We are an odd couple, Phillip and I.
While “odd” is an adjective relative in its gradations, here I mean we are odd like Felix and Oscar: I, being bound by a dedicated zeal to a neat and orderly home, and Phillip better able to relax and feel grounded in an earthy “whatever/is-ness” regarding the placement and arrangement of items.
Funny how life throws us into relationships that challenge our core beliefs about the meaning of life and the methods and paths for pursuing these; “funny” being another word offering broad interpretation, and here I mean not raucously amusing or the paragon of wit, but damnably frustrating and crazy-making. I’ve often wondered if we could have made it as a tribal couple, confined to a tipi. Dances with Vacuum meets Maker of Messes.
Rings are a lovely symbol for honoring the eternal bond created by weddings and commitment ceremonies, but I’ve often thought such rituals should end with the celebrant tossing a set of juggling balls at the two parties with the invitation that they “get to it.”
The thing about these partnerships is that they are never just between the two most apparent participants, but include legions of voices, directors, and choreographers it takes years to untangle and identify. And even if the sources of our predilections, habits, and worldviews are known, change is unlikely; we are who we are. Generations and genetics have made us so. The patterns are deeply embedded and the gears finely interlocked. Right? Am I right? Yes! I’m right, and that means, I win.
The trick to master in life, it seems, is to surrender the ego’s comfort with its seat at the center of one’s universe. Throughout my educational and career journeys, I’ve repeatedly encountered the developmental frameworks designed to gauge our growth in various domains, including the cognitive, emotional, moral, and spiritual dimensions of the self. (Read Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, and Fowler for more on these ideas.)
All of these models view ego transcendence as the highest goal and “energetic wavelength” we humans may achieve, and while they each define attributes and actions that signify one may have shed her egoic perspective, no one has figured out an exact prescription that fits all of us for reaching this level of enlightenment, but this much we know: Living from the ego, we miss the message that is the essence of all the spiritually evolved: Don’t live from the ego; live from and within the Spirit of Love.
The spiritual journey brings one into the egoic struggle daily, front-and-center. The constant invitation is to notice what we notice and listen to our inner tracks and judgments, even as we focus as well on the feelings and peace of those around us. Love, our Source, it seems, both challenges and blesses us with this bidding. It does become easier, with practice, to set down one’s views and pick up another’s, but I am nowhere near as facile with this ability to humbly and respectfully try on another’s worldview as I hope to be. Luckily, more opportunities to practice are incoming, every moment.
The Judge is the archetypal voice I struggle with more than others, and I suspect others of my species do as well. We learn so early about “right” and “wrong,” and can so easily be shamed into conforming to beliefs and patterns of behavior without an opportunity to explore other ways of thinking, acting, and being, that we project our fears of being “different” onto others who deviate from our own rigid box construction. Or the boxes that were handed to us.
We “should” all over ourselves until we can slow down, listen, laugh at ourselves, generously love ourselves, and then get over (transcend) ourselves and begin to enjoy and love the wonder of others. We learn to accommodate our ego and the egos of our communities, even as we challenge each other to grow beyond our limitations and reset the boundaries of love’s definition and territory.
The spiritual journey invites us to see through and beyond the right/wrong, winning/losing dualistic view that is the stuff of life for the ego. It offers us a chance to consider who we might become, and then teaches us to co-create ourselves anew, with Love, as it manifests through and around us.
I learn from Phillip’s ability to relax and settle into his surroundings; he learns from my established housecleaning routine; we both learn that a loving partnership is an adventure in mutual evolution and acceptance. He helps me accept, protect and grow beyond my inner Adrian Monk, and I do the same for his inner Pig Pen. We befriend each other’s shadow, and thus more generously welcome our own. And so we soften and extend the boundary of Love. Human nature is more than ego-fulfillment and a need to win; it is also a willingness to step outside and grow beyond the ego that divides us and enter the spirit that unites us.