Sunday, September 23, 2007

You, Me, and We

I spend a lot of time considering different perspectives. Most creative activities require this skill. I enjoy managing groups of people into systems that play on the various strengths of individuals as well. And of course marriage requires this skill, and clearly understanding our parents or being parents does. So, as I age I’ve been attempting to expand this ability. I am aware that I am mainly only tolerant of those who share the same intolerances, and I keep trying to change this.

I believe that my key to growth is to comprehend fully that we can share the most intimate times and still our individual experiences of this reality are different. It’s hard to accept this in private, cherished relationships, but it’s obvious when you discuss the past with siblings or become a parent and suddenly have a new gratitude toward your own parents. I try and try to incorporate this into my day-to-day life, but still I struggle. I also harbor a fear that we as a people may need to have a similar reality in order to change our habits in drastic ways right now.

I had all this in mind when Lyra and I went to see the movie In the Shadow of the Moon. I always respect people who gain perspective by going away for a weekend to write, or live abroad, or spend time in serious wilderness, or have walked through serious trauma and emerged anew on the other side. And this movie offered perspective from the handful of people who have actually left the planet entirely and looked at it in its bigger context.

Facing things far out of our control, forces just plain bigger than we are, these are the things that can define our existence, point out our boundaries. People may choose to understand and adapt in different ways, but no matter what, those who look the storm in the eye are typically the people who are more likely to have foresight, who take action without being caught up in self-involved pettiness.

Those who have really lived, really love, really lost, and are still forging their way vividly forward -- well, they just have a different sort of flow. They sometimes turn to an existing construct to explain the chaos, but occasionally they articulate a new one. And sometimes this is what we need to make or save history. Of course I want to know what someone who has stood on alien soil has to say.

Me, I want to float in my big picture perspective, but I often feel dragged down by my baggage. I have a gorgeous, funny, amazing baby, yet I don’t go to sleep sighing happily. I have nightmares, I worry, I mourn losses. And I cannot stop being terrified about her survival, and as a result the speed with which we are destroying our home on the pretty blue marble.

I am looking for a perspective and some extra tolerance to move forward in the face of fear. I need to keep onward when I cannot see the way. I need to accept my life may be a a bit of a rantum scoot, so I may as well do what I can and enjoy it. I need this; my daughter needs this from me. We need balance: we need to accept the ebb and accept the flow of more than just our own lives, whatever direction we end up sailing.

The astronauts in the movie still looked completely wildly moved by their experience 38 years later. One discussed his new devotion to the religion that helped him understand the largeness of his experience, and one considered how fragile the little blue planet looked. But what struck me most was when one of the men described feeling the great vastness of space, and he felt the moon below and the Earth beyond and it was so clear that all of this, including him, was one thing. We are all part of this one thing. And he felt lucky.

This is what I want to hold on to: that together we are whole, and I am lucky to take part. People in my life this year have spoken a lot about the physical and spiritual benefits of expressing gratitude on a regular basis, and perhaps this is the same as accepting our luck.

I am lucky that I am here, I may have experienced a great deal of various kinds of perspective that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, I may struggle every day to grow my pool of tolerance. I may face danger and despair. The balance of the biology we are part of may be aging toward an end. And I do think every one of us must take action. However. despite every terrible thing, every day I am lucky.

Today I am grateful for the cold Saturday afternoons when I spread out my dad’s map of the moon on the living room rug in the sun. I would trace my fingers over the named features on the map and marvel at how we could be so familiar with such a big alien place.

I was one-and-a-half months old when men walked on the moon. I got to grow up with a generation of people who saw the image of our whole planet as one, together in a great flow of space for the first time, before it was a ubiquitous symbol. Maybe that will help us now.

Today I am also grateful for the warm Saturday afternoons when my dad rowed our dinghy The Eagle out to our boat, Tranquility Base, and we sailed to where I couldn’t see anything but blue in all directions.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Marriage Advice

On our two year anniversary, glenn's sister asked us for wedding advice for her upcoming marriage. I think we pretty much giggled and said "duh, I dunno." But we talked about it for a few days and then glenn worked up 12 pieces of advice from our discussions which he delivered as his speech at her wedding. (Note: she and her new hubby are big soccer fans) Here they are, as delivered this weekend at a lovely event at the Moraine Farm in Beverly, MA:

1. Your world is getting bigger today, not smaller! More history, more friends, more possibilities. Marriage is not the end of the search, it’s the beginning of all the searches that are more fun to do together.

2. Be the guardians of each other’s solitudes. Not only do you need to give each other space, you need to make each other space.

