Island Blog 198 Love Actually

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What did Valentine’s Day bring for you, I wonder?  Errm, nothing.  I’m too old for that lark. When was it anyway…..?  We don’t celebrate such Americanised nonsense.  We prefer to grumble about the retail giants who maximise their percentage by stepping on our hearts. Besides, we’ve been married long enough to know we don’t much like each other.

The thing about love is that it isn’t the first bit that makes any impact whatsoever beyond the affixing of a ring and the fact that ‘I’ am required to become ‘We’ overnight. Where I drop my socks is no longer my choice, nor is the clothing I might select for a quiz night or my daringly cut gown for a ball.  I may not shoot off on a long weekend without saying where I am going and with whom. In the choice of soft furnishings I can no longer choose retro Quant if my significant other feels sick at the very sight of those garish colours and that clumsy patterning.  I may not invite in a passer-by for tea if I know my S.O can’t bear his or her laugh.  I begin to announce when I am going to bed instead of just going to bed.  I may not lend the secateurs to a neighbour without checking with my S.O first.  And so on and so fourth and fifth and sixth.  This is marriage and this is (possibly) when the dislike begins.

When children come, blessedly as very small babies at first, everyone thinks life is now perfect, which it is, up until the drugs wear off, and the car arrives to transport me home. But the motherlove is ferocious and singular and exclusive and the poor old dad, who has barely dared to allow his new name to roll off the tongue, is banished to second base.  As far as he is concerned, he didn’t do anything wrong, but wrong he is, if he should dare to question the new pecking order in the home.  It was aye thus.

However tricky life is after that initial falling into love (which never lasts long) in a relationship that has gravitas and texture, one that hasn’t died of boredom or drink or infidelity, but is just a bit peely-wally, attention is required.  Celebration is a good place to begin.  I have listened to those who tell me ‘we don’t do birthdays, or Christmas, or Valentine’s’,  and then watched the one who said it rather hurt when his SO took an old schoolfriend to Hawaii for 3 weeks on her 50th birthday.  We need to notice each other for flipping years by the way, to gift and to show romance.  I believe this would keep couples together for much longer, for all their time on this earth, if we all woke up to the important fact that every relationship needs food.  Weekly, not once in a while.

For my Valentine’s, I got a lovely card, addressed to ‘My One and Only’ and a box of chocs. He has remembered the romance of Valentine’s Day for almost 45 years, even if, in between Valentine’s days he has been a difficult S.O.b  So, have I.  This marriage thing is a walk in the dark, not the park, for not one of us has an easy ride, like what America tells us in her movies where everything is rosy at the end.  There is no ‘rosy’ unless we accept that roses have their season, scenting the whole garden, filling the eye and the heart with a gasp of wonder…… and outside of that season there is little, or no, fragrance at all.

I want to shout WAKE UP people, but I don’t.  I just wish that young couples out there can hold onto hope, can find the legs to walk on, can understand that a marriage is not one person trying to change the other, (and if that fails, which it always does, there is the justification to move on) but a complete ballsup, a collision of stars, a chaos that only ever needs a regular butterfly.

Island Blog 197 The Bones of Conversation

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If it was easy, life would be a breeze.  But it is far from easy.  There is no greater maw to swallow men and women, countries, races, creeds, than that which requires us to converse with each other.  Lifetimes have been lived avoiding certain subjects, people, situations, all in the name of personal peace.  We avoid those who challenge our beliefs, our standards, our morals and ethics for fear of taint. We choose our friends carefully as if we were born to such a luxury.  It is our right, after all, in this free country, is it not?

I have learned over the years that whatever I madly, frantically, try to avoid follows me like a shadow.  I don’t want to be challenged after all.  I want a simple easy life, and yet that is not what I was offered.  Those who would challenge me don’t have murder on their minds.  I know this now, but my brain is often a fool.  Because I feel uncomfortable in a challenging situation, I avoid any further discourse.  I leave the space we share for the safety of solitude.  But, in doing so, I am learning nothing. This other person has the words, the phrasing, the depth of knowledge on our shared subject and I have run out of all of those.  I must counter his or her opinion.  The fact that I now cannot, is alarming me horribly and I take this challenge as a personal wounding.  I leave the situation hot and flushed, cross and embarassed and I mentally plan safe ground in future encounters, or no ground at all.

But, I am missing something here.  I love a good discussion.  It’s just the subject matter that must be chosen carefully.  No politics, religion or whatever the other one is.  What a shame!  Do I avoid these subjects just because he or she is of a conflicting opinion?  I believe in God, but he doesn’t.  So?  Are we both out to convert the other; could we not just converse, share our thoughts and beliefs without fear of taint? I don’t mind if he doesn’t believe in God, and he doesn’t mind if I do.  What we both mind is that our conversation will elevate to bullying, to all those clever words barracking our ears, the feeling of being trapped and powerless before such empassioned twaddle, for that is what it is most of the time.  Our beliefs do define us to a degree, but is nobody allowed to rethink, to develop old ways of thinking into a new and beautiful synergy?

I have watched people fall out with each other over a mere difference of opinion.  The danger of this is that each returns home to do two things.  One is to re-establish what they already believed in and the second is to build a false image of the other.  In short, it is easy for conversation to collapse into a fight, albeit a verbal one but no less aggressive than had one punched the other in the face.  Over a cake?  Yes, it was, over a cake.  10 years of cold shoulder because the one who didn’t win the prize had noticed a flaw in the winner’s Madeira and said so.  Loudly.

We can laugh, but we all do it.  Perhaps not over a cake, but a message perhaps, a rumour, those times we say something we can’t back up with evidence, and are accurately challenged.  What if we rid ourselves of that fear, those walls of protection we build around our little lives/beliefs/principles/morals?  What if we embraced another’s right to their beliefs without being scared we will be taken over?  What if we just learned to enjoy the sharing of space and words with another precious human being?  Instead of suspicion, we could befriend and learn.  We could ask and listen.  We could even not respond with our own fixed beliefs.

When a life is done, all that remains is what it meant to others. The impact it made, the legacy it leaves behind.  That, and a few bones.