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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do You Have Any Baggage to Check?

I find this the hardest writing I've ever attempted to complete. I want to tell this. I am compelled to write it. But it is damned difficult. Do I even have the language skills to tell about the lifting of the heavy velvet drapery without divulging the unnecessary minutiae of the story? I am not so sure. I shall try.

The reader should know that we became acquainted and deeply bonded in 1968. We boyfriend-girlfriended intermittently across four years. We finally walked in opposite directions and didn't know whether the other still existed for 30 years. Reconnecting at ages 50 and 53 led us to realize that there is a deep connection between us that no amount of time will erode. Events in life have caused us to assemble and reassemble what we share now. It doesn't look exactly as it once did. It is different, and some parts of it are yet undefined.

When our tapestry began to unravel, we each retreated to maladaptive coping models that were comfortable to us. The most mundane topics were discussed and resolved with a two sentence exchange. The things that mattered even slightly were not discussed at all - these left hanging like shiny decorations on an overloaded, drying Christmas tree. For one of us is terrified of simply slipping the necessary words out into the atmosphere and the other is afraid that the acrid smoke rising from the words will choke and annihilate us. We tried some traditional, well recognized means to reach rapprochement, but drifted from that. After all, it still required the words to be said and the feelings to be dealt with.

For an ice age, we have rolled like a vehicle with two round and one square wheel. Roll along, flap, roll again, flap. Ker-whap. Ker-whap. Assumptions made. Accusations tossed. Apologies made. Forgiveness granted. This activity allowed between us, but not that one. By some arbitrary and capricious ruling made by one of us or the other, but rarely by both. We've talked for the longest time about the need to talk about things. But the agenda was not moved forward by either of us. The Badger has asked repeatedly: "Who will ask the hard questions?" And, finally, guided by interested parties wiser than I, encouraged by parties who have witnessed the pain, I said (and meant it), "Badger, I believe I can ask the hard questions. I believe I can get us started."

I let him and myself down many times. "Hey, let's plot a really long walk and finally open the discussions." "OK." The walk would happen, but not the talk. Pregnant silences between us. He waiting for me to open the door as I'd said I could do. Me wrapped in knots that made me almost physically ill. And I'd despise myself afterward for cowardice and falseness.

To consider about us: we are two extremely intelligent, passionate, emotional, creative, fiery people. Intense and extreme. He calls me "difficult" and I say that he "ain't easy". We don't see everything the same. In fact, there is considerable disagreement about some things. If we were flavors, there would be no vanilla in the mix. He is habanero and I am key lime. Strong. Vivid. We are not identical twins or mirror images, but rather highly complementary beings. What one lacks, the other has in abundance. It has been said that when we are in a room together, the lightbulbs spin. The good times are nearly euphoric. The sad times are almost more than the human spirit can bear.

I've mentioned crying quietly in the dark when a song came on as we drove to the Preserve. I cried because I felt pretty sure I'd be false and let us down again. I'm now practised at planning to, but not talking. So please join us now at the campsite at Cow Cove, 8 miles one-way from Gas Food. Dinner has been enjoyed. The Badger had a couple of nice cocktails. The fire had settled from flame-throwing to happily crackling and there was a lot of wood left to add to it. We sat in the chairs bought so long ago at Bed, Bath & Beyond and pulled them close to the fire and immediately next to each other.
The campfire prevented us from seeing all the stars, but we knew there were plenty of them. Every now and then, a little zephyr would present itself, puffing smoke at us. We're pretty quick movers and likely looked funny when we'd jump up in unison, lift the chairs one-handed and dash to the opposite side of the fire. The blaze grew quiet, but was still strong and warm, little flames licking out from under the wood rather than walls of flame roaring. We inched closer a few times, absorbing the heat into our bodies.

And then I heard a voice. It was my own, although I barely recognized it and struggled to understand the language I spoke. For what I said was stated without tears and was the plainest, straightest thing I've ever asked out loud. "Why did you ____?" I waited only a moment for his reply, but I felt myself cringe for the asking it and I steeled myself for an answer that might be painful. For I was pretty certain I knew why, but I needed to have it confirmed, even if it nearly ruined me. "Here is why: _____." Oh. Not at all what I'd thought. He intention was kind and gentle, loving and caring. Not mean, not biting, as I'd interpreted it. How long had I flogged myself replaying it all, when I could simply have asked him . . . we sat in silence for awhile. I didn't know what he was feeling. I was feeling trepidation mixed with a fierce determination to keep going . . .

I decided to try a few "I need" statements. That is very difficult for me, as I wear a mask almost every moment of life. You know the mask. The tough-guy, hard-case mask. "I don't need anything from anyone." But I do. I need. I need things from someone I care for. I choked and gagged the first such statement out. "I can do that for you." Oh. The next statement from me came out a little smoother. "All right. Agreed." Oh. And then I pulled out the big guns: "You hurt me when you _____. I don't want you to ever do that to me again." "All right. I won't." Oh.

Lest the reader think that only one of us had things to say or ask, I will tell that the Badger checked off a few beads from his own pain rosary. They're not mine to tell. I will simply say that the energy flowed both ways. And, in the end, from this man who can be both a wonderful communicator and taciturn (but not at the same time), two overarching, powerful statements that felt a whole lot like cornerstones for the foundation of a structure being built ~ our next phase in life? Finally. A man and a woman with a long history and deep, abiding affection for one another . . . . communicated, made agreements, made commitments. It may not be remarkable in your world, but it is in ours.

