The word “relationship” implies a forever line of thinking. It is described as a “connection by blood or marriage” or as an alliance, a kinship, a dependence. That sounds very permanent. But some relationships are not permanent. They have a beginning and an end, a certain number of minutes, an allotment of pavement and then nothing. While looking at the lifespan of one human this concept is more easily comprehended. You live, you die and everyone goes home separately. Occasionally a connection may continue past death, because both energy boxes are still relating. For instance, I still talk to my dog Bonni Blue and she died in 2007.
Yes, she talks/barks back.
But for the purpose of this essay, let’s set aside relationships that continue on past death. The ones I’m focusing on are those that have run out of road.
There are many connections between humans. The top of the pyramid usually involves parents and offspring, spouses and siblings. Others, are pets and pet owners, one night stands, best friends, bosses and co-workers and the person you see in line at Starbucks every Tuesday. Some of those relationships are considered sacrosanct. An umbilical cord connected Mother and nugget, so this one is discussed reverently, even though there are some horrific stories about what Moms and their kids do to one another. The same goes for spouses, siblings and co-workers. These are the realms in which it is important to understand the definition of done.
Completed; finished; through; our work is done, cooked sufficiently, worn out; exhausted; used up. When two or more humans, in a combined experience have run out of road, there is nothing left to impart to one another. It is a state of finis.
“I don’t have a daughter.”
“This is the last time I will set foot in this house.”
“But you’re underperforming, I don’t have to be nice.”
At this point it’s not about counseling, mediation or resolving issues, it’s about letting go. When a relationship has sucked the life out of itself, juicing down to the pulp, call the time of death already. Say sayonara and move on.
“But they still need me.”
If a person is breathing unassisted, is able to care for themselves, has food and water and can swallow, they do not need you. They may want or feel you owe them something, but that is not need, it is want.
“You’re supposed to take care of me.”
“Do what’s right.”
Some humans believe they are owed, that there is a cosmic debt unpaid and anyone linked by blood or alliance is the one holding the note. This mentality drains the oxygen out of a room and the life out of a bond. Relationship asphalt is made of Evens-Stevens. Not an everyday equal sign, but the mutual understanding of neutral over time. When one side has their hand out or divvies up the pie unfairly there is no room to grow. One person cannot carry another for the duration of a connection. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are people who stumble along with humans strapped to their back.
“You married her, now you’re stuck.”
“She’s my Mom I have to.”
“Just this once I’ll do his homework.”
“He’s a prick but I have to go to the meeting.”
There are plenty of real obligations to living on this planet, some of them necessary because you could wind up in jail for unpaid taxes or wearing dentures. But other “Have Tos” are voluntary, though they may appear required.
“You’re supposed to love your Mother.”
“It’s a paycheck.”
These are not mandatory requirements, they are voluntary.
I choose! I choose! I choose!
I can’t imagine picking pain or abuse or mundane and boring repeater conversations, the kind dictated at family gatherings. Not unless some giant arm reached over and picked for me. That giant arm is labeled under the heading “good”. This concept has inspired a lot of unhappy people. Follow the rules, carry someone else’s crap, do the right thing and a bounty of treasure will be thrown at your feet. I’ve eavesdropped on a lot of dissatisfied humans. Many have constructed their days around the illusion that if they play by the rules and don’t step on the cracks they’re life will be wonderful.
“I gotta take my Mom to the grocery store. We already went this week, but she needs toilet paper and doesn’t think I can pick up the right brand.”
I’ll get the daughter of the year award.
“I had to miss my therapy appointment since my son forgot his lunch and I have to bring it to him.”
One day he’ll take care of ME.
“We cancelled our vacation because Cliff’s boss is making him help on a project. He put in early for leave and the tickets were bought 6 months ago, but oh well.”
He might get a raise.
We live in a democratic society, which has rules and foundations for keeping it so. Those dictums were laid out to keep the people from a tyrannical government, but they are also useful for inter-personal connections. If it is a choice it isn’t a “Have To”. This means no one’s got a choke chain dragging a human from chore to chore. If you’re doing something you despise, you are choosing it. My dogs hate leashes for a reason. When they’re harnessed they can’t sniff under bushes, chase rodents at will or eat the poop of wildlife.
There is a left of center option and it requires commitment and fortitude. This is when there is a fork in the road and it veers from what is considered “responsible” and “good” for others. It is instead, honoring what is responsible and good for self, accompanied by the guts to stand up for it.
The right to pursue happiness.
I’m not suggesting airy fairy happiness, the concept poured down our throats at ten. Instead I speak to the joy that comes from deciding to be in situations or relationships that bring out the best in you and your life. In that wide open space, unfettered by obligation, there is an opportunity for relationships to grow. That is a road with many miles of asphalt, going around turns, up hills and into valleys, offering the possibility for more.