Saturday, July 29, 2006

Small musing...

“Perhaps the ultimate indignity is loneliness without privacy.”
-Alden Nowlan, “Scratchings,” Between Tears and Laughter

I used to wish, towards the end of a long and mostly happy marriage, that I could walk into the kitchen and make a cup of coffee without feeling compelled to yell out, “I’m making coffee, do you want some?”

I used to fantasize about being alone – not that I wanted to do anything special or covert. I only wanted to gulp the silence down. To not be aware of the presence of anyone else. To wordlessly make a single cup of coffee.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the passive aggressive resistance that is peculiar to long relationships. “God give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change…”

Many marriages (not to mention family relationships and close friendships) are, at least in part, one long stretch of d├ętente. One long stretch of learning to accept the things we cannot change in ourselves and the people we share our lives with – and learning to understand that they are struggling with the same acceptance of us.

X’s husband will not finish the picky details of a house renovation, although she’s asked him time after time. Although he has the tools, the skills, although it wouldn’t take much effort. My ex never gives notice when he needs a small favor…something typed or mended. He doesn’t return phone calls and used to leave me floundering on the line, trying to make an excuse to save someone’s feelings. Z fusses and worries every small decision to death. I am a control freak with budgets and cannot bear an unmade bed. Eventually, I will always say the unthinkable out loud.

All this chaffing and rubbing between us…

Resistance to the drip, drip, drip of another person’s demands. A wayward streak in all of us says, no matter how much we love another person, you aren’t the boss of me. It’s that part that craves a measure of solitude, freedom of movement, change. It’s the part that recently caused a long-married friend to wail, “I love the guy but I need my own room.

In me, it’s a slightly larger part than the fear of being alone.

And I guess that’s what really decides it. Whether we stay in a marriage or not. Not whether we are lonely inside a relationship, because everyone is sometimes, but whether we can bear to be lonely without privacy. Whether the person with us can recognize loneliness and be secure enough to give us privacy.