a few thoughts about romantic partnerships, love, and loss in pandemic times

Like many people right now, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking.

Thinking about the way I think, having anxious thoughts, depressed thoughts, happy thoughts, fleeting whims, thoughts about how we culturally spend our time when things are “normal,” thoughts about relationships and the kind of person I want to be, and the direction I want to carry myself, thoughts about art and food and music and money and fame and love, all the ways there are to love. It’s been a lot of thoughts.

I found out yesterday that one of my favorite “celebrity couples” has separated. I usually turn my nose up at tabloids blaring celebrity news, and have very little interest, typically, in Hollywood. This particular pair, though, are both artists with cult followings who have a certain kind of homegrown fame which keeps them out of the tabloids and therefore inside of my interest. I’ve often looked on their relationship as one to aspire to, a model of creativity and equality between a male-bodied person and a female-bodied person which is rarely demonstrated in society. In short, following their life and their burgeoning family showed me that another way of operating was possible, beautiful, and attainable. Their partnership inspired me in a lot of ways: as a human, a woman, a musician, an incorrigible questioner of the status quo, and as someone who occasionally interacts with kids.

I don’t know if it’s because COVID has me feeling like a freshly molted crab, but for some reason, I took the news of their parting kind of hard, dwelling on it (against my better judgement) for the last 24 hours. I spent the better part of yesterday wondering why I couldn’t let the fact of their splitting go, why it threw me in a funk. I snapped up any information available from his stanch social media feed, wondering at his needs and wishing him well. I waded through her blog feeling her hurt and