We are not prepared for how hard this will be. No one tell us. There is no high school course on the topic. The closest we got was “Communications” in which I learned the art of active listening. No undergraduate degree in Navigating Conflict in Interpersonal Relationships. Maybe that is better suited to a minor, or a certificate, than an entire degree program.
No one tells you, outright at least, that each day is full of collision. That no task is fully resolved. The to-do list fills quicker than it is crossed off. That we are usually neither one hundred percent right, or wrong, and neither is the person toward whom our sword is drawn and pointed, dueling. Nothing is cut and dry. Cut and dried like hay in the field. If so, it would be cut, and wind-rowed, and dried, and turned, and dried and baled. And set in the barn to sweat and cure. And stored. But some of it might mold because it’s too moist. Either because it dried under the shady hedge of trees in the field and therefore never really dried or because it held too much water in the barn because you covered it with a tarp and not a sheet or because the leak in the roof of the barn with the hand hewn beams and kind family of bats is leaking, right above your stacked hay. So, suffice it to say that cut and dry isn’t really that straightforward after all.
Stoic and truth-searching and rigid is not always right. Neither is passion-loud and expressive. Both just are. They are only right if the message, the care, the compassion, the vulnerability, the hearing, the validation jumps the fire line between the two and makes it right.
No one tells us, when we are young and expectant or when we are older but still young – that it won’t be easy. That a relationship or marriage or anniversary doesn’t make everything better, or smooth. That what it really takes is persistent and constant work. That it’s a struggle. That it doesn’t always feel good. That we suffer, and feel alone – even when we are together. Why don’t we talk about this? Why don’t we shout it from the roof tops, our challenges along with our love, to make this journey better for everyone. Why do we only complain and perspect and whisper in small groups of companions. Why don’t we just admit it outloud – sometimes (lots of times) being in relationship with others flat out, downright, profanely, positively sucks.
Yup. That’s classy. I know. Sucks was a banned adjective in my house growing up. But sometimes, it’s the only word that works.
Last week I granted myself a spontaneous permission slip to clear out my mental dashboard, and my desk, and whisk up Valentines for near-and-dear and far-and-beloved. My brain and heart melted into the task, even though my feet were cold against the oak floor and the whirlwind remained in my blood. A pile of joy to distribute, slipped into the slot at the Madison post office the next morning.
Over the weekend, I received the following note in my virtual mailbox:
Thanks for the Valentine. I’m glad our fam is a cute one, but we’ve got our big problems too. Things aren’t as nice or pleasant as I’d like. I am not sure how your V day was, but I just want you to know that X and I fought today. It happens. More than I’d like.
Fidelity. Regina Spektor
Happy. Brandi Carlile
Shake it Off. Taylor Swift