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Sunday
Apr262009

Magic word dance.

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Ellen & I have been married for 28 years & she still has whole buckets of unused magic words for turning me into a toad.

Or maybe that's not quite right. Maybe I turn into a toad all on my own & Ellen is just puttering along minding her own business, expecting that she'll run into her husband at some point. She walks into the kitchen & there I am - a gruesome human-sized toad. Of course, she screeches. I, on the other hand, secure in the knowledge of my own self & not suspecting in the least that I transformed into a toad when I wasn't looking, suddenly become acutely aware of my changed status. (A sudden screeching in your presence is a VERY good indicator of Sudden Toad Onset...)

We are deep into the third decade of our relationship & when I have occasion to look up, whether as a toad or a man, I still see myself surrounded by whole regions of mystery. It's like being in rural Iowa in the deep night: here & there you see a single blue mercury vapor lamp where people are holding back the dark. Now & then a dog will bark. Mainly there is nothing but the soft whisper of the grass & stars blown like dust in the black sky. There is more mystery here, more & fuller, than Ellen & I can ever hold, yet, somehow, there are times we find ourselves settled into making short entries into the journal of our lives together, a journal with the not-particularly-inspiring title of 'WHAT WE KNOW TO BE TRUE ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP'. Maybe when you enter the fifth or sixth decade of being together, the ground rules shift & suddenly everything comes clear. I have my doubts, but I can't know that for sure. It's like those pools of blue light scattered through the landscape. They mark the line between known & unknown. Between the willingness to be changed & the anxiety about the little deaths that accompany that change. Between loving someone for everything they are & hating that they still turn the closet into a disaster zone in less than 20 minutes. 

We know so little about the real world, the dark areas woven around & through our tight little circles of light. Yet, that is where the invitation really is. The invitation to a life fully lived, to a relationship that goes beyond the known & expected into a full & rich dance of heat & passion & endless discovery. We're 28 years in. I feel a change coming on. I think it's time to walk out into the dark again..

with love, Brian

 

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Reader Comments (11)

No comments? How could there be no comments? Could it be that this piece makes us want to avert our eyes...feeling like voyeurs? That you have written something so intimately personal that we feel we should not be present?

You are so magical and as always I am so touched by your words. Thank you for being here, for loving Ellen and the children and letting all of us peer into the windows of your soul.

April 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFolk Heart

brian, you take my breath away w/your depth of character & profundity of thought.... i am a forever fan of your work & i thank you for sharing your gift w/the world. you have made me smile a million times.... :D

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertiny dancer

Well, that explains all the noseprints on the windows of my soul. I thought it was the raccoons... :-)

Really, thank you both for your wonderful comments. Your words mean more than I can say...

with love, Brian

April 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterZenBandit

Very deep and truthful (as always). We do turn into toads all on our own because we believe that is how we are going to be seen at any particular moment.

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteriambum2

i've read this now about a million times...and i think that folk heart had it right as to why i didn't post a comment.
the sharing was so deep and personal, and i don't know what to say about that, except thanks for being so, always, open.

and it hit so close to home for me. how i wish i was walking into the dark again with my love, the dark of endless possibilities and change and love, not the dark that he entered in, alone, without me. or the dark that i am left here living in.
but as i feel my way around, i always see those blue mercury lamps that others are holding for me, when i can't...those flashes of wisdom and joy and possibiities that still lie there for me in my life. and i am so grateful for that, and so grateful for the ways that you, and others put those thoughts into words for me, so i can read them a million times over until the blue changes to white light and things become clear (er)

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermish

oh mish. for you & all you hold dear, from now until the stars go dark. may you & your love be held until this brief moment has passed...

with love, Brian

April 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterZenBandit

I also have to say to everyone, in general, that I find it interesting that you've all said that you find it deeply personal. I think of it more as an obvious thing to anyone who has been in relationship. Just because I haven't tried to smooth out the edges of it, or gloss it, doesn't make it more personal. Standing in awe in front of the unknown is actually a (more or less) usual place for me to be. Even though I spend a lot of time in laughter in the face of it doesn't lessen that it's still unknown & mysterious & attractive to me in ways that the everyday world will never touch.

We have all lived through the ebbs & flows, the moments where you encounter the deep mystery of the other person (& usually the more striking for being so unexpected). It's the nature of living in relationship & that's the thrill of it. The way we do relationship, from the most casual to the most deep, the way we make connections to each other, is what gives us the texture of our lives.

If anything, I'm just willing to say what you all already know. It's the deep thrumming that goes along with each beat of our hearts. But I'm glad you were willing to come along with me for this brief walk into the mysteries again...

with love, Brian

April 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterZenBandit

The invitation to a life fully lived, to a relationship that goes beyond the known & expected into a full & rich dance of heat & passion & endless discovery....

I think it's time to walk out into the dark together again....

This is beautiful, Brian. Poignant, challenging testimony which resonates for me.

Thank you.

I had one of those Sudden Toad Onsets recently. I came home from an unusually gruesome day at work and started scolding Jim for "not washing the dishes the right way." (Childhood "It's your turn" monster raising its head, I guess). Had to go out for about 15 minutes, come in again and apologize.

Jim had quit washing and gone to hide in a book. After I apologized, he washed and I dried, I cooked and we had a sweet dinner together.

Some years back a couples counselor told us that about 70% of couples' disagreements are never solved, because they arise out of core differences of personality. Couples who survive learn to improve how they deal with the 30%.

When something out of that 70% turns one or the other or both into toads, the first one to notice needs to engage in a "repair maneuver" (like calling time out, going out and coming in again)...because this conflict is one of those un-recallable magic words.

Jim and I have had 15, 24, 28 or 44 years together, depending on when you start counting: our marriage under care of Quaker Meeting (1994), when we "became a couple (1985), when we started sharing household (1981) [with his ex, who is still a close friend!], or when we first met as closeted queer boys in high school (1965).

Somehow we've gotten through three or four rounds of HORRIBLE TIMES together, times when we weren't connecting much or at all.

Lots of times we fail to even notice "the deep thrumming that goes along with each beat of our hearts."

Maybe that's part of what the STOs are for: to conk us on the heads and say, "Oy! Pay attention to what you're missing!"

Thanks again, and
Bless├Ęd Be,

Michael

April 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Bright Crow

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your equally touching & truthful thoughts. It truly IS interesting how we all continue to play out things with the help of our long-term partners. By turns, equally human & toad-like. (I just wish I knew which one I was at any given moment, since I look so bad in green when I'm in my human phase.. :-))

with love, Brian

April 28, 2009 | Registered CommenterZenBandit

I had to sit and think about this comment for a fairly long time as I want the comment to do justice to your story above.
I am a long time follower of Storypeople and have sent out your e-cards a number of times. I have always been impressed, inspired and astounded by the depth, passion and "profundity" of your work. This story has reinforced my opinion. I am, at times, touched, amused and surprised by your work; sometimes all at once by the same piece (i.e. Cultured Fable).
Thank you, thank you, thank you. For all that you write, all that you do and all that you are.
I have been, am now and shall continue to be,
your admirer (in a platonic, respectful, non-stalker fashion), g.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterG.D. Schaatt

S.T.O. - I can just see the small print at the bottom of the ad for Magic Words Remedy :D

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeidiRenee

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