That fire flamed and flared, glowed the most glorious colors ranging from golden amber to crimson. We had inch-wormed very close to it, on opposite sides of it. The conversation was so excruciatingly emotional, we were each pulled in by the fire to be dazzled and comforted. At some point in the evening, I noted that my back was very cold and when I assessed my position, I learned why. Each of us had assumed the oddest posture in our chairs - seated, bent very low at the waist, face almost in the fire. My back was exposed to the cold night air and seemed to have been for quite awhile. Our talking had taken on the most unusual cadence. We'd speak about one subject, talk it to completion and then lean into the fire, sometimes for a long time. We'd comment on the fire - the changing shapes in the hottest burning parts, the little blue lick of flame. And then we'd take up the next topic for discussion. More than once I said I'd like to reach out and touch the warmth of that fire. "Don't do it, Limes." I didn't.

People who are not emotional, not romantic, not gentle, might say, "Great, enough time passed and these lame people finally began talking." I am emotional and romantic and gentle, however. So I will tell you what I felt and how it was for me. Struggling for words in the night, I thought I could hear tinkling windchimes - the sort with small glass rectangles that clink together. I thought I could see twinkling glitter in the night air - some fairy offering of strength-giving magic. I thought I could smell the fragrance of dirty laundry rendered fresh. I thought I could taste the peace of a heart unburdened. I thought I could touch my heart and find it nearer to whole. For, as I've written before, there was magic in the air, some enchanting presence that made a couple of wonderful people start, finally, taking care of their business. We talked. And maybe now instead of simply being in one another's presence, we can actually spend time together. There's a difference.

In my ears right now: Indigo Girls again, Power of Two. " . . . . for if we ever leave a legacy, it's that we loved each other well. Now the steel bars between me and a promise, suddenly bend with ease . . . ."

Something that charmed me: That picture above of the squalling kid on the funny tricycle. No, it is not the Badger in his youth. Youthful Badger wouldn't have sat bawling in the saddle of such a funny 3-wheeler. He'd have been greasing the bearings and checking the hubs, getting ready for the next race.


  1. What an absolutely gutsy, honest cathartic post! And Badger will read it, right? You are amazing. ...and where did you get those images? Just roaming around the internet? Everyone should read this. I'm going to forward it to a friend who really needs to read it, if that's ok - it has to be - this whole blogging thing really 'puts it out there.' Stunningly good writing. I have a girl crush.

  2. Aw, Kass, you've just made me cry. I really NEEDED to tell this, to write it and then share it. But it was risky and I felt kind of vulnerable. Yes, the Badger will read it as soon as he gets in from the Starbucks group ride. He'll blush (again) when he thinks of his two pronouncements made under the stars.

    Yes, I get some of the quirkier images from the 'net. It's amazing what's out there. And yes, you can certainly share. I am writing in a public forum (I keep reminding myself).

    OK, as to girl crushes, I have to tell you . . . I have spent half the morning perusing every part of your blog and it has caused so much stirring in me - the scenery I have not seen in a long time but remember from my youth; mother/daughter/child stuff; quirky, fun, strong, brilliant, mature women; Sugarhouse! I wish I were there now. We could get coffee and find some mischief to get into . .

    By the way, you used the word "cathartic". When I came to work Monday, David looked at me and immediately said, "What happened? What's changed?" I told him we'd finally had the first talk. About Wednesday he said we'd need to put an anchor in my back pocket. So much weight had been lifted from me, he was afraid I'd float away.

    Thanks for taking the ride on my little pink bus.

  3. About that picture (six down from the top), I've heard of blowing into an ear, but blowing out?

    Seriously, though, very well-written post that's made me intensely curious about______.

  4. Ha, Kirk, isn't that mouth/ear something? I love the images I can find online. I search on some pretty esoteric words/phrases and up pops a picture.

    Don't lose lots of sleep wondering about ____. It's unimportant to the reader. Like everyone else, we have layers upon layers of stuff, compounded across difficult personalities, multiplied by the power of how deeply each element was repressed. Just human flotsam, like everyone else carries. Ours isn't even special. What's special is the caring that kept us both engaged until we could finally talk.

  5. I am a man. I'm not supposed to cry at such eloquently written prose about two strangers I've come to love in my own bizarre long distance way. You two, Limes and Badger are wonderful for each other. Limes I'm glad you found the words.

    Word verification is what Austin Powers does for Fun- Oishag

  6. Oh, Tag. I thank you. Isn't it the oddest thing how 'tend friends become actual ones? How we begin to care about that other blogger and start the day by checking out what's happening in their world? I'm soon going to write about that. It's brewing in me now.

    You already know I had to struggle hard for the words, but I'm glad I did it. It is true that we are each meant to have a part in the other's life.

    Ha! Austin does enjoy shagging, doesn't he? Oy!

  7. No, I don't quilt. I just have this wild idea that I need to realize in fabric and batting. I will break all the rules, but that's why we're here, right?

  8. Limes (where did Limes come from? nickname?) - anyway, I just scrolled through your blog to find the Granny-O piece. Man, you've blogged a lot. I laughed out loud at Engleborg. - AND, as I scrolled I read about your love of massage. Did you know that's how I make some of my living? I'm a massage therapist. I taught at the massage school here - AND, I am a specialist in Cranial/Sacral Therapy. When I get time, I will tell you more about my love of massage and Cranial stuff (I don't think it's the movement of CSF {cerebral spinal fluid} - but I still love it).

  9. Hey, Kass ~ there are several Granny-O pieces, but I'm glad you landed on Engelborg and enjoyed it. What a hoot that you're a massage therapist. Be VERY glad I'm not near you. I'm afraid I'd pester you to death, as I am an addict. I don't care about whether it's the movement of CSF, I just love it for the way it feels. More on the "Limes" designation later. And, yes, I'm utterly driven to write the posts, tell the stories. I'm compelled.