Comforting Words: 03/2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Risk Your Heart

this is an audio post - click to play

Photograph available at Yahoo Images

Monday, March 13, 2006

Love Bridges Distance?

Hans Nouwen’s beautiful words, “In true love the smallest distance is too great, and the greatest distance can be bridged,” came to me this week as I thought about an upcoming trip and possible relocation in a few months.

The thought of travelling to Toronto on Wednesday in and of itself is not bothersome or worrisome; in fact I am looking forward to the trip with a fair bit of excitement.

Although my visit is occasioned by my membership on a national monitoring team of my church, it will also give me a chance to catch up, hopefully, with an old friend who I have not seen in years and who now lives in that city. I will also have the pleasure of meeting a member of this community who has become a special woman-friend of mine over the past year.

Concerning relocation, the possibility of this arises as I am moving into a different phase of my development and the options opening up to me may require moving away from Edmonton.

This is a thought that gives me ‘cause to pause’ as this town has really began to grow on me but more significant is the fact that my baby girl, A, has stated that should my career call me to another town, she will not be in tow this time.

As we contemplate the implications of a decision to move, two things are happening – excitement and anxiety. This place of mixed emotion about distance is not new to me as I have visited it on several occasions, and like now the most difficult part has been the effect the distance will have on my various relationships.

Since I promised to focus on intimate relationships, I am turning this matter of ‘distance’ around and answer one of the questions posed to me about long distance relationships. However, you will see that in whatever context the distance question arises - whether in terms of its effect on your relationship with a partner or a child - the starting point remains the same.

I could share several stories about how distance have murdered and enhanced my intimate relationships over the years. If I did, you would then understand why I cannot offer a definite answer in response to the question posed in the introductory post to this series: “Is it possible to be intimate with someone from a distance?”

Following the trend of my arguments thus far the obvious answer would be, yes, it is indeed possible to love and be intimate with someone from a distance, given my particular understanding of the word ‘intimate’.

Having said that, my personal experiences (and yes there have been a few) of long distance relationships have swayed between hopeless failures to floundering successes. On the other hand, there were some relationships that I should have kept the distance in them! Hindsight is indeed the master teacher.

In this age of cyber-sex and pseudo-intimacy, it would seem that “bridging the greatest distance” is a piece of cake. ‘To be with’ the one you love, so to speak, is just a click away. With a web cam, the distance between true lovers, one in Edmonton and the other in Toronto for example (all of 2,712 kilometres), can in fact seem “the smallest.”

Not taking back my words about intimacy, spiritual partnerships and spiritual friendships, I must admit, however, that in my experience(s) an intimate relationship, one in which intimacy is also understood to include physical as well as emotional and spiritual growth, closer range does have something going for it.

Recently I was sharing with someone that my partner and I have this incredible connection wherein no matter how far apart we are; Juds just have a way of knowing when things are off with me.

I recall once while working and living in St. Lucia, which is approximately 1,756 kilometres from Jamaica, I was at my desk weeping behind the locked doors of my corner office that overlooked the bluest waters of the Caribbean Sea one can ever imagine when the telephone rang and it was Juds on the line. Her first words were “What’s wrong with you?”

This almost telepathic connection is a key ingredient in our relationship and on some levels it feels special. As I was saying to my woman-friend, it is something that makes being away from her out of the ordinary as I know she is with me, in a much closer way than when we are together in the same house. (Here I go again telling too much!)

While there is much to be said for being away from your partner, even for a few days, there is a flip side to physical distance or long distance relationships and I am again speaking from experience.

Not even telepathic communication is enough when insecurity is the third 'person' in a relationship.

Many advice columns tell people in or considering long distance relationships that the insecurity issue can be overcome by trusting your partner, being honest with them and respecting the decision to move, say for a job or college. For those who have decided to maintain separate homes in different towns, visiting on weekends and special holidays, they say that these three factors are key to calming the jealous nerves.

While this is all valuable information, my experience tells me that the trust, honesty and respect start with me. Much of the time that I have been in relationships separated by distance, my level of trust and respect of me as a worthy and deserving human being was not sufficient and I needed external confirmation of my person hood.

Being away from my intimate partner for too long, without that external ‘reinforcement’ of my worthiness, would eventually lead to an end in the relationship as I had to find ‘completion’ elsewhere. Once that search was underway, honesty was the first thing that went out the window.

Until I was in a place where my self-esteem and my feelings of worthiness as a human being, particularly as a woman who loved a woman, took deep roots in me and began to 'gush' forth with quiet certainty, distance meant the sure death of intimacy and connection with the person I left behind.

Truth be told, whether you are in a long distance relationship, living with someone or contemplating separating from your adult child, what I am saying is that the ability to maintain and sustain a relationship begins and ends within.

Another thing that I am saying is that if you exercise self-honesty, have a great sense of trust and respect of yourself, you will know whether you can sustain intimacy from a distance.

Distance can create a disconnect between people as easily as it can make the heart grow fonder. Personally, as I contemplate separating from my daughter with a heavy heart, it is still a much easier pill to swallow as I recognize that she is maturing and must one day leave the proverbial nest.

Even the most grounded person, one who is confident about who they are, may still have some amount of anxiety about being in a long distance 'partnership'.

In my humble and honest opinion, while a little absence helps keep the telepathic link strong, as my partner and I have found, some of us are just not suited for extended long distance relationships -I am one of them, falling in one of Mignon McLaughlin's category of women:
"Some women love only what they can hold in their arms; others, only what they can't."
Where do you fall?

Until I return next week...


Photograph available at Yahoo Images

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

You Go Girls!

March 8 is our very special day and we should make the most of it!

Go out with your girl friends, gal pals or women-friends, however you choose to name them, and celebrate life. Loving food the way I do, I will join a couple of my women-friends for dinner.

I wanted to share this email I received from a woman who swore she does not normally circulate chain letters. I am grateful that she did this time, as this one spoke volumes about the special relationship, sometimes intimate in every sense of the word, between women.

So, I offer this prose and a bouquet of Alberta Wild Rose for your reflection and enjoyment as you make the most of International Women's Day 2006!

Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.

Love waxes and wanes.
[Lovers] don't do what they're supposed to do.
Hearts break.

Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Careers end.


Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how
many miles are between you.

A girl friend is never farther away than needing her
can reach.

When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you
have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the
valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you,
intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you. Or come in
and carry you out.

Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters,
daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, Mothers, Mothers-in-law,
Grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended
family, all bless our life!

The world wouldn't be the same without women, and neither would [you].

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.
Every day, we need each other still.

Thanks and blessings to all of you women who have walked beside me and have given me the privilege of returning the blessing.


Photograph courtesy of Yahoo Images

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Set For Life

Many people consider marriage as state of being "Set for Life," until they are looking for the exit door.

Do not read me wrong and assume that I am advocating against marriage as that is not the intention. What I hope to do is to dialogue with you about the institution of marriage, the assumptions and expectations we enter the doors with and how we can be surprised.

"Set for Life," is the name of a recently launched game of lottery available here in Alberta and it has become one that I engage in about once or twice per month.

I really enjoy purchasing my Cdn$10.00 game card and scratching away at the ten or twelve boxes that gives me a chance to be "Set for Life." Yesterday, I bought my monthly card on my way out of the grocery store and as I waited at the traffic signals, I merrily scratched away and guess what? I won $20.00!

Not exactly "Set for Life," am I through this winning but it led me to thoughts about marriage and how similar it is to this lottery game. You go to the counter (bar, library or grocery store, you choose) and select your card (a potential mate) with the hopes that this one will be the one to set you for life.

You pin all your hopes of happiness, intimacy and, of course, wealth in this person as you walk down the aisle (real or virtual). However, like me scratching the card, time passes and as you scratch the surface of your new mate and of your expectations and your assumptions about married life, you begin to realize that not every box is a winning one. Worse yet, not every card (mate) is the One!

