Separate Vacations

He is in Assisi while I am in a seat at a meditation retreat.

Let there be space in your togetherness.

I once read that in a spiritual text, and didn’t my late mother warn against the closeness we shared as a newly married couple.

The oak and the maple don’t grow in each other’s shade.

I think that’s what the teaching said, but still we clung to one another for fear we would slip away like so many loves do, like my parents had from one another.

And yet there is also the concern of rot, of not enough light and air, soil and water.

Which is how we find ourselves in Italy and the Berkshires, and in this spaciousness may our fruit sweetly ripen.

(April 2019)

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Let there be space

Thursday

I’m getting under the covers and turning off the lights at the exact moment the person with whom I’ve shared a bed for 33 years is lifting into the sky and soaring over the ocean until together we’ll wake to find ourselves in different worlds.

~

Saturday

He’s in Assisi & I’m in seat at a meditation retreat.

“Let there be space in your togetherness,” I once read in a spiritual text, and didn’t my late mother warn us against our early closeness. “You two spend too much time together.”

“The oak and the maple don’t grow in each other’s shade.”

I think that’s what the teaching said, but still we clung to one another for fear we would slip away like so many loves do.

And yet there is also the concern of rot, of not enough light and air, soil and water.

Which is how we find ourselves in Italy and the Berkshires, and in this spaciousness, may our fruit sweetly ripen.

~

Tuesday

Turns out I missed him which I expected I would, but it still felt good to feel it, like a confirmation of love, though it could just be habit, because the truth is, I haven’t been lonely in bed, not really.

~

Friday

Just one more day.

I’m worried I didn’t grow enough in his absence, didn’t soak it up enough, didn’t expand into it and myself. He is so rarely gone. I am always the one leaving.

~

Saturday

After a cruise around the Island of Capri, he’s in the air again, while I’m cruising muddy roads, thinking I might have to park the car and walk up to the house soon like we did when the boys were young.

Marriage in the Month of March


Even though we are adrift with growing pains, empty-nesting shifts & all, if he died while taking down those trees, I would really miss him.

He listens to what I write with an interest that belies 33 years of the same. He is an excellent hugger, lover, cuddler, though neglected in these regards of late. He is kind-hearted and reflective, a quality which has been exceedingly necessary these days.

Despite all this, I could Razor’s Edge him; something we once watched in a movie and liked so much that we practiced it each time we were faced with a goodbye that we weren’t ready to make.

His short-term recollection is patchy at best. His consistency with the day to day the same, while his need for mechanized routine and mindless habit maddening.

He is not particularly good with finances, never has been, even though he is increasingly good at earning, while I have plummeted in this regard. And for that, I can Razor’s Edge him even more, for the simple fact that he was born male and as such has enjoyed a whole host of cumulative benefits of which he, like most men, are exceedingly unaware, while I have inherited a centuries-old cumulative deficit which this morning my companion Virginia Woolf elucidated in an audio recording of A Room of Her Own played on my iPhone which I tucked into one pocket, while in the other, I stowed warmed stones from the wood stove while avoiding the river, and wouldn’t I, if he died, have so much more room.

And still, this evening, I listen for the sound of the ax and the winding of the chain saw and the absence of a holler.

Latte

I remember that September dawn in the year 2000 when my mother lay breathing in a hospital bed in her livingroom beside the bay window; her heart had already completed its mission, but her body kept on.

“Marriage is kind of like that,” I say to my husband as we pull up to one of our favorite cafe’s. “Even if the bottom falls out, couples keep on going… cleaning the house, taking care of the kids, going to their favorite cafe. You have to eat.”

But I don’t want to be the breath that continues after the heart of our relationship has stopped beating. My wedding vows were intended as a commitment to keep on pumping and to let go when the pumping ceased.

And so far, 33 years into this relationship, the heart is strong.

“I really like Dad,” I say to my youngest as we drive home from town. “I’m just tired of our relationship.”

This is also winter talking and 55 talking and working on the same book for 7 years talking and the empty nest talking; and what I mean by “relationship” is the patterned behaviors that get in the way of real relation.

It turns out that not only does the breath continue for a bit after the heart stops, but the brain goes on even longer. Awareness continues.

I like awareness. Awareness is what gives voice to the experience of dying for those who are resuscitated. I suppose relationships are resuscitated too.

Those lattes were strong.

Love Warriors

This is not the first darkness into which we have descended as a couple, and like our previous  encounters (albeit much briefer ones), there is nothing visible on the surface. No convicting offense. Nor the absence of love.

What is different this time is time. We have it. To spend. To see. To feel. To open into something we’d never quite allowed ourselves to open into before.

