Sunday, March 13, 2011
The Lingering Presents (Presence) of Exes
When Teri got home from work yesterday (she is working almost around the clock lately between her two jobs), she shared that she had quite the nasty bruise from the bed. I jokingly call our bed frame by her ex's name because a. it is a piece of furniture that Teri brought into the relationship from before and b. it has sharp edges and we have a relatively small bedroom so it pokes and scrapes us if we are clumsily maneuvering in the middle of the night. Just like many areas of our life, our bed is a merging of past and present: her frame, my mattress and box springs, and a combination of hers, mine, old and new bedding.
Two gals do not get to be as seasoned as Teri and I without having made a few attachments in this world. This is my attempt at pleasantly saying we have been both been married, dated, and partnered before and we have the lingering presents to show for it. Whether it be in the combination of five adult children who were born biologically to each of us and came to us through some of that partnering, or furniture, art, jewelry, experiences and pets. One of our three cats, PJ, came to me from an ex who adopted her and then felt the need to re-home her as a kitten. While it might be ideologically lovely to imagine starting a new relationship with a blank slate both psychologically and possession-wise--that is not the way it works in the real world!
Coming to terms with the past is an absolute prerequisite for being content and committed here in the present. We knew this prior to getting involved and we understood it to be a major part of the early "work" of our coming together and yet, for women as old us we are, it is an ongoing temporal process. There are reminders everywhere in the form of things, personal triggers, memories and stories. Our families of origin seem to be un-ending sources of stories from before, just as our kids constantly re-tell memories of our different incarnations--we are both comfortable (for the most part) and WANT everyone to feel at ease talking about whatever moves them, but it means that we can never completely escape the lingering ghosts of what and who used to be.
Like many areas of life, we choose to process the lingering presents of our exes with humor. The attacks by the bed are referred to as ex karma and we refer to our "man husbands" or the time when we "used to be straight" as ways of incorporating our histories in a healthy way. As time passes and we make more purchases, memories and acquisitions jointly, some of those things disappear or fade into the background; others become reincorporated as being ours, and still others remain but lose their power to trigger us in any way. We know that we are in good company--so many other couples must wrestle with what went before--whether because of divorces or break-ups, or because a spouse/partner has died, financial changes, gender transitions, etc. I prefer to think of it all as gifts of a life well-lived and unfortunately, that means a bump or bruise occasionally as reminder.