I NEVER THOUGHT SO. Seems to work for everyone who decides to live with another human being. Works for every marriage.
When one decides for marriage, they’re done with dating, at last; they’ve found the single person who mirrors their own perfections, and they’re off on tests and challenges and beautiful understandings that only a life with a lovely human being can offer. The odds against that are barely this side of impossible, yet it happens time and time again, to millions and millions of us.
What makes it work, I think, is the magic of intimacy. There is one person with whom we can talk about anything, we can splash our imaginations, we can build events that won’t work, but still our dear ones love us. Without intimacy, some say, what’s the point of living? Without magic, there are clouds to muffle every sunrise.
I think now that perfections are easier to find when we’re young. We haven’t learned what doesn’t work, we’re free to design any relationship that makes us smile, and then go ahead and live it. If it doesn’t quite work, we put it on the Experience page of our ledger, and gradually become comfortable with the life we’ve always wanted.
All the lovely things that blossom for us, the ones we share with our intimate friend, make the life we most enjoy. By the time we’ve lived for a while, we know what we want from our days, and what we know will be a loss. Gradually we become perfect at being us.
I look at myself, critically. Am I perfect? Basically, of course I am. I have discovered my can’ts and joys. Can’t: No smoking, no drinking, no birthdays, no television, no anger, I invite no one that I don’t admire in my house.
Joys: Beauty, just about endless solitude with a perfect Other, laughter, quiet talks about the ways we think, startling events that have touched each of us. Teaching each other all we’ve learned. Courtesy. Flying, of course. And a puppy.
Since I stopped memorializing birthdays when I was 16 or so, I have no idea how old I am. I must be 80 or 90.
Which is why I found that perfection on being us tends to keep us alone, unless we’ve been married for a long time. Our can’ts shut down others we might have loved as teenagers. Some lovely person lights a cigarette (killed my mom) or drinks a cocktail (killed a friend), I’m hoping I can leave quickly. I’m too courteous to offend an innocent person, but I want to leave.
There was a dinner a friend suggested years ago. He suggested a day when all the filming on a movie would be finished, a sort of celebration. Sounded good. He and I and two young women. Yet in the middle of the meal the subjects of talk were somehow difficult for me (I don’t remember what I don’t like) and I thought for a minute and finally said, “I don’t think my mind is here, and I don’t think my body should here either.” Their looks said What? I paid for the meal with the waitress, and left.
In one way that was a perfect moment. In another, it was insufferable.
If that was years ago, have I mentioned how difficult I must be for the few friends who still care for me?
What all this means, for me and for others who have crafted their perfections, is we get used to living by ourselves. In time, there are so many events that matter to us, that we won’t give them up for a new relationship. We’d love the intimacy, but the Other won’t trade her sport-fishing for an airplane, or her comfortable apartment for a place alone on a mountaintop, no matter how beautiful is the view. No one is ready to shift into my life, as i am not willing to shift into theirs.
One learns this by 90 or so. There’s a reason why living long means living lonely. I’m responsible for every event that’s changed my life into what it is now. Thank you, Richard, I think.
For the first time in my life, I’ve quit. I am not looking for this amazing woman who must be somewhere but I don’t know how to reach her without leaving the life I choose. Are there many who would love to meet a hundred-something gentleman, no matter how courteous he might be? Having guessed not, I have defined my new life.
A book to write. A puppy to walk and care for (even though he kidnaps my sneakers for a difficult time when they’re free). And beautiful Puff, always ready to fly and land again on lakes and a calm sea. Intimate talks with the three?
Maybe so. I have much to learn.