Part the First:
A couple of days ago, I had lunch with a friend and an interesting conversation (that was continued in another form with my nanny/friend when I got home) about habits and routine vs new experience in the context of a relationship.
The basic premise under consideration is that a relationship can over time be fatally drained of energy if too much time is spent in the habits and routines of the relationship. Our brains tend to notice disruption rather than sameness. New experiences can help you view your partner in a new light, or show you things you didn’t know about them before. But if you get swallowed up in routine, it’s easy to lose sight of the other person, to make all kinds of assumptions about who they are and what they’re capable of. It’s also altogether too easy to lose sight of oneself and one’s own capabilities.
Also, memories that don’t get accessed by deliberate or situational recall also get harder to find. You still have them, but they’re not always consciously available any more. And memory is one of the legs upon which relationships stand. So if memories get sunk deep under layers of routine and habit, you can lose important perspective and experience of the relationship.
The other side of the memory coin, though, is that in a long-term relationship of any sort that involves a reasonable level of what some might call nostalgia – the telling of tales from the relationship and shared experience – my access to my memories is supported and supplemented by my partner in that telling. That helps me stay in touch with my past, keep me connected to my life and helps me feel whole. Conversations I have with people with whom I have long-term history can be particularly impactful in terms of the insight, support, and understanding grounded in that history, and can offer possibilities for healing.
I have had very important conversations at times with ex-boyfriends, often but not always years after our romantic relationships were past, in which we could reach a level of compassion, with the generosity of loving understanding beyond what we were able to achieve in our prior context. We know each other so well with all that deep history, and after time and with intention that knowledge is enhanced by clarity. I am very grateful for those relationships and those conversations.
And on the other hand, too much newness, too much change or constant change can burn things up. Too much disruption from other influences or people can divert too much energy from the sustenance of the relationship, and starve it of what it needs. We need down time, processing time, time to think and feel. We need time to relax and to contemplate. And we all have limits on how much input we can take. Relationships do need our attention, and we have to have the mental and emotional bandwidth with which to give that attention and care to them if they are to survive and grow.
The bottom line is that we need both new experience and stability. We need connection. We need to remember to look for, or at least be open to what is possible in any given moment, regardless of the length of the relationship and its history. This helps counteract the weight of habit and the draining of energy.
Part the Second:
It is Halloween! We did, after all, go out trick-or-treating, but we weren’t sure if that was going to happen due to Hazel getting a pretty wicked fever yesterday. I think it’s the sickest I’ve seen her in the 5.5 years of her life. I took her to the doctor because I was hearing rails in her breathing and was worried about her lungs. They were clear, though, and so were her ears. So we went home with immune supports, and she alternately slept and watched “Pingu”, through the day, and then slept like a log last night.
“She did what?” I hear some of you saying. “She watched what?!” Yes, it’s true: I felt so bad for her that I decided on the spur of the moment and without consultation with Ted (he understood when I told him about it later) to let her watch a TV show. It’s something that our English friends the O family introduced us to (as we squirmed in discomfort, not knowing whether to hold our line or not) when we were there when Hazel was 4 years old. It is, I must say, pretty wholesome stuff, and since Ted and I had both seen it I decided to go for it. It will remain off-limits except when she’s sick, which will help it retain its magic attraction for her.
Last night her fever broke, and she continued gaining energy today, so we decided a trek around our block wouldn’t hurt. The kids were a tiger, a lion, and a house cat. I wore mouse ears. The kids shared a basket, and when we got home each person ate one piece of candy. We counted it all, and are going to let them exchange it for other things they want. I am hopeful that this will turn out to be a good system. If they really, really want their candy any given year they can have it (one piece per year of age); but they’ll have the option of swapping it out for much better things, too.
And, as always, it was so much fun to see friends and neighbors dressed up, to see all the costumes, and the smiles on kids and adults’ faces. I do love Halloween. I love seeing people wandering around as characters and animals, displaying whimsy and creativity, having fun.