Monthly Archives: June 2017
Noted with pleasure: Our strange ideas about vulnerability
by David Whyte (Riverhead Books, 2001).
(Noted with pleasure:) I guess he’s the one
Bert and I do a lot of reading, and we often come across ideas or writing too good not to share. So we’ve decided to do that, in a series called Noted With Pleasure.
Here’s the first entry, from a novel my wife is reading. A mom and daughter are talking about marriage.
“I don’t think I’ll find anyone better than Mark. If I’m going to get married, I guess he’s the one. But all of a sudden, it feels so…I don’t know. Arbitrary. Dangerous. I don’t see how anyone can ever feel completely convinced that marrying someone is the right thing to do, I don’t see how anyone can not be consumed by doubt. Did you feel absolutely sure about marrying Pops?”
Dorothy has felt absolutely sure about being pregnant, that’s what she had felt. But Hilly doesn’t know that. So she says, “Course I wasn’t sure. I was full of doubt, too. I think almost everyone is. You have to be. Who can possibly subscribe to the notion that there’s only one person in the world for you? No. But you find someone you care for, that you think you might be able to build a life with, and then you just go for it.”
“And then you get divorced,” Hilly says bitterly.
Dorothy speaks more carefully now. “No, now, Hilly, you know that’s not true. Some people have very happy marriages. I think the biggest problem is people’s expectations are so high. And so wrong. People think marriage is going to be so romantic and fulfilling. They think the other person is going to complete them. But that’s not what happens. In a good marriage you complete yourself while sharing a bathroom. You go through life with company, rather than alone, and humans seem to need company. And… You remember in Carousel, when the doctor tells the high school graduating class not to worry about others liking them, that they should just try to like others?”
“I love Carousel,” Hilly says, sighing. “I still love it. Everybody makes fun of me, but I still love it. We used to watch it and eat caramel corn and dill pickles.”
“I know,” Dorothy says. “But do you remember that part?”
“Well, that’s it. That’s what you need to do in your marriage. You need to give what you want. And don’t expect so much. That only sets you up for disappointment. If you expect anything, expect that marriage will be hard, that it will be work. And expect that the pleasures will be erratic and often small, but they’ll turn out to mean more than you know.”
~ From The Last Time I Saw You
by Elizabeth Berg (Ballantine, 2010).
The most stubborn addiction (poem)
The most stubborn addiction is one everyone shares,
and of which most human animals stay unaware,
one behind everything we think, do and say,
and from which no one gets entirely away,
one we usually notice most when it’s gone,
one rooted in fears birthed the moment we’re born,
one beneath and behind most of our sorrows,
that keeps us trapped in our yesterdays and tomorrows,
one you see in me before you see it in you,
and to which we both cling until our brain cells turn blue.
We’re addicted to a thought, a wish, an idea,
an assumption we almost never see clear:
that life can and should belong to us,
that we should be drivers and reality the bus,
that relationships, like suits, should be altered to fit,
and that fears, tears and pain should be treated like shit,
like nasty waste that is best flushed away
instead of messages about who and where we are today.
I suppose what we really want is to be God.
It’s the most human of all fantasies, and one that dies hard.
But as long as it lives inside us we’re hooked,
jonesing for control wherever we look,
unable to rest, trust, surrender or play,
Or be who we are in what we feel, do and say,
and fated to find that, finally, no control can relieve
the ache of hands too grabby to receive.
~ Steve Hauptman
Just a note to let you know I’m about done with my second book.
Titled Monkeytraps in Everyday Life, it describes 51 ways we unconsciously control our way into trouble in both our heads and our relationships.
I’ll publish it this summer.
If you’d like to receive updates about this and other Monkeytraps projects — like several new ebook releases and my new newsletter, MONKEYNOTES — please click here:
Of course I’ll never share your information with anyone. (It’s a control thing.)
PS: Bert says hi.
It’s supposed to go like this:
We’re supposed to grow up in a good-enough family, one strong and healthy and nurturing enough to provide adequate supplies of the 4 A’s: attention, acceptance, approval and affection.
The 4 A’s are the components of love.
If we get enough of these components, we fill up in childhood, just like kids fill up with good food.
And we enter adulthood feeling reasonably solid, reasonably valuable and lovable and confident in our dealing with others.
But if we grow up in a not-good-enough family — one burdened by abuse, or addiction, or mental illness, or parents who dislike each other or their children — several things happen:
~ We enter adulthood emotionally hungry, with unmet needs that appear as holes in our confidence and self-esteem.
~ This hunger is so painful that it forces us to try and fill those holes by getting our needs met by others.
~ For the most part we do this unconsciously, unaware of why we feel how we feel or do what we do.
~ We also do it covertly, hiding our true motives from ourselves and others, trying to control and manipulate other people into feeding us what we didn’t get as kids.
~ Others may sense our hidden agenda — even if they don’t understand it — and respond defensively by rejecting us or distancing themselves.
~ The rejection and distancing increases our hunger, triggering another round of unconscious controlling and manipulation, often followed by more distancing and rejection.
~ All this tends to continue until we see what we’re doing and learn better ways of getting our needs met.
I’ve known many, many people like this.
I’ve been one myself.
There’s no shame in it. Emotional hunger is more common than anyone realizes.
But if I’ve learned anything about this whole business, it’s this:
We cannot get fed until we identify our hunger and understand how we keep ourselves hungry.