” But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince.
I have been fussing with this blog for several months now. It has remained stubbornly and steadfastly just out of reach, shrouded in a foggy, opaque haze. It’s an unfamiliar feeling. I have never had writer’s block in my life. To a fault, I have an over-abundance of things to say at all times.
The question is about connections. Why do some connections work, and some decidedly do not? I am not talking only about romantic relationships. It’s also true for parent-child relationships, relationships with other family members, and friends. But certainly, it applies most pointedly to those relationships we find most intimate. I suppose that my career causes me to examine these issues at close range across a broad cross section of clients, but truthfully, my personal situation provokes more introspection from me at the moment.
Those of you who know me know already that I love to be a little sanctimonious, so I started this mess in the third person, and tried to make an analogy to dressage. The analogy is good, I think, so I will include it, but staying in the third person is difficult this time around and doing so would feel very evangelistic. Blogging is, after all, one of the most self-indulgent things I can think of because no one but me, my closest friends and my family care so much about what I have to say. (Probably more the former than the latter two.)
One of the fundamentals of dressage is the contact between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth. Ideally, it should be a light, elastic, and continuous contact that remains alive enough to allow extremely nuanced communication but is totally free of interference or leverage. This connection forms the basis of the relationship between the horse and rider because it keeps the channel of communication open at all times. A proper connection can be elusive, usually because the rider is incapable of maintaining it without becoming overbearing. Many horses are started with an improper connection and sorting out their connection problems becomes a lifelong endeavor. The proper connection for each horse may be a little different: some firmer and some lighter.
Mastering the connection is really tricky because the reward for the horse is to return to a totally neutral position: no interference from hands or body. This allows the horse to move the most freely, to use its back. Incidentally, it is in this harmony that the horse’s back is the softest and the rider is the most comfortable and the most able to absorb the movement through the seat bones and the abdominals. Most riders, due to lack of physical fitness or skill, leverage themselves off of the horse’s mouth, using the reins as a counter weight to maintain balance. No communication can happen in the presence of such unyielding pressure.
The opposite problem happens when the connection drops entirely. It can be very frightening to the horse (or the rider) when the other suddenly drops the connection. There is no more communication and the channel is closed. You do not know what will happen next. When a horse does it, it usually means it’s going to grab its ass and run. When a rider does it, it might mean that the bubble in the reins will be followed by a very sharp correction or it might mean that ineptitude is causing the rider to allow her hands to bounce mercilessly against the horse’s mouth.
Do you understand? This is the only way to have a healthy connection. The elastic feel on the reins. I am here for you. The channel is open and we can talk, but I will not interfere with you. If you make a mistake, I will use this channel to put you back on course. Otherwise, you are free. I am always here for you. It is reciprocal. If the rider makes the wrong move, the horse may lean on the bit, or may become stiff or lose rhythm. If the horse makes the wrong move, this sweet connection over the back allows the rider to correct the horse with minimal aids. Both are exquisitely in tune with each other when the proper connection is maintained.
This is the entire foundation for every healthy relationship: to maintain a sufficient connection such that both parties feel connected but to allow enough freedom so that neither feels overwhelmed. It is not easier in human relationships than it is in dressage. Plus, the use of whips and spurs are generally discouraged no matter how effective they are as aids.
I don’t mean to be flippant. These proximity issues lurk in every divorce I have seen. These and priorities. I have talked about priorities before. (See “You Vote With Your Feet” from May 2012.) Do you mind if I refresh your recollection?
A priority is something that is given special attention. It can also be defined as the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc., something that takes precedence. We are defined by the choices we make. Our priorities determine the quality of our personal relationships, our professional integrity, our character itself. At journey’s end, it is all that we are.
So, when I explained over the course of three years that my daughter is part of me and your failure to develop any kind of positive relationship with her was a deal breaker, you should have known I meant that. When have you ever known me to back away from anything? She is my top priority and I will demonstrate that every time. For those who cannot understand her, bless your hearts; I wish you well.
Priorities are really important. People are so full of words and nonsense, and I say this as an expert because I am an attorney. I am paid for thinking up new ways to string words together. Words have meaning, but that meaning only counts if there is integrity behind the words. Otherwise they are just wasted calories. Perhaps Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it best, “Words are the source of misunderstandings.” Sometimes deliberately so. Sometimes because people are ham-handed and careless.
It is so easy to say that you love someone and to tell them how important they are. It is much harder to live it. And prioritizing someone does not mean losing yourself to a thousand cuts until you cannot recognize the person in the mirror. That is co-dependence, I believe.
Prioritizing someone means maintaining the connection. It means that you do not overwhelm them, but that the channel is open at all times. It means that if you need me, I am here. Always. It means that I will reciprocally trust you not abuse that connection. I will not see how many times I can send the distress call from my ivory tower just to see you charge up on your white horse, no matter how heroic and compelling that image is.
Prioritizing means that if something is truly important to you, I will make it important to me, too. It means that if I make you a promise, I will never, ever break it. It means that if I say I will call, I will call. If I say I will be there, I will be there. It means that in this world where everyone wants something from you, you can depend on me to care about how you feel. It means I will not forget you. I will not be too busy for you. I will not lie to you. I will not deceive you. I will be loyal to you and to your priorities. No matter what else is happening, I will maintain the connection. The channel is open always for you.
That is the answer. Relationships lose their harmony when there is a failure to maintain the proper connection, when one party is overbearing or controlling or when one party lets go. In addition, relationships fail when one or both parties fail to make the other a priority in a tangible, reliable way. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where it is watered and nurtured. It is greener where connections are properly maintained and where the capacity to prioritize the other person is notable and constant.
” It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. . .It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important. . . you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince.