First, my apologies for not finishing my article for y’all last week. It has been quite the few weeks here in this corner of the world, my corner. My gorgeous kid graduated college [with several honors to their surprise but not ours] and set off on a cross-country trek for a fellowship they have been awarded.
All very exciting, all very threshold moments.
And in the way of thresholds, I have not had many words. Been with the exhileration and the exhaustion, the thrill and the tenderness. And here I am again – maybe not fully coherent but with some words. Hope you don’t mind some wandering…
Sitting at the graduation, watching all the graduates walk in, being in the incredibly diverse audience, watching the graduates all be named and filmed as they walked across the stage to get their diplomas [Sam practiced the moment of the degree receiving: Shake – Receive – Turn for the Photo], being so touched by all the cheering, leaving after the degrees were handed out because Sam did, hearing the final cheer as we stood under a tree in the sunny afternoon, doing the posing for pics before heading off for a picnic and final packing – in the richeness of all of this, I was so struck at the wild individuality of everyone around me.
Struck and cheered. In our exploration here the last few articles, we have been exploring how important it is for each of us to find our way. Our way. No one else’s. And how the dreams truly work to create space for us to discover what this means for us. And the challenges that hinder us from this discovery.
The graduation also brought up issues of family, as well. From watching/witnessing interactions in all the families and knowing how many graduates were facing challenges with their families being there or not being there at all.
The New York Times Magazine recently had an issue called “The Therapy Issue” which is chockful of articles that I am still making my way through but one has been staying with me because it touches on our conversation about the uniqueness of each of us.
The article is written by a therapist who does couples psychotherapy and is called, “I’m a Couples Therapist and Something New is Happening in Relationships.” It is an interesting read [link below].
The heart of the article is that the idea of “otherness” is making its way into the therapy room for couples and helping them to have breakthroughs in their relationships. The otherness is not just about the uniqueness of each person in a relationship, but otherness in terms of each person’s experience in the world.
Meaning – race, socio-economic realities, gender, religious beliefs, etc., all play a part in what happens in relationship.
Which seems super obvious – but it is not always.
There is a myth around relationship that when we find a partner, they will be like our other half. A soulmate, someone who makes us feel “complete”. They will see us and know us and….
It is such a strong and terrible myth because it means that to enter into a relationship – and this can be true for friendships even – that we have to be like each other or have the same values or be same in some way.
Or we should be united in the relationship in some way. Merged. Again, yikes.
There are many cultural reasons for the myth, which we won’t dive into here, but woven into this is the desire to be seen, the desire to be known. The myth says to do this we must become something else.
But we are unique and lively and wonderfully strange, sometimes even to ourselves. For me, and from what our dreams teach us, it is this difference that makes relationship deep and exciting and ever changing.
If we have to be something or “same-ish” or with an idea of coming from a shared experience and shared assumptions in the world to be in relationship, then any relationship based on thise ideas will just stay the same, within that prison. It cannot change.
Being our unique selves is what makes relationship so wonderful and makes relationship always new. When we are ourselves, we change and grow – which means our relationships can change and grow, too. A relationship, then, is never really the same when we change and grow.
To be seen, then, is to be seen in our uniqueness – not for what we can be for the other. But to have otherness.
The article explored this in interesting ways, but it was a little disheartening to me in that the article portrayed this as “something new”. New, a very basic truth – the truth and the power of our otherness to each other.
But it is new. That we are other and, more, that who we are one year can change radically by the next – what we believe, what we want, what we do, etc. – is new in a culture that pushes against “diversity”, that is scared of differences.
Which winds me back to the graduation and all the families. Family is also a place where there can be an assumption of a kind of sameness, a way of staying within the family in expected ways. We heard about students struggling with expectations from their families around graduation [what they should wear, how they should be when family arrived], we witnessed a few difficult moments with a few of the students. We even had a few of our own.
Because at a threshold such as a graduation, it is about the young person stepping into their life with, one could hope, some freedom to live it as themselves. There is that promise and there are all the forces of the culture that do want to work against this kind of freedom.
Which is why it is so difficult to embrace our otherness, to embrace our uniqueness, to discover and become and then discover and become again. Which is why our dreams work so hard with us to help us to know this.