From Christians by Maya Angelou
On considering the many social mores and religious rules, I have found that nothing gives marriage a bad name more than bad marriage. Marital union, the hotbed of sex and money issues, cannot withstand a ‘fake-it-to-make-it’ approach. There is something in this context then, to be said for divorce and common law relationships.
A greater truth seems evident however; few of us may feel innately wired for a lifetime of flying solo, but I’m pretty sure no one I know consciously aspires to one day disavow their forever love. It would be disingenuous therefore to suggest throwing out even our infantile hopes for lifelong monogamy with the bath water. Yet in the absence of everyday examples there is little evidence that ‘happily ever after’ is even possible.
Alfred Korzybski, the late American scientist and philosopher is quoted as saying: “The map is not the territory.” So true! And when it comes to a lifetime of failed adult relationships I feel I could, having covered a lot of ground, draw a map of universal error in that regard. Over the past seven years of choosing celibacy I have spent much time contemplating the many disappointments into perspective. Even so, I claim only to speak for myself.
In a book on relationships, Kevin Keyes Jr. (20th century Living Love self-help author, who gathered his wisdom through four marriages) shared an insight that serves my own understanding. He points to the folly of choosing a partner based solely on love. After all, we do not buy a car because it has a steering wheel, he chides; and in his benevolent and inclusive world view, Love, like a car’s steering wheel, is a given.
Keyes is putting emphasis on the value of choosing a partner. He is not simply saying love itself is not enough. As we grow self aware the beauty of Life awakens a loving spirit more and more often, and maturity will seek to moderate this urge for expansion with discipline and wisdom. So if love is steering everyone’s course, how do we choose and find contentment with just one? Keyes points to a value even more essential than compatibility: mutuality.
At a school’s sports day I saw a six year old paired with a buddy twice his weight for Body Ball. I watched them try to control an over sized ball between their bodies without using their hands. Nothing illustrated “unequally yoked” like that picture of them huddling and waddling their way up the 50 yard line to the finish. The competitor in me cringed. I fantasized that a false start would be announced and the injustice of the incompatibility corrected. But the game was well underway.
I agonized as one struggled with the other to pick up the pace. They knew that a fallen ball would disqualify them and they would lose any chance of completing, far less placing. Amidst the parental passions and politics of school sports days I witnessed one of those grace filled moments when mind gives way to heart. In a moment of enlightenment, I watched as the children made an inner decision; one deliberately slowing to keep step with his partner, the other pushing himself against his limitations. Once the wobbling sphere between them was comfortably secured, the apparently mismatched duo tottered their way to a bronze! No time for therapy, no room for blame and shame arguments, these First Graders accomplished in seconds what I could barely conceive through decades of voluptuous effort. With eyes fixed on a shared goal, they completed the course with a medal victory and a growing friendship to boot.
And I got to witness a living metaphor of mutuality in action. Admittedly, I am still dealing with the map here; haven’t traversed the territory in an intimate relationship – yet. Nearing a half-century of experience, in this life (smile), I remain unconvinced that truth and its off spring, true love, can be inherited through a belief system superimposed upon all manner of back draft and understory. I know by now too, that reality follows belief. And the reliability of our beliefs depends on an ownership honestly earned through sincere investigation… “Know thyself”.
By reconciling my essential need for love with an equally legitimate desire for the restoration of feminine dignity, I have come to know that our impulses for union and a healthy individuality are not mutually exclusive. The former rests upon the well being and security of the latter which any mature partner would willingly support. Founded on the individual’s divinely endowed sovereignty, Love and Freedom are synergistic. So, putting all grief stories aside, these personal recognitions pave for me, a renewed faith in the possibility and pleasure of life long love and fidelity with one partner.
Joanne is a published children’s author and Series Editor of Macmillan’s Island Fiction “tween”