Review of The Great, Wide World Part 1

The prompt: Write a review of your life as if it were a movie or a book.

The Great, Wide World: Part 1 is, at heart, an existential story of self definition.  The protagonist is not as iconic as Holden Caulfield, but then she is not as petulant either.  What makes her tale unique is that unlike many journeymen protagonists, she has a clear mission from the start–live life as a story.

She is half successful and half not.  Her misadventures consist of years of passivity and an acceptance of the status quo which can only be described as irritating.  When she makes a career decision to teach in her early twenties, she spends several years floundering in admin assistant jobs.  When one of those jobs shows her gallingly disrespected, our heroine doesn’t stand up for herself, she lies down and takes it–until she gets fired.  Everyone wanted to see a scene where she stands up for herself, but instead she lets things continue on other people’s terms, and that is where she fails as a heroine.  Heroes are meant to be in control of their decisions, if nothing else, no matter how misguided those decisions may be.  Romeo may declare himself ‘Fortune’s fool’ but he’s the one who draws the sword on Tybalt.  The protagonist often leaves her weapons of defense and attack safely sheathed, leaving the audience hungry for more conflict and less whinging. Continue reading

Red hot exhaustion

**Disclaimer:  So, obviously, this blog is based a lot on my personal life.  In this post, I reference a real event, and real opinions of my friends (though I have made every endeavor to keep them anonymous).  The debate I reference got quite heated, and to any of my friends who may recognize themselves or their points of view–I’m not taking sides.  I’m just ruminating, because it’s an interesting debate.

Two days before the wedding, my sister-in-law (in two days) was driving me and three of my bridesmaids who were staying with me back from the rehearsal barbecue we had just days before the wedding.  She and I were chatting inconsequentially when all of a sudden the volume of the conversation in the backseat rose by a volume of about 15 decibels.  I caught snatches of it, and being a naturally inquisitive (read: nosy) person, I was dying to know what was going on.  But I was marrying into a British family, and  the Brits excel at a) not making a fuss and b) pretending a fuss is not happening.  (Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever fit in. )  So we carried on talking about teaching.

Eventually, I found out that the source of the debate was this: one friend was explaining how she wanted her relationship to be full of lifelong passion, and the other was saying that is an unrealistic expectation.  In so many words.

Of course this got me thinking, as I was about to enter into a lifelong relationship.  What did I hope for in my marriage?

The friend arguing passion had expressed this feeling to me before, and in expressing that opinion said, essentially, that she didn’t want to be friends with her partner, that she had plenty of friends, and if he wanted to tell her about his day, maybe he could feel her up while doing it.

I have the good fortune to have some truly amazing friends (like the ones I’m referring to in this post), and in that I see her point.  I don’t *need* another friend.  That is one area where my life is full.  But still…the husband and I are friends, and in a lot of ways that’s really nice.

Part of the draw of being with someone is that you don’t have to be alone anymore.  When you are in any form of serious relationship, there’s a comfort in knowing you won’t come home to an empty house.  Or even more, that their lives are tied up with yours.  Someone else cares just as much when the internet goes out, or the tv dies, or dinner gets burnt, and that makes you feel a little less alone.  And if you’re going to be going through life together, it’s nice to know that the person by your side is a comrade-in-arms, a friend who can be confided in and relied on.

More than that, it’s fun.  Passion is an important part of life, but it’s a very specific one, and unless you have some seriously jumped up hormones, nobody feels passionate every waking moment of the day.  So when you’re not feeling passionate, if that’s the basis of the relationship with your partner, there’s not a whole lot left to do together.  My husband and I can sit around watching Wonders of the Solar System or play Rock Band or just sit and have a chat.  Last night we ate dinner, watched a couple of episodes of Community and Grand Designs, played a bit of Rock Band and read in bed.  Nothing hot about it, but I loved reading in bed together, because we’d read funny bits to each other, or turn and smile at each other, and the simplicity of that made me really happy.

Moreover, constant passion is exhausting at the very least, if not unsustainable.  To wit: one of my other friends was telling me how a coworker’s marriage seemed to be falling apart due to some Facebook craziness.  I was shocked, but then as she went on to explain, they were crazy for each other but would fly into jealous rages and follow each other to make sure of where they were going, and interrogate each other over who’s posting what on whose Facebook wall.  There was lots of slamming doors and sleeping on the couch.  That to me is a side effect of a passionate relationship.  Yes, the highs are very high, but nothing in life can be a constant high.  Eventually there’s a crash, and in a relationship that means bitter arguments, perhaps a lack of trust.  Perhaps even (and this may be a controversial hypothesis) passion causes mistrust, because when one partner isn’t feeling amorous or passionate, the other can easily come to believe that they’re getting satisfaction elsewhere.

Also, if passion is constant in a relationship, when it’s good, what room is there for anything else?  I remember a friend (the same one who was reporting on her work mate’s problems) telling me about her first relationship, a deeply involving Edward and Bella sort of affair (her comparison).  She told me that after the whole thing ended her family expressed sheer relief.  Apparently, they hated the guy because not only did he not even address them, but he also totally distracted her and drew her in.  We’ve all been there, but the point is would you want that for the rest of your life?

The husband and I discussed this debate while on our honeymoon, which turned out to have its very unromantic moments.  Ultimately, I’m glad we’re friends and glad we can support each other when we’re feeling ill or upset.

But this is a double-edge sword.  It is so easy to be friends, and so comfortable, that a danger exists.  While constant passion is unsustainable, it is all too easy to forget about it altogether and sink into the comforts of married life.  We’re going through this a bit now, I think.  There’s no more drama, no more separation, no more big wedding, and so while we have our nights where we do stuff together, there are also nights where we’re in the same room, but engaged in our own activities.  It is blissful to do nothing, and sometimes it’s tempting to not bother with passion and romance, because they are a lot of work.  But the thing is that when you marry someone, while it’s necessary to be friends, you’re clearly not *just* friends, not if you married for love.  There is an attraction there, and that shouldn’t be forgotten because things are familiar and comfortable.

I think the thing is that keeping passion alive does take work.  If it happens too naturally, then you get a very tumultuous relationship that exists only around passion.  But humans are essentially lazy, and once the chase is over would rather rest than keep running.  Of course, all this is well and good to say, but the trick is to find the things that will keep the spark alive.