There are some who would say I have failed at the relationship thing.
It’s true, I am divorced and single, no significant other anymore, nor any possibility on the horizon. My children, grandchildren, and most family members are 3,000 miles away, and my circle of friends and social contacts is very small. I live with my mother and a dog.
I would argue that few relationships are total failures, and few people fail in all the relationships they have. Sure, there are some sociopathic, anti-social, best-let-them-be loners who will never “play well with others.” I’d like to think I’m not quite in that category (no, you’re in the “runs with scissors” category, usually).
Relationships are, by their very nature, funny things. Individuals who revel in their uniqueness come together and try to meld that uniqueness into a cohesive, unified whole, smoothing out the rough edges and mushing down the parts that stick out.
I’ve always held the belief that people come together for a reason – as Mel Gibson says in M. Night Shmalyan’s “Signs,” ‘there are no coincidences.’ The people who have come into my life have given me something, even if it was just relief when they left (sorry, old joke. But you have to admit, some people do make the world better by leaving the room).
The lovers who have broken my heart also gave me the strength to defy life’s harshness, to stand up in the face of strong winds, to keep going even when it feels like I’ll never get there. Hearts are resilient little things, broken into small, seemingly irreparable pieces one minute, and soaring to the heights of passion the next. We have an infinite capacity for love, we humans, and we crave it like a junkie craves smack. And yes, I meant to imply that love is addicting. It is. Even for us loners.
My ex-husband, with whom I spent 22 years, and with whom I planned to finish out my life, had other plans. It was sad. It hurt. And I thought I’d never survive it. But I did. And when I’m tempted to regret the 22 years of my life I spent with him, all for nothing, I stop. Because he gave me my three wonderful, gorgeous, smart, incredible daughters, who are the light of my life and the reason I get up each day. As bad as the divorce was, I would go through it again because of what I got out of the marriage. And even knowing how painful it was, I’d do it again, because I can’t imagine my life without my girls.
Other lovers who came and went also contributed to my well-being and development. The last guy, who tried to sneak away while I was at work (only to find me at home, having been fired the day before), brought me to Alaska, got me out of the rut I was in, and encouraged me to be adventurous, to try something new and radically different from anything I’d done or even contemplated doing. My life is better now than it would have been had I stayed in California, even if my girls are so far away.
I have six absolutely wonderful grandkids, again, miles and miles away, but I enjoy talking with them on the phone or over the Internet. They remind me of the girls when they were young and the world was ripe with possibilities. And they emphasize there will be more after I’m gone.
Right now, my favorite people are actually not people, but rather, canine — with four legs, lots of hair, and wagging tails. I have a few good friends with whom I chill, but mostly, my “friends” are the characters I create in my stories or the people in the books I read.
When my father and I started writing our book, “I’m Just Her Father,” we discussed subjects to explore, and, in addition to the usual – life, love, death – we decided to include a section on what makes us who we are. I called it “Interflections”; it eventually became “Lifeboat.” The whole point of that section was to explore the people in our lives, those who, if the ship sank, we would make sure had a seat in the life boat. Concurrently, we discussed who we would throw out if space was at a premium. My father, 76, discussed the nature of evil and how that would colour his decisions, citing Hitler, and it made sense from his viewpoint (the whole point of the book was how two people who share genes could see the world differently). I, being a child of the ‘70s, and parent of the ‘80s, was more futuristic in my views.
Like my father, I have room in my boat for everyone who has touched my heart. They are all etched inside that little organ, for better or worse, because they did touch me and contribute to who I am. But, unlike my dad’s boat, I have a high-tech, sci-fi, new technology vessel that expands as necessary to encompass all the souls who need to be in it. That way, no one gets thrown off, and I still get to steer. I am, after all, an unabashed control freak. Who sometimes plays well with others.