Writing about your relationship is an odd experience. You are at once subject and object: participating fully in the experience, but trying to cull some objective sentiment that will register on a broad scale. I wouldn’t have anything to write about if I wasn’t in a relationship, but I’ve found that writing about it can distort the interactions that I have within it. It’s Gonzo journalism on a very personal level.
Luckily, or perhaps not, relationships are by definition subjective, and writing about them, although it requires some objective explication, fully embraces the use of personal narrative and emotional honesty to expand on broader themes of life, love, and human nature. So, it was somewhat surprising to me when, in reading a review of a book about a cat, the observations about what it means to be human were especially profound:
Though “about” a cat, this heartwarming and heartbreaking tale is really about what it means to be human – about the osmosis of hollowing loneliness and profound attachment, the oscillation between boundless affection and paralyzing fear of abandonment, the unfair promise of loss implicit to every possibility of love.
I read this and recognized myself immediately: I am always alert to the possibility of losing everything. I really don’t have any reason to be. My boyfriend has, time and time (and time) again, proven a remarkable ability to forgive, forget (sometimes), and venture ever onward into the fog of our future. We certainly both have our anxieties about the future, but my own have manifested in what I’m finding to be a rather counterproductive way.
As anyone who knows me knows, I love to plan. I plan for everything from nights out to vacations to careers. Going with the flow is not something that I’ve ever done – at least not without planning to do it. When I was moving out of my parents’ house after law school, I found a personal essay that I wrote in 8th grade saying that I was going to go to the University of Georgia for college and then Harvard for law school. And I did. (Honestly, I think the Scouts could learn a thing or two from me.)
I usually don’t mind if plans change, but not having any plan feels chaotic, and makes me feel like the world might just explode because I wasn’t prepared. I’m sure the DSM-V crowd will be all over this, but don’t worry – my chronic anxiety has not impacted my ability to function in everyday life.
However, I’m sure you all can appreciate that planning when you’re in a relationship can range from the mundane – who’s taking out the trash – to the life altering – ‘til death do us part, etc. I have, however, tapped into the anxious core of my mind and begun to plan for things that may never come to pass. This is extremely counterproductive – instead of thinking about what nice things we will do this weekend given the amazing weather on the East Coast, I spend my time agonizing over how much support he might provide me if I ever decide to become Canada’s second female Prime Minister (the fact that I have no interest in political office and that I am not Canadian are only small deterrents to imagining/planning what sort of career I might have).
It’s shameful, really. No relationship can withstand the pressure of dreams that are not your own, and subjecting your partner to hypothetical situations to which there is no answer is mostly just cruel and destructive. I’m not proud of this, but I write about it to highlight a trap that’s easy to fall into and using a defense mechanism offensively is just not fair. I have found that venting to a couple of close friends who are at similar stages in life helps me let go of some of the anxiety – we are really all in the same boat. So, I’m going to take a few deep breaths, and do something productive, like planning my upcoming vacation.
Thanks Wikipedia for the sweet poster!
Valarie is from Georgia. No, she doesn't have an accent. No one in metro-Atlanta really does. You can read her thoughts, using non-regional diction, at thinkingaboutdoing.tumblr.com.
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