The Provocateur: The Empty Nest.

The Invitation: The Heroine’s Journey.

The challenge is to allow the descent into darkness without turning back or trying to change it so that out of the liminal space something new might emerge.

But what if this emergence does not include us as a couple?

Our willingness to sense into this possibility is, in my mind, a promising sign even as it terrifies us. And it does.

My practice in this darkness has been to remain open-hearted. This sounds like a noble endeavor, but what it really means is that I’m feeling pain instead of numbing or distracting.

I never realized how often I armored against feeling. How my attempts to make things better, to coach or cajole, to remain ever-vigilant, to overdo disappointment, overwork anger, and overextend resolution were mechanisms of defense, as were the tiny release valves of criticism, mockery and superiority.

WIthout such protection, I am open to my heart’s conveyances.

But what if my heart conveys a new beginning?
And what if that beginning is far, far away?
And what if it is alone?

It’s not lost on me that our boys are the age I was when my parents’ marriage fell apart, and it’s not lost on me that my boys are the age I was when I left the heartache of my broken family for a semester abroad, for a season backpacking through Europe, for a year in Colorado,  and finally for a life in the mountains 300 miles away from the sea.

Stay, feel, notice, I tell myself, and in my stilling, I notice that there is as much to feel from the past as there is in the now, probably more.

While I feel into the heaviness of my heart, my husband is engaged in his own practice. Feeling into himself. Finding himself. Knowing himself. Recovering himself. Which is as much a journey of the past as the present, just as mine is with pain.

We spent last weekend together at Kripalu Yoga and Health Center, sleeping in different dorm rooms by night while assisting a writing and meditation program by day.

There were a hundred participants between us as we each wrote into our past.

I wrote into all the red flags that could have redirecting my course.

He wrote into how his life might have unfolded without me.

In the evening, we came together on a couch outside the performance hall, my feet in his lap, and we took turns sharing what we had written, surprised to discover similar veins of exploration.

In times like these, the darkness is parted, but then it returns like the sea, and we drift away again into self-revelation, further and further from the shore of the familiar and easy companionship of thirty-three years. (The lifetime of Jesus. Just saying.)

It’s not lost on me that we are opening into new aspects of ourselves, dusting off old identities, trying out something new. More individuation for him. Less filling in the gaps for me. It’s not lost on me that this is disorienting.

It’s not lost on me that we had a particularly steep and jagged holiday season which had nothing to do with us as a couple and everything to do with our role, our heart, our ties, as parents.

The summer before last, when we still had a child at home, we encountered a familiarly patterned relationship crapstorm that left the household raw and ragged. Afterward, I checked in with our youngest and asked how we might better consider his feelings in the future. His request was tender, and directed toward me: “Check in with me sooner.”

But what of your father, I asked, don’t you have a request for him?

He shrugged, and offered in consolation, “Dad just needs to stay connected to himself.”

Was our offspring, practically grown at the time, parroting, or clearly reflecting the discrepancy in our relationship, the gendered discrepancy of all relationships?

I am so tired.
Women everywhere are so tired.
So much of women’s work–relationships, families, communities–takes place unseen, underappreciated, unpaid, and often in the shadows, frequently secretive and shamed.

It’s not lost on me that after each of my children left for college, I came down with acute infections.

It’s not lost on me that since meeting me my husband’s professional life has increasingly thrived while mine began to contract, and especially since motherhood, is forever gasping for air.

It’s not lost on me that with this particularly toxic President, it  is a difficult time to be a woman (and a difficult time to be in relationship with a woman) as this rotting, stench-filled Patriarchy uproots everything.

My husband is afraid of this darkness, of what lies ahead.

I am afraid too, but for me it is necessary. Life or death. Now.

It’s not lost on me that I am writing from the depth of winter, but I’m not ready for spring.

Even if we should end, as we heartbreakingly will some day no matter our trajectory, our love has been a fertile place for growth and for that I am forever gratified and humbled.

It’s not lost on me that this is what scares me most, the inevitable parting.

What buoys me is the fact that our names, both Casey and Kelly, are Celtic for Warrior, and that we are a Marian family–born as I was on the Immaculate Conception of Mary to a mother born on the Birth of Christ, and a husband born on Her Feast Day, and our firstborn on Her Assumption.

Darkness is holy. Presence to the darkness is feminine work. And like everything, it too shall pass. But first I want to claim it.

With thirty-three years between us, it would be easy to abandon the heroine’s journey out of fear or habit or lack of fortitude.

I am writing into the gift of this darkness tonight. To honor it. To allow it to be rich and fertile, not just for us, but for all those who courageously dwell in the unknown becoming.

Where we belong


Marriages end. Marriages begin. Love blossoms. Love fades.

“How did we get here from there?” we ask.
Or: “How do we get there from here?”

Some say there is no there. Only here.
Is that true?

Doesn’t every beginning embody its ending?

Don’t love and hate, union and dissolution, copulate?

Maybe our job is not to arrive or transcend but to…
What…
Realize?
That it is all here.
Beneath us.
Within us.

And to understand that right here is where we decide:

How to coincide.

Time capsules & Trigger spirals & Pot holes & Love

If not corny, then pathetic, or at least a bummer of a summer read. Unless you consider the impact, immensely liberating, between two people, who’ve shared 31 years, and who upon grasping the concept of “time capsules” deepen into life-giving self-compassion, and coupled with an awareness of “trigger spirals,” discover an even greater capacity to navigate their own potholes–without toppling over each other, into them, again and again.

Vacation?

low tide
low tide

You know those times when your marriage sails effortlessly along?

THIS is NOT one of those times.

As we walk past the shop with the beautiful glass, I want to say to my husband, “Do you think our marriage will make it?”

But I can’t muster the courage to speak it aloud.

Later, on the deck, overlooking the town, with two amber pints flickering in the light of a summer afternoon, I ask this question again, to myself, and then he asks it aloud. Another version of it. A less painful one.

Growing pains.

If my chart had been read this summer, I may have been more prepared.

All three of my men are growing, and the earth beneath us is rumbling with change.

Tectonic shifts are in order, and who will remain standing?

I refuse to hold on.

I hope I refuse to hold on.

Because clearly, it is time to let go. Two sons. One husband.

But back to the sea, which is where we find ourselves when we finally have space enough to blow open what has been confined to static, friction, recycled angst.

I move toward reflection, but there are waves. Big ones. And they take me down, each time I attempt to chart a new course.

No smooth sailing for us.

If sailing is the metaphor, then what represents each of us? And what, life? And what, the marriage itself?

Are we the Captains?
Can there be two? Should there be one?

Are we the boat? Is our marriage?
Weak hull?
No, the hull is strong.

Faulty navigation?

“My navigation equipment is messed up,” he says, echoing my thoughts once again.

And what of the sails? Certainly they are tattered.

The waters around us grow frigid. Icy. The sky bursts open.

I try not to think of this rare time away as failure.

THIS is the work, I say to myself. THIS is the play. This is what needs space. Breathe into that.

“I am so angry,” he says.

I say nothing.

We sit in a vacant lobby. Waiting for our room. Suspended in this empty space of our marriage.

Waiting for a glimpse of a new coast to call home.

The Gift of Vanity

Morisot (visipix.com)

At the top of the hour, a good friend’s son will become a husband.  This friend is the first among my peers to cross this threshold, which makes her unexpected phone call this morning even more precious.

Upon hearing her voice, I expect a last minute request for earrings or chairs or something approaching crisis;  but she simply calls to tell me, “I get it.

She is speaking of the intangible, the subtle, the sublime gift of motherhood and aging and our rightful place as “Queen.”

In response, I feel like Moses.  It was I who had long ago promised this “Queenhood” to all my friends approaching middle age–while just glimpsing it myself.  Furthermore, I spent this morning fretting over how much I wasn’t “getting it” while packing for my own sister’s wedding.

Instead of steeping in meaning like my friend, I am driven to distraction by appearance. While I’m relieved of the painful preoccupation with looks that plagued my youth, certain events still trigger my feelings of “not good enough.”

Ironically, just before my friend’s call, I had been scolding myself for allowing my hair, my body, my weight, my skin spots, my imperfectly shaved legs, my crooked toenails, my misshapen eyebrows, my jiggly bits and my overall middle-aged inadequacy to take precedence over the importance of the sacred occasion of my sister’s betrothal.

I blamed my father, my family, my culture, my gender, but ultimately I felt alone in my inadequacy–until it occurred to me that “appearance” was a convenient distraction–for us all.

If we can give an inordinate amount of attention to our appearance, then there’s less time left over to face that which really matters. Given this perspective, I can see that most of life is lived in distraction–only we’re too distracted to notice–or too afraid.

What is it that I’m afraid to face when it comes to my baby sister’s wedding?

The absence of our mother.

When my sister asked me, months ago, to honor our Mom during the ceremony, I was certain of my place; But now, only a few days before the wedding, I’m tremulous.

How can I stand up and speak of love when I want to scream at the injustice of our mother’s passing?  How can words fill the vacuum of her space on this precious day?

Which brings me back to nail polish….burgundy or beige?

Kelly Salasin, August 2010

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