vendredi, septembre 08, 2006

Asking for what we need

Why do so many singles ads sound the same? As I pondered venturing out again into the dating scene, I read scores of profiles from men around the Philadelphia area-and found that, after a while, most began to blur together in my mind. Few were seeking a stereotypical domestic goddess/slave. I suppose we might consider that progress. Perhaps I'm way too fussy, but after a while all the profile adjectives collapsed like meringue into a sweet broth of superficiality-Everyman seeks an Everywoman who is sensous, independent, affectionate, family-oriented-and, of course, loves the Jersey shore! Yet women singles also seem to have trouble making the sales pitch that makes them memorable- or so says a guy friend. It is possible, of course, that so many of the profiles sound alike because the authors reflect some kind of fundamental human truth about what we all want-sex, a good meal, a steady income, and a house at the Jersey shore. Is it only because I am not a huge fan of the Jersey beaches that I find this theory so unbelievelable?My intuition is that we (not just singletons, but pretty much all of us) find it very hard to be direct and to expose ourselves enough to unearth the deeper truth-that what we desire requires that we extend ourselves way beyond our comfort zone. It is even possible that the older we get the more difficult it is to ask for what we truly want. Each relationship becomes a decision-will we allow ourselves to gamble on the basic goodness of another human being? In no particular order, wouldn't it be nice to find a man or woman who will forgive us when we hurt them (and ask them to)? A companion who will stick by us if/when we get ill and our hair thins and our varicose veins become prominent? A mate we can trust with all that is fragile and scarred and ugly about ourselves? Someone who will help us laugh when we so want to be self-righteous? Someone who can get our pulses racing with pure unadulaterated lust when sex is the last thing we want as we slam the door after an awful day at the office? I suppose that if dating site clients wrote profiles that articulated these kinds of questions readers might think that the person behind the pitch actually was in need- in need, that is, of a partner as flawed, bruised and hopeful as they are themselves.

mercredi, septembre 06, 2006

A bus to Babylon

"There is a new installment in the annals of loneliness. Americans are not only lacking in bowling partners, now they're lacking in people to tell their deepest, darkest secrets. They've hunkered down even more, their inner circle often contracting until it includes only family, only a spouse or, at worst, no one. And that is something the Internet may help ease, but is unlikely to cure. A recent study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona found that, on average, most adults only have two people they can talk to about the most important subjects in their lives — serious health problems, for example, or issues like who will care for their children should they die. And about one-quarter have no close confidants at all." NYTimes, July 2006 Saturday I'm running wild And all the lights are changing red to green Moving through the crowd I'm pushing Chemicals all rushing through my bloodstream Only wish that you were here You know I'm seeing it so clear I've been afraid To tell you how I really feel Admit to some of those bad mistakes I've made If you want it Come and get it Crying out loud The love that I was Giving you was Never in doubt Let go your heart Let go your head And feel it now Babylon, Babylon By David Gray

Early Tuesday morning-I've just put my eleven year old daughter Sian on the school bus. As the bus pulls away I say a quick prayer that her dad's and my decision to change her previous parochial school for a closer one will have been the right one. Sian has blossomed this year, and one-on-one friendships are a lot easier for her than they were. But I still worry-will she retreat if she is hurt? Will they judge her because she hasn't been going to St. Joes for the past six years? Will she surrender too soon?

Since I read about the results of the study of lonely Americans this past July, I've been wondering why we are increasingly afflicted by this ailment. It is a complex question, admitting of no one easy answer. Few of us live in one town or city for most of our lives-we are more and more used to leaving friends behind as we move on (or they do). The tools which could help build intimate relationships-the email, instant messages, cell phones-apparently can become those which keep us from getting close to real time human beings.

Back in my office, the syncopated strains of the British songwriter/musician David Gray fill the still morning air. "I've been afraid to tell you how I really feel/Admit to some of those bad mistakes I've made."

Could that be part of our problem here in Babylon? Is it possible that we feel safer when we don't let others close enough to see the warped and bruised places-the spiritual battlegrounds where we have waved the white flag or turned the sword on those we love?

Last week Fran called to see how my dad was doing. In her early eighties, Fran is my friend-but she was my mother's friend first. In fact, my mother and Fran went to grade school together. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer this past spring, I called Fran for some ideas about good treatment centers in New York City. When I want someone who recalls that laughing, daring, brave girl who was my mother, I call Fran.

How can people bear not to have people like Fran in their lives? It is at least in part because I was raised by a mother and a grandmother who treasured life long friendships that I have close friends today.

Sadly, my childhood friendships are long gone, casualties of neglect, moves or unbridgeable differences. Even so, I feel deeply blessed by the breadth and depth of the friendships I do have. I cannot imagine a life that is not enriched by shared confidences, diverse points of view, support in times of crisis, laughter that draws on the deep pools of mutual experience and knowledge.

When Sian gets off that bus today and walks into her new school, I hope her heart is open to the possibility of new friendships. I pray that she sees each "hello" as an opportunity to build new relationships. Have her dad and I helped her to be vulnerable and strong? Have we given her the confidence to admit to "some of those bad mistakes I've made" and know she's going to be a better person for doing it? Can she let go her heart and her head and trust that loving relationships can stand some ugly conflict?

I wonder what she has learned from watching me (and from her dad).
Watching her take our life lessons out into the "real world, " I find myself frightened-and hopeful. When I let the hope win out, then I can truly trust Sian to be increasingly wise, and perhaps in some things even more insightful, than her loving, empathetic and sometimes over anxious mother.