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Relationships and Skeleton Woman

posted 1/25/2008 12:36:38 PM |
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I have a friend who defines relationship by whether or not you sleep together sexually. If so, you are definitely in a relationship. If not, definitely not. While this may work with the romance and dating scene it’s much too narrow for me and the relationships in which I find myself.

Primary among them is the one I have with my son. He would laugh outrageously at the above definition, exchanging more than a few cheeky and impudent comments with his equally shameless mother, and we would append the dialogue to memory, adding another layer to our already complex connection.

Our bond deepened when he married, and was assured even further when he had his son. This connection manifest itself, not just in more lighthearted love and laughter, but ways that compelled us to heal what was broken within the foundation of our ties to one another.

This is the point where all my ‘significant other’ relationships historically meet their demise. It takes courage to pass through deeper stages of relationship and most of the characters I inevitably invite into my life lack that resolve. Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes it best for me in the beautiful story of Skeleton Woman, a tale I love, playing the leading character so wholly and well. The story describes the stages a relationship must undergo in order to develop real and lasting love.

This phenomenon played itself out last week between my son and me. We started commuting together to work sometime in the fall. Now January, the timeline for this stage of development fits—and brings to mind another reason primary relationships fail: they take time, and there seems to be a common misconception among us that instant gratification not only happens instantly, but does not instantly disappear once experienced.

My son drives. We use the commuter car that gets exceptional mileage and congratulate ourselves on being both frugal and environmentally conscious. We spend almost two hours each day in conversation about things both inane and profound, a continuous background drama playing silently between us which is this: he doesn’t approve of me.

He tells me this in many ways. I don’t make enough money. I don’t live in a way he deems valuable. I didn’t do well for him when his dad left. I dress too provocatively or too matronly. What is important to me is useless to him. This comes to a head over some photos I’ve taken of my pottery, individual shots I’ve put into mosaic so I can add them to my website.

Hey, here’s a newsflash-- I paint. I’m not a photographer. We’ve had this discussion many times over the years, this wunderkind who takes brilliant photographs and designs award winning web pages. He tells me my photos suck, and I remind him I asked for help. He continues to berate them, and I say, ‘you need to back off, I’m doing the best I can,’ and the shit hits the fan. He stops the car. He gets out yelling he will find his own way to work. I sit quiet and still, and he comes back and yells it’s his car, I can find my way to work. I say calmly, ‘okay then take me home.’ He drives in dark silence moving the car toward his work destination. He drives erratically and scares me. I am silent. I feel powerless. I don’t know what to do, but I do know we have to work through this.

We survive the trip home and back to work the next day in stony wordlessness. That evening it's still cold, and I tell him I will give my notice to my boss the next morning, and he gets quiet. It’s the first softening I’ve seen in him in two days. He asks me if I’ve found a new job. I tell him no. We stop at the feed store and I buy grain, and back in the car he is tentative, but asks if I’m quitting work because of our fight. I am surprised. I ask him if he thinks we fought and he says yes.

Carefully as I can I tell him that I am not willing or able to be party to the activities of the past few days. No job is worth it. He is my son, and I love him dearly, but even my relationship with him is not worth it. He gets quiet again but it is a different kind of quiet. He is kinder, more loving, more flexible with me during the rest of the drive.

The next morning he tells me he and his wife are in a rough patch and I listen. He feels he needs to confront her but believes it will erupt into an intense exchange and doesn’t know what to do. He asks my advice, and I can only suggest that when he does approach her, he do it in a way that loves and is kind, not angry, or confrontational. He says they don’t know how to do that together yet, and I tell him its okay, he can practice with me. We actually laugh.

That evening he tells me he doesn’t want me to quit. The next day he shares that he will miss our conversations if we don’t commute together. And the next day, out of the blue, he announces that his office is hiring in my career field, and he wants me to apply.

I am bowled over and in awe. I survive the application process and the first interview and am invited for a second. It is a great job with a great company and a great salary—but more than all of this, it is beginning a new level in one of the most precious relationships I have the opportunity to enjoy, one that has grown and changed many times over the years. It is proof that relationships can heal, foundations can be strengthened, love can continue to grow beyond understanding.

It’s simple really, but certainly not easy. A good friend here reminded me that even coasting is not effortless. I have to be fully present, maintain my sense of self and worth, willing to let go of what is not important – ever cognizant of the difference between the two. When I do this for me, grounded in my convictions, I have something of value to offer. Something lasting and real. Something I call love.

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Blogs by HighlandsLass:
Blackberry Winter
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Of Eros & Psyche
My life in song
The playing field
Ex pec tat ions
Joke - Never Argue with a Woman... Humor
Relationships and Skeleton Woman
This is too cute!
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Men and le chat
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Butterflies and snow!
A game I like to play
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Close to Eden


Jan 25 @ 12:56PM  

Wonderful blog.
Great to see your relaionship with your son evolves as he recognizes
that his anger issues are not helping and he attemps to correct that.
Life & relationships are a journey, not soley a destination.

Jan 25 @ 1:02PM  
That was a roller coaster, alright, ala Parenthood Thanks for sharing, thanks for the lovely adventure too.

You have some great insight!

Jan 25 @ 1:08PM  
I have a friend who defines relationship by whether or not you sleep together sexually. If so, you are definitely in a relationship. If not, definitely not.

So if a couple have been married for years, but they no longer sleep together,
they are not in a relationship.

Nice blog

Jan 25 @ 1:14PM  
choos, I certainly wouldn't find that satisfying.....

but I have found people get and stay together for all kinds of reasons.... funny to me that we choose what we choose, and often refuse the responsibility of that choice.

Jan 25 @ 1:52PM  
Lass, This was intensely moving.. I am so happy you shared this. I got a great laugh out of your friends definition of a relationship... Now I'm going to read that link..Thank deserve a well earned Kudo and I don't give those lightly!

Jan 25 @ 2:05PM  
Hey, I could be a kudo whore!

Jan 25 @ 3:47PM  
Excellent Book "Women Who Run With Wolves." I use it as my "Bible" so to speak...Many Fairytales for women to make you understand relationships and yourself.
Nice Blog!

Jan 25 @ 5:38PM  

Jan 25 @ 5:50PM  
Thanks for the blog! Relationships come in many forms and depths. Core values are a key in the developement. I have seen that after introspection and careful consideration, sometimes certain negative habits, or reactions, can change and compassion and understanding helps to heal wounds that could have festered and caused more harm.

I like the idea of letting go of what isn't important and the decision of whether one incident is worth risking a lifelong relationship. Mistakes can be made, and hopefully with the realisation of that, obsticals can be overcome. The temptation to compromise on some values sometimes comes up but with the strength of those values resistance comes easier.


Jan 25 @ 7:37PM  
Great blog..

I admire your attitude. I would never have been so patient or acquiescing...

Jan 28 @ 10:03AM  

Relationships come in many forms and depths. Core values are a key in the developement.

This is exactly the reason I cringe a bit when someone says 'just friends.' I mean, my friends are the best! and thanks for a great comment!
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