3. No difficult conversations after 10pm. Not only is it harder to solve problems when you’re tired, but at least half the time being tired is the problem.

4. The Dutch principle of Total Soccer means that any player can attack when there is an opportunity, and any player can defend when there is a need. In Total Marriage you only have two players, so this is even more important. Both of you should be able to do everything your team needs. You’ll have your preferences and strengths and habits, but if one of you goes down, the other one has to be able to cover.

5. Wedding rings don’t really come with magic powers. You will learn how to take care of each other one insight at a time. And even when you’re not sure how, show up and you’ll think of something.

6. Headphones; separate closets.

7. If you aren’t already the world’s leading experts on each other, you will be soon. It is thus your responsibility to be not only the world’s biggest fans of each other’s best qualities, but also the world’s staunchest fans of each other’s weaknesses and flaws.

8. Get pets. By far the easiest way to remember that you have to feed your shared life together is if part of it comes and stomps on you every morning.

9. No ultimatums. Ever.

10. Travel. Surprise and challenge yourselves. It’s easier to have a world together if you have a world to compare it to, and part of the fun of getting to know each other is putting yourselves, together, in positions where neither of you know what you’re going to do yourself.

11. Committing yourselves to one another is one of the most mature, responsible, focused decisions you can make. Balance it out by being immature, irresponsible and playful together as often as possible.

12. When people, especially your relatives, offer you long lists of marriage advice, just smile politely and nod until they finally shut up.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Two Years Married

Today is the first day in well over a week that I've lived my life normally without cutting things short and retreating to the couch to lie as still as possible while my guts rebelled. Everything feels wonderful compared to the ridiculously painful and highly frightening last week though. I believe I now know what TEN feels like on the pain scale. Try not to rupture an ovarian cyst. Ever. Stabbing yourself with a knife is a better option pain-wise.

I made good use of my immobility last week when I could actually function. Most impressive is that I taught my executive assistant tiger to come to his name. Really. Not only that, but when I say "Where's Moki?" He meows in response and then come running from wherever he is. (Luna was again, too busy for this important milestone.) While he did once bring me heavy neoprene kayaking boots up three stories (both boots, one at a time), I have yet to get him to fetch slippers.

Today is our second wedding anniversary. My inlaws were in town yesterday evening shuttling my sister-in-law around and took us out to an impromptu meal near her apt. at Marinos in Cambridge to celebrate. This is a restaurant that makes a big deal out of using produce from its own farm, however the menu looked full of non-local produce.

Our waiter appeared to be new or "possibly dim" as my mother-in-law suggested. He took my inlaws' substitution order without checking if it could be made. Half an hour later he told them it could not and we started all over again. After we'd been there over an hour we finally got our above average-tasting food. I ate an appetizer -- sort of a bland antipasto -- for dinner. It included some tasty sage and rosemary marinated mushrooms that were unusual. Glenn had squash ravioli that were pretty yummy. My normally laid back father-in-law had steam coming out of his ears from the wait and had a harsh word with the manager who coughed up only some free desserts in return. Lame.

Tonight, however, I was feeling well enough again to go out, YAY! And the two of us had an anniversary date. I made reservations this afternoon, once we were sure I could handle it, at OM, a trendy new resto in Harvard Sq. that was participating in Boston's Restaurant Week. We sauntered into the loungey waterfall wall and buddha statue decor and cozied up in a half moon shaped table. We ordered a prix fixe meal off the resto week menu that was delish. We ate Okinawa Sweet Ravioli, which were stuffed with a paste made from Okinawa yams. It was almost like red bean paste, sweet and delicious. They were also very pretty. Then glenn had a few big sea scallops with chanterelles and peas and little pickled red onions and bits of Chinese sausage and I had a sliced Moroccan-spiced duck breast with a tiny bisteeva in its own super mini cast iron skillet. Dessert was a wee piece of mango cheesecake for glenn and a vanilla creme brulee for me.

Over dinner we giggled and discussed Marriage Wisdom. G's sister had asked us if on our anniversary we had any such wisdom for her and her impending marriage. We were too tired to think at the time. Tonight we thought of a few of the values and rules we conduct our marriage by and laughed and wondered if they would help anyone else. One of the better serious rules we have is one I learned many years ago and have blown enough times throughout my years of relationships to know its worth: Do not argue after 10pm. I could tell you more, but really isn't that one enough to work on for awhile?

After our upscale dining experience we walked down the street to a hipster teen wear shop and bought each other stupidly funny underwear (I believe a dolphin with a little cap on is in my future, and glenn is Big in Japan) as glenn claimed that Two Years was the Cotton Anniversary. (The importance of Play rated very highly on our marriage wisdom list. . . .)