13 December 2007

Shifting Perspective

Anthony was 22 when we got together, almost 23. I am 18 years older. Throughout our years together, I have felt – and said – that I am his “finishing school,” that my role in his life has been to bring him into adulthood, that this was our karmic relationship.

Of course, this has only been one part of our relationship. I love Anthony deeply, and we are truly friends, sharing grand adventures and simple details of daily living. Still, I have carried the assumption that I was his stepping stone into adulthood, and that at some point (I had thought when he turned 30, but that was over a year ago), he would launch from our nest. (Yeah, that’s a mixed metaphor. Forgive me.) Not that I wanted him to leave. I wanted (still want) him to grow up, to step up and be the responsible man I want as my partner.

And I have not been patient.

I carry expectations, of what it means for Anthony to be an adult, what his being responsible should look like. And I carry expectations of what a partner would be for me, how that responsible adult would fit into and support my life. When Anthony does not fit my expectations, I become irritable. There have been many times over our 8 years together when I’ve wanted out of the relationship, but I haven’t left yet.

I know that my impatience and irritability are my responsibility. And I know how much it sucks to have a partner who wants you to change, to be something other than you are. I don’t want to do this to Anthony. I also know it’s ridiculous to be with someone on the premise that they will change. The only thing that I can change is me. Which brings me to yesterday’s revelation.

I believe that we are souls who have chosen to be human in order to learn and grow, to make existence (on the grand scale) better and more whole. We all have areas in which to improve. Clearly, patience and acceptance (and trust, honor, equanimity, and respect) are areas in which I need to progress. And who better to teach me patience than the man who triggers my impatience faster than anyone?

What I have realized is this: Anthony’s soul is giving my soul a gift. He has agreed to present opportunity (after opportunity) for me to practice patience and acceptance (and honor and equanimity and respect). And so that is the work I move into. I move into gratitude to Anthony for gifting me with opportunity to grow. I move into practicing acceptance of Anthony, learning to respect and honor him for who he is instead of longing for who I want him to be. I shift the focus off of him and onto me, where it belongs.

Whether learning to accept and respect Anthony as he is results in our staying together or moving toward other partners remains to be seen. Either way, my guess is we’ll come out of this more whole, better souls. I also suspect that, by pulling the attention back onto myself, I will be giving him the room to become his best self, whoever that may be.


Anonymous said...

Amen! Really good reflection on the value of our differences. Its so much better to see our partner as providing us with opportunities to grow then as thorns in our side. Tough though! It's so easy to think the world would be better if everyone were just like us.

karen said...

So good to hear your new wisdom, Claire. As I am on this same journey of discovery into myself I have learned just how this "growing" FEELS, at least for me. I now can recognize the first moments when a "push on my buttons" alarm goes off in my psyche. And, after thousands of wrong responses that led only to further frustration, I have finally developed a reaction sequence that seems to work, so I'll share it here.
It starts with recognizing those moments when anger, frustration, or, worse, the urge to give advice, rises up inside. I sense this emotion or urge, take a deep breath, and HOLD my breath for two or three seconds. Then, as I SLOWLY release that breath, I firmly clamp my mouth SHUT. Meanwhile, the other person is still doing the frustrating thing, or continuing the conversation. I mentally detach, relax my mouth, try for a small smile, and essentially sit back in an imaginary chair to just LISTEN. I tell myself that , hey, wow, here we are in the classroom of relationships and human drama. I didn't know there was a class scheduled for this moment, but , oh,well,that's how the School of Life operates....very impromptu and spontaneous scheduling. Usually it's the same old professor (that frustrating, "immature" partner, for example) but occasionally there are guest lecturers to keep me on my toes.
From there, I enter into a totally authentic learning mode. I give importance and respect to my teacher of the moment, and I put on hold any other task I may have been engaged in. I figure, hey, if I don't learn as much as I can at this moment, I will be doomed to repeat the test again and again.
Many times, I end up simply remaining silent, and then thanking the person for their "sharing" or input (GENUINELY,from the heart!) or I might respond with the equivalent of "Interesting. I'll have to get back to you on that".
Then, I can sort of "Monday-morning-quarterback" it all, and DO THE INNER WORK ON MYSELF and my overbearing ego during the remainder of the day. It always ends up that this delay in response time to the person that frustrated me or the situation that needed my (infinitely expert) advice results in true learning, and true growth. And the same situation will ALWAYS come around again, and, sometimes, I might have developed a truly different take on it. So we can both move out of the behavioral cycle of frustrating, predictable "Why are you always like this?" , etc.
Well, I know this sounds a bit abtract, but this is more or less my process, which I have found to be surprisingly rich in growth. Real growth actually FEELS AWKWARD. It is, at first, a very unpleasant sensation--that of being off-kilter, a little wobbly on new legs that don't feel as tried and true. But once you get a taste for it, it's actually quite exhilarating.
Thanks for being so open on your blog. I'm guessing that most of us will be challenged this winter with choosing to grow to a deeper level in our close relationships--buckle down, study, and do the work required, or we can opt to drop out of that particular class. Either way, we're in the School of Life til the end!

Claire Josefine said...

Of course, this is much easier said than done...