Cheri Carter-Scott wrote this wonderful little book that I would recommend to all, "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules", especially those who honestly believe that you can be "Set for Life."

Certainly I am optimistic like everyone else that it is possible to enjoy the life you create and share in a marriage or long-term relationship. In fact, in my own relationship I hope that my partner could attest that we do exactly that. However, as Carter-Scott highlights in her Ten Rules for Life: You will be presented with Lessons (Rule Two), A Lesson is Repeated until Learned (Rule Four) and Learning Does Not End (Rule Five), life is in constant motion and therefore so too are relationships/marriages.

If you agree with the essence of these "rules for life," then you understand that being married (or in a long-term relationship) is not the destination, to use an hackneyed phrase, rather it is the beginning of a long, sometimes extremely hard and challenging, and possibly a life-enhancing journey.

Let me hasten to add, though, that not everyone experience a marriage and the challenges of it in the same way (even and maybe especially the two people in it) and therefore what is hard for one person is an exhilarating challenge for the other. What may be pleasurable to one partner, might be routine and monotonous to the other, and I could go on with examples.

I therefore beg to disagree with those who idealize relationships and the institution of marriage. Having been in a traditional marriage myself and now in an almost 16 year relationship and having been in relationships with both sexes (at different times), I can bear witness that there is no such thing as "Set for Life," and if there was, I would not want it. Such a state suggests stagnation and life demands movement, change and progression, hence the validity of Carter-Scott's Rule.

Many have asked my partner and I why we have not seized the opportunity to get married as we live in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. My partner's usual response is, "We are as married as anyone else," and I am somewhat personally ambivalent to the institution as it exists today.

For me, marriage like friendship should be sacred not legalistic.

It is a union of two people committed to supporting each other's spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical growth and well being. Marriage and long-term relationships as we have come to know and practise them, i.e., purely on a physical level, are really a game of chance that we hope will set us up for life.

True and spiritual partnership rather is a union that encourages and fosters Self-actualization, through the good times and especially through the tough times.

Having the ring, living in the same house or even having sex every night is not, at least to me, sacred without what Gary Zukav describes in "Seat of the Soul", as a
"...Consciousness of spiritual partnership...spiritual partners are able to see clearly that there is a deeper reason why they are together, and that that reason has a great deal to do with the evolution of their souls."
What was particularly profound for me as I read Zukaz's book for the first time in 2001, was what he had to say about the length of a marriage or relationship.

It is a statement that some might find disturbing because they are of the belief that relationships, especially marriages, should never end. I for one never subscribed to that school of thought, having been at the receiving end of the fists of a person who never understood that our relationship/marriage was based on false premises and it was time to say good-bye.

I end with Zukav's thoughts on how long a relationship should last and also with an invitation to you to read the book and consider whether you are truly in a Sacred Partnership - despite the legal status of your relationship.
"Spiritual partners bond with an understanding that they are together because it is appropriate for their souls to grow together. They recognize that their growth may take them to the end of their days...and beyond, or it may take them to six months. They cannot say that they will be together forever. The duration of their partnership is determined by how long it is appropriate for their evolution together."


P.S. Incidentally, the above photograph was taken during the Elections Campaign 2006 with the then Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan. Between us is the framed and signed copy of the Canadian Chart of Rights that she presented to the gay and lesbian community of Edmonton. It is the document under which the human rights (including the right to marry) of LGBT people in Canada are protected.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Move Back and Make Friends

One day I will write a book and name it “Route 43,” after all there are so many television programmes or films about confessions from taxicabs, ranging from the tame to the very raunchy.

My book, however, will highlight the treasures that I have heard while riding to work such as the one I heard this morning. “There are no accidents” and the longer I live I see this as truth.

In the last post, I promised to start a series on Intimate Relationships and as I moved down the aisle of the extremely full 7:16 a.m. bus, the driver gave me an idea how to start this series.

Encouraging the passengers to make room for those wanting to get on the bus, the driver shouted towards the back, “Move back, and make some friends!”
We all laughed as he said that but his words had deeper implications for my over-active mind. “He’s right,” I thought. “You would really be getting close to people but would that qualify as friendship?”

Friendship is a concept that has evolved for me over the years. Growing up with a single-mother who had very little friends and little or no contact with her family, I craved the company of the neighbourhood children. As I have shared before, to get in with the crowd, I used every means necessary including plain old bribery, running up my patron’s credit at Miss Gardner’s grocery store to get sweets for my pals.

My mother, however, would warn me, “Friend and company is no good,” and so for much of my childhood into adulthood that suspicion of people would haunt me. Little did I know that my mother’s warnings came from a place of deep hurt and a sense of abandonment and isolation; and so I bought into the notion that friendship is what you call situations where you are either doing something for another or vice versa for the sake of getting something in return.

Friendship was also what you call relationships that did not include sex. For very long, anyone I introduced as a ‘friend’ meant this was someone that I am not having sex with. This might not have been the case for the duration of the relationship but once the sex stopped it became a friendship. Once there is sex, we were a couple. There was just no in-between.

Two scores and a half later my understanding of friendship would, thankfully, begin to evolve. That was the time when my partner of now almost sixteen years came into my life. No, it was not a miraculous turn around but a slow and arduous process, one that continues to this day.

What have I learnt? Well, the first thing was that the absence of sex does not real friendship make. Secondly, the fact that you are having sex with someone does not automatically make you a couple – maybe an item – but certainly not a couple.

These learning moments for me relate directly to the question whether friendships can be intimate relationships without sex?

Intimacy is a word that I have also written about at Comforting Words and it is one that we tend to confuse. As with any word, the interpretation that you choose to make operative is what will determine your attitudes and responses to the word.

Most definitions that I found for ‘intimacy’, suggests that it is “a feeling of closeness and connection generated between people as a result of a strong mutual intention to share feeling, understanding, and communication; may or may not include sexual closeness.”

The closeness referred to is often misinterpreted to mean only sex or some kind of illicit affair. My preference, however, and what I have come to learn and embrace is what one author calls ‘Sacred Friendships’ which “is a way of being, an intimacy with oneself and the world that invites the presence of another into that space.”

This brand of intimacy is not sexual (although it could include sex) and it starts with the self.

I remember the first time I saw my partner face-to-face my breath stopped and I knew I was in the presence of Something special. Stupidly and instinctually maybe, my thoughts went to sex. As we danced around the courting floor for almost six months, I came to realize that what I was being gifted was greater and beyond sex. It was intimacy with myself and through this relationship - something that I had never before experienced.

Admittedly, like in every relationship, the sex wanes, sometimes threatening to go missing in action (literally). What I have come to learn, however, both through my long-term partnership and my friendships, is that intimacy remains (if it was cultivated), it grows and it sustains the relationship after the sex has gone MIA.

I particularly like how the author mentioned above describes this:
“Within the wide embrace of sacred friendship, acceptance and forgiveness are what make real intimacy possible. Intimacy rests in the simplicity of being fully present, responsive to what is there in the moment, with no agenda or anticipation. By fully being in the moment we are there in just the right way. We rediscover the mystery of who we are through this interchange of opening and surrender. Such friendships create heaven on earth.”

Therefore, let me suggest that there can (and there are) be intimate friendship without sex and guess what? More often than not – the taste is sweet!

Modifying just a bit what the bus driver said, let me also suggest that you “Move into and then outward from your self and make some Friends!”



P.S. Regular readers know that this is one of my favourite proses, The Invitation, as it touches me deeply and calls to mind and heart the true meaning of being there and being intimate with others. I invite you to print it and post in where you will always see it when your relationships get cloudy or shaky.