This morning I read some pretty powerful words from Joni Mitchell. Words that resonated deeply with me. Words that obviously come from a long life, profoundly lived.
Everybody has a superficial side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth — we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood.
Ya think? I see it on Facebook all the time. I can bare my soul in a heartfelt blog and get very little response. Then I ask people what’s on top of their fridge or what colour toilet seat I should choose and wham! Flooded. But that’s what this land of social media does. It inspires to hide all the deep and glorify the romance. Or the easy and mundane. But whether the actual romance or the romantic picture we choose to share of our lives, most of us are guilty as charged.
Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff. That’s reflected in the fact that this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity — the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on. I’ve seen this pattern so much in myself and my friends and some people never get off that line.
Oh pick me. Please. Again, guilty as charged. I’ve actually made a career out of getting hooked on that rush. I’m an addict if ever there was one. So now what, Joni?
But along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing. I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.” What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories — and in a way, that routine is a method for falling in love with yourself over and over.
Hip to what I was doing. I love that. Because I too am a fairly smart girl and even though hip to what I was doing, did it anyway. Kind of like that alcoholic who knows drinking will kill her but just keeps doing it. It’s all about that rush, remember? And damn but you don’t often get that rush with a long-time partner, do you? At least not daily.
And I love this theory that endless “new” begets endless “repetition” and that we all really just want to fall in love with ourselves over and over again. I mean it’s so ridiculously insane it’s brilliant. And true. And pretty fucking self-absorbed if we must get real here (and we must). Joni insists:
You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.”
Oh, how I love those words. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.
Kind of like me.
But I’m pretty sure it’s true and I’m happy to say I personally know several couples who are a testament to this statement’s veracity. They’ve done the long haul and they are still in it to win it. Not because they said so, not because they made a commitment, not because they are too lazy to shake things up and not because they’re getting some gravy on the side and therefore sated. They are in it because they still totally dig their partner and with that partner is where they want to be. Hills and valleys. Ebbs and flows. No excuses.
That said, I’m also acquainted with couples who divorced after 40 years so what the hell do I know?
Well I do know this. From experience. In my last blog I wrote about my adventures with IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and even though the medium has changed, the whole flirting-via-internet thing has not. Whether it’s online dating, an old boyfriend you have reconnected with on Facebook or a seemingly innocuous email correspondence with a colleague, we all have opportunities to stretch the boundaries of propriety. And sometimes, all logic aside, we do. Not only do we do, but we do with great optimism. With huge rationalization. With the firm belief that we can handle it, take from it, enjoy it and not in any way diminish our other partnership.
Well – two points on that.
- Bullshit. You’re either a compartmentalization fucking genius or you’re heartless.
- You’re doing it because of that fairy tale Joni so succinctly describes.
You see, when we indulge in a clandestine flirtation we forget that we are only seeing a tiny aspect of our co-conspirator. The tiny aspect that he or she astutely chooses to share. So what do we then do? We fill in the blanks. We fill in the fucking blanks with whatever fantasy we choose to attach to that individual. Probably based on nothing more that our own wishes. Certainly not based on that person’s very real and possibly quite prosaic real life. We fill in the blanks with all the juicy chunks of early-stages-falling-in-love pablum that we’ve been missing. Or even falling-in-lust. Or falling-in-intellectual-stimulation. Call it what you will but my guess is we are diving head first into these shark-infested waters because as it turns out we are no longer in the early-stages-falling-in-love phase with our beloved. Nor is anyone, by the way, who has passed the two year mark (arbitrary number, chosen by me because this is my blog).
And so where does that leave the warm, padded love at home?
Weird how warm and padding have never been terribly sexy, have they? But then again, is anybody ever, always sexy?
I know this. I have been ill these past few days. That dark knight Diverticulitis has yet again taken me down. Damn that bastard, but he shows up every few years and (literally) tries to kill me. And if his attempted annihilation isn’t bad enough, the horse pills required to ruin his fun are almost as dreadful. Almost.
So here I am, a shivering, septic mess, feverish, in aggressive pain and nauseated by gargantuan antibiotics. And my beloved is here with me, every step of the way. He checks in from work. He offers to do a drugstore run. He stops on his way home to buy me soup. He rubs my feet before bed just in case acupressure really does work (he even Googles ‘colon’ to find out where to press) and never once during any of this does he ever make me feel like the skanky wreck I truly am.
And therein is proof positive of Joni’s inspired words.
If we remain vital, curious, connected and open, there will always be opportunities to tell our best stories over again – to someone new – and fall in love with ourselves all over again too. And I will never suggest that ignoring that call is easy.
But the opportunity for rebirth, the chance to rekindle, the blessed shot at warmth and padding, these too should not be overlooked. Hard work? Yep. Worth it?
Joni seems to think so. You’ll have to decide for yourself.