spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

Should Happens


Corky and me on a happy day
Once I wrote a piece about a day my girl friend, Corky, and I strolled toward Hayes Street. Spying a soggy but brightly colored cloth flower on the ground, I picked it up and offered it to her as a tribute, more or less. She often wore large colored cloth flowers. For whatever reason, she disliked this one. I held it awhile and let it drop somewhere along our walk. Later, when I wrote about it, I said the color was chartreuse. When she read what I said, she objected. I may have said it was a favored color of hers; but upon her request, I changed the color to lime green. That was not a difficult request to fill.

But this new request, to write something for her, coming almost a year since we stopped seeing each other is a little more difficult. When we talked a week or so ago after months of silence, she said, “You caused me pain when we broke up, so you should make amends and write something for me.

It’s my guess she should star in this story.

I don’t see why not. Once, our relationship inspired many of my stories, and I’d like to think I treated her with kindness though clearly the spotlight was on me. Listeners or readers could pick which one of us to identify with, yet in each piece was the faintest whiff of my rightness and, I suppose, the hint that she may have been somewhat wrong. Not a big wrong, but in my world of the story, wrong.

For example, I wrote about her finishing my sentences and how annoying I found this. Another time, I talked about her introducing me to her former college roommate as a writer and how I objected to the label.

So let me continue Corky’s story with my view of why this relationship didn’t work. No villains here. Only her childhood and mine, and particularly what we brought along well into our seventies. And I’m going to simplify it to one word: competitiveness. Here we’re dealing with competition so deep-rooted as to be uninteresting in the retelling.

Go with me instead to Corky’s front door on Castro Street in San Francisco one warm day in our past as I pick her up for an afternoon in Sonoma. She opens the door. She is wearing a kitchen apron and shorts. I feel a surge of anger. I have no ability to pause, to repeat silently “anger, anger, anger,” to peel it back and reach the hurt of what feels to me like being “one-upped.” WAAAA, as in “Want,” as in the opening chorus of “What about me?  I can’t compete. I don’t stand a chance of being noticed.” I criticize her. I am ashamed to be seen with her; she should be more considerate of my feelings. That sets the tone for the rest of the day. She’s defensive. I can’t dictate what she wears, etc.

Then there’s the black tutu, the see through boots with the multicolored socks. The fabulous if sometimes elegantly mismatched jewelry, the pieces of knitting not intended to be anything but winding up really something with a button added.

 No chance for this relationship as long as I argue with the reality of who it is that opens the door. Should Corky have to change to be loved?

While the months of separation passed, I learned from therapy and from listening to Tara Brach’s Dharma (Teaching Talks) that as soon as I wanted Corky to be different or to dress differently, I had closed my heart. As soon as “Should” took root in my mind and heart, in the moments I opposed the reality of who she is to get my historically unmet needs met, I could not be present or offer her love.

Now come forward in time to the dining room at Corky’s house last week. I want us to heal and revisit some of our issues with honesty. I hope I have no expectations.

Among all we talk about, she tells me she shopped at Kohls, thinking Vera Wang would be on the racks, but instead buying a Jennifer Lopez faux fur coat she is sure I will not like.  It is apparently part of an eye-catching ensemble she wore to the theater in Berkeley. The first time she wore it, she told me a woman with a fashion blog wanted to take her picture in her faux fur and black beret.

Her message: You won’t like this because I still call attention to myself and love admiration. In our past you didn’t accept this about me.

My response: Put it on. I like it. You look adorable. 

Gregory J Rittger
12/26/2011 05:51:47 am

Respond beats react every time! Thank you for sharing and illuminating.

Marie D. Haas
12/27/2011 05:52:11 am

A thoughtful addition for my Mondays. Thank you for your writing.

Guy Rittger
1/10/2012 07:59:56 am

I laughed out loud at the end. Also liked the formal conceit (as opposed to that other conceit - i.e., character / spiritual flaw) of the revisiting the past with a different persona. Write on.

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