Gran's Apple Butter Blog

August 9, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Wings (6/IX)

Chapter 6 ~ Wings

     When it came to marriage, Gran could speak from both sides of that coin. She’d married and divorced young, learning more about herself in the process than she really cared to. Those lessons took a while to sink in, but eventually she felt ready to try the world of relationships again, this time more aware of what it took to build a happy, healthy home.

     Learning to balance the healthy needs of each individual and the relationship is quite an exercise in character building. For one thing, Gran had learned that the first rule for a good marriage was “Get it in your head: It’s not just about me anymore!” If we want to live a life based on our needs only, we’ll do everyone a favor by staying single. It isn’t fair to add that weight to this experience. On the other hand, a good relationship isn’t based on giving up oneself either. Instead, the road to marital bliss curves somewhere between the two. 

     A key word there was “healthy.” We bring all kinds of needs into our relationships that don’t even serve our own good, much less anyone else’s. Half the expectations and projections we haul in aren’t even related to this new chapter, they’ve just come along for the ride since we never unpacked ‘em from previous journeys. Gran laughed about this. She’d heard somewhere that you marry a family, but she thought in some cases it was more like a small country in the midst of civil war. 

     Gran had her own ideas about relationships. She didn’t believe they required legal tender, for one thing, or that “til death do us part” was either healthy or wise to insist on. Instead, she thought people came together for specific purposes. Once those purposes were served, whether that took one year or fifty, both people would know it, at least if they were being totally honest with themselves. And of course, maybe some couples are supposed to show that life-long commitments really can last in a healthy way.

     Either way, Gran didn’t recommend turning tail as soon as things got hard, ‘cause that’s usually when you’re just starting to work on the relationship’s true purpose. If we run away each time we reach this point, wherever it may be, all we’ll do is find someone else to study our homework with, and the cycle will repeat itself.

     Gran knew the sting that came with all this learning, but she also understood the growth spurt all that pain can spark. Everyone has to make their own choices, she said, realizing that all choices have consequences. Sometimes simply making these choices ourselves, rather than letting them be made for us, is one of our first lessons.

     Regardless, true love doesn’t mean desperately clinging to each other, especially not when our grasp is only a clutch of fear of the unknown or of being alone. True love can mean letting go for the good of all involved. Sometimes we’re just not ready for all the work and growing up a relationship requires, although it’s better to find that out before we get into one. Or maybe it’s just not part of our path right now – maybe we’re here to do something else – and that’s fine. Relationships are only an option, Gran said, and only we know if one feels like highest good.

     Gran had counseled a lot of marital problems on all her Sunday picnics. Most of them came down to communication and power. Each has a flip side – we learn about power by abusing it and being abused by it, and about communication by over- or under-expressing ourselves and our needs. Gran had learned she couldn’t expect someone to meet needs she wasn’t willing or able to express or even to admit to herself. Of course, it was then up to her to figure out what those requests were and why she couldn’t share them – and then to learn how.

     It’s complicated, Gran said. We have so many lessons to learn about what true love is and about mastering our mind, ego and emotions, instead of being mastered by them. Luckily for us, sharing a sandbox provides plenty of opportunities for practice.

     On the upside, Gran said these lessons didn’t take nearly as long as she’d expected. One passing grade at a time her learning progressed, ‘til suddenly there she stood, a fledgling butterfly, wings still crimped behind her back, fluttering in the breeze as she began to flex them. She had finally reached the place where she could fly.

     Of course, that didn’t mean all the work was over. Just as Gran had learned to dismantle her walls, on the other side, she had to learn how to set healthy boundaries and how to invite someone in without letting them take over. For that matter, she had to learn whom to invite in, and how to go visiting without trying to take over herself. Even butterflies have to earn their wings.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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