for same sex couples, so, in the absence of any well defined gender indicators, the term would be misleading when used to describe opposite sex couples. ("Pat and Chris have been partners for 2 years now.") And it's not necessarily any more indicative of the seriousness of the relationship than "couple" is. I have no plans to get married again. Does this mean I will be relegated to the use of "boyfriend" to describe someone with whom I may spend the rest of my (unmarried) life? Can anyone out there come up with something better??


The Little Tiger dream had symbolism on more than one level. Obviously, there is a relationship issue here. I'll see if I can pull it all together in a minute, but first some background.

Renard and I have known each other for more than 20 years. We had a number of the same friends and moved in and out of the same circles from time to time. Our friendship didn't develop any real substance until about 9 months before our relationship began. He said he'd been "planting seeds" and the ground may have been watered at my 39th birthday party when he was the only one who indulged my birthday wish by playing guitar with me. I had such fun and knew I was very fond of him, but never considered him a potential boyfriend, not that there was any reason I wouldn't, but it just never occurred to me.

The friendship continued to develop over the next three months and during the conversations of that period, I spoke candidly about many things, among them, the relationship with my daughter's dad. I didn't have any reason to be less than honest about my feelings and I told the whole truth. And that truth was that we experienced an extraordinary love, one the likes of which I had never experienced before. But the relationship was very complicated. There were circumstances that made it virtually impossible for us to live in that love in a real way, for the long haul. So, love was never an issue. But fear condemned the relationship to a long and extremely painful death and while in its throes, I longed for the man I loved in my heart, and this, I though, would surely kill me.

I wanted to be with him. He was the ONE. How could there be anyone else? How would I ever go on, knowing that I had found him and lost him? I worked hard, hard, hard to get through that death I felt in that and be reborn with love still inside me and the lessons learned held close to my heart. If there is anything I will never forsake, it's love. In the end, I realized that it was not the person that I wanted. It was the experience of love that I wanted. And that meant that the right person was any person with whom I could have that experience. I wasn't looking for Mr. Right. I was looking for Experience Right. That meant the door to love was open again and I had every reason to believe that, having experienced it once (as imperfect as conditions were), I could experience it again.

I told Renard all of this before we were together. That might not have been so bad. The huge mistake was reiterating my desire for this kind of experience when I wasn't feeling us moving towards it in our relationship. It made him feel as if he was in competition with the Ghost of Love Past and he was losing.

This might have been enough to cause some tension, and God bless him, he tried to suppress the feeling that he could never live up to this love experience that had never been a part of his own frame of reference. Now, to complicate it more, lets add our personalities.

We are so wonderful together in so, so, so many ways. But there are some fundamental differences in the two of us. He crafted a great analogy for it: I'm a roaring 8-cylinder engine and he's a quiet 4 cylinder. When we come to the stoplight, he can sit quietly and wait for the light to change. But my 8 cylinder engine, even at idle, is so charged with energy that the breaks are straining to hold me back. I want to fly. And as soon as the light changes, I'm off with this great energy, passion and enthusiasm and all my resources are engaged in my pursuits. I have to explore every road. I don't want to miss anything. And he's just cruising along, smooth and easy, not too fast, happy with the sights on the main road, happy to pull over and rest a while in the quiet. He's never worried about missing anything. He's got a map and a plan and he's chosen his route and is happy with it.

Now, lets complicate this a little more. I tend to be naturally happy almost always, but I am very sensitive, especially when it comes to disapproval. (There's a lot of psychology behind this and understanding it hasn't made overcoming it an easy task.) Renard has a tendency to be moody and when unhappy, he often misdirects his discontentment toward something (or someone) other than its true source. (Or at its source and anything else that might prickle the already sensitive skin.) Given my 8 cylinder nature to his 4, it's understandable why my nature might provoke his ire when he's feeling afflicted. And, in the absence of my understanding the true source of this ire when it's directed at things that are fundamentally just part of who and what I am, things that seemed okay before, I get my feelings hurt. HURT. I feel unloved. UNLOVED. And unlovable. And then the real fun starts.

This last 10 days or so have been very turbulent. But the little tiger dream makes perfect sense now. I'm me and I'm the little tiger. And Renard is also me. The little tiger is becoming unlovable, even though she didn't change. All that changed was the perception of what was already there. And it happened as the result of something external to the relationship. So, Tiger Lisa has to change or we have to get rid of her. But Tiger Lisa doesn't know how to be anything but herself. The tiger's little bites might also symbolize my desire to have a kind of love that Renard hasn't experienced and thinks he may not be able to deliver. It's not in his consciousness until I put it there (because I'm not feeling loved) and then he's aware of how it hurts. Vicious cycle.

Still with me? God bless you!

The story has a happy ending because there is no ending. I really thought that this relationship was about to crash, despite it being so wonderful in so many ways. Thank God we landed safely. I think Renard just needed to know how real and powerful my love for him is and that there are no Ghosts haunting the hallways. And I needed to know that this 8 cylinder may be challenging for a 4 cylinder at times, but she and the love she brings with her are worth it.

And now we know.

If it's true that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, then we should be able to weather the next storm like a rock.

(I like this little camera phone picture a lot and thought it woud be appropriate to run it again here.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been intrigued with your eloquent words since I first started reading them and was awaiting your next entry. I think a 4 cylinder and an 8 cylinder can compliment each other quite well. Hang in there for many more exciting trips!

11:22 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Wow! Thanks! And I do hope you're right!

4:00 AM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

Hurricanes, hurricanes, everywhere, both real and metaphorical...

I used to ask: if that which doesn't kill us only makes as stronger, then why do we all die in the end?

We cannot escape entropy. It comes and devours all things. Life, love, ideas, homes, sanity. On some days, dark days, wherever I look, I can only see the world in shades of sorrowful decay. And changing things may delay the inevitable, but even good and positive changes will never stop it.

But the death of one thing gives life to another. That is the natural cycle, it is the way and the mystery of Great Change. Like having sex with someone for the first time...whatever your relationship was before, however intense or casual, that relationship is gone. It has died, it is transformed, and it is replaced by something else.

And so you can either seek that transformation when its time has come, or hold on to the steering column and analyze and fix and fear while the plane shudders inexorably towards its final plummet.

I guess what I am trying to say is that perhaps it is not a change for yourself - or for him - that is the most useful here, but a renewal and revolution for you both.

I could be wrong. It's happened before. Either way, I suppose you'll figure it out for yourself better than I.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

The key to weathering the storm is to enjoy being in the rain, and by that I mean arguement, disagreement, strife are a part of life (and relationships), just learn to walk in the rain till the sun shines again. BTW, I'm glad YOU think you've solved the Tiger dream cuz I had no clue.

4:21 PM  
Blogger pi22seven said...

Nothing worth a damn is easy. Love is hard.

9:56 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

True, true, true.

Thanks to all of you for your comments. Renard and I have always taken the bumps with a sort of "let the chips fall where they may" attitude, meaning that neither of us feel that we should fight to keep something aloft that clearly is destined to crash. We also realize that there are a confluence of factors that have colored our perception of the way things should be. (Lasciate, I'm thinking of your stained-glass window analogy.) We have some major paradigm differences. And these bumps are really an untangling of these ideas in the hope that by understanding what drives them, we can accept them even if we happen to disagree. We've got to at least see if there's any reason to try to keep this flight aloft. If we can't find one, we'll just brace ourselves and let the plane crash.

(But how many painful crashes will one survive before one decides to fly no more?)

So, these moments are transformative indeed, just as much as the crash itself would be. We're different when we come out on the other side of it all.

By the way, Richard, what you mention is one of those paradigm differences. What you expressed is exactly the way I feel. I think it all has value and you learn to appreciate the storms for what they bring. But to do that, you MUST be able to recognize the value. If you do, then your more likely to be willing to pay the price.

Renard thinks things should be easy. But he wants to be here and it's not always easy. So, he will either make some adjustments or he'll keep looking for that most elusive easy relationship. I should note that this is the longest he's ever sustained a relationship with no break-ups, maybe because of unrealistic expections on one party's part or the other's.

In any event, on we go, without attachment to any particular outsome, but with what seems to be a more solid grip on the controls.

12:43 AM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

By the way, Lasciate, I hope that reference to huricanes everywhere was not literal for you and that you were out of the path of the latest. Of course, I imagine it's hard to find any place in Florida that's escaped the path of at least one of this seasons storms.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

Just windy battering, no hits. It was the usual drill: power outages and scattered tree limbs. You pretty much just duck, weave, and try not to be stupid.

I forgot to mention something yesterday, that the positive (or negative) changes you make along the way becomes part of that final outcome...helping to determine whether said ending/transformation is as tragic as death or as growth-inducing as a snake shedding its skin, or as wondrous as a butterfly kicking off its cocoon.

I didn't mean to be quite so wrapped up in colors of fatalism.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Rajshekhar Murthy said...

hey.. your experience (esp. your way of presenting it) has really amused me...i hope u two have a lot to teach each other.. and that ur love really gives u that excitement / feeling right...

4:43 AM  

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