Intimate coffees

Happily Ever After, 1992. William Wegman. 
This is the card we chose to announce our marriage.
Wegman's website and Facebook page.

I am doing a daily exercise (Melodie Beattie) where I give thanks for things I might normally resist. I wake and self-reflect as a way to see what is meaningful. Within thirty minutes, I begin writing. Then I exchange my list of gratitudes by email with a partner who also writes a list. After reading my list, a partner writes back something like, “I’m here. I’m listening,” as a witness rather than as someone with an opinion, suggestion, or solution.

I wake with a smile. Terry, his hand on my chest, whispers, “Your coffee is here, love. We’re still having coffee together.”

Today is our seventeenth anniversary and I’m beyond grateful that we found each other. He delights me. Like yesterday in the kitchen when I notice his gaze on reflected, criss-cross lines on the refrigerator door. The image is gorgeous, but more than that, he teaches me to pause and notice.

Our relationship starts fast. Think quick as out-of-the-gates at the Belmont Stakes.

I marry T the second time I am in his physical presence.

I know of his work for a long time. (I use his books when I teach.) I’m attracted to his writings about multiple interpretations and the skills it takes to speak and listen openly. We meet at a Getty event in Los Angeles, where we are both speaking.

I hire him to do an audio conference with teachers. I don’t have budget money to bring him to the art museum (my workplace at the time) so we have an interpretative conversation over the phone. We all have the same artwork in front of us. I notice how well he listens and kindly engages conversation. This happens in April of the year we will marry.

In October, I receive a personal message from him. 

We begin a daily correspondence. In writing, we exchange our beliefs, histories, thoughts, ideas, curiosities, interests, questions, and hopes. About four thousand pages fill a box. 

I fall in love with T without having in-person, one-on-one time with him.

So yes, we get to know each other through the Internet.

When he visits me in Florida in December of that year, he gets down on one knee and says, “Will you have coffee with me every morning from now on?”

Oh yes.

I’m grateful that with the help of a counselor, we decide that if we are truly going to do a primary relationship different (we both have the unfortunate experience of divorce), we need to put all of our energy into learning new relating skills. (I’m grateful for this.)

We begin to do counseling together and take couple-ship workshops (Harville Hendrix, imago work, for one.) I love hearing how I have positive aspects of his primary caregivers (and he mine) and I'm less open to hearing how I also have the not-so-positive attributes. Our strengths and foibles come into view. We commit to looking at whatever emotional feelings arise (rather than numb). I’m grateful to realize that this is probably the biggest commitment of my life.

I’m grateful that it is obvious that we need to devote as much time and energy on building a relationship and healing our past wounds as we can give. I’m grateful that I don’t have a clue about what lies ahead. I just know he is the one I want to share what happens in my life.

We put on shorts and white sweatshirts, take a walk on the beach, and then hop in the car and head to the Justice of Peace. 

We marry. 

No one is there but us, the Justice, and a philodendron. We promise to not exit, to not leave. We vow to stay in this relationship. We commit to choosing to stay awake and open during conflicts and to support the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development in each other.

It’s bumpy and difficult.

But we mobilize a collective transformation. 

The task, which I’m grateful for despite the ongoing difficulty, is to reinvigorate our sense of worthiness. We commit to being present for ourselves, which feeds being here for each other, our families and friends, and, ultimately, the planet. It’s ongoing work.

Playful. Rigorous. Astonishing.

Sometimes it’s work I don’t want to do at all. Seeing anew takes stillness to allow feelings to arise and a willingness to see, especially when T holds up magnifying-mirror clarity and I see every pore. (As a metaphor for this work, just try looking at your face in that type mirror for a long time with no judgment or criticism. It takes a lot of practice to love the lines in my skin, the pores, the sagging eyelid, or a gum-eroded toothy smile.)

I’m grateful I say yes to this work. I’m grateful he says yes to this work. We continue counseling.

I’m grateful for T and how he looks at me from that magnifying gaze and smiles as if I’m a fresh, bright bloom.

I’m grateful to remember this question I ask myself in wonderment and hope seventeen years ago: 

“Is it possible to be intimate?” (Will we be close, intimately close—you know, where I really let him see into me, and he lets me see into him?)

And today, I’m grateful to see the question I quietly ask myself when we marry differently. 

It misses the point.

My question today after seventeen years of practice is, “When is intimacy not possible?”

It’s always possible. Intimacy is available right now. This minute. 

I know what I need to do to gain this inner connection. I say yes to virtuoso strength to get beyond any unhelpful relational pattern residue that gets in the way of this precious possibility. Living that yes is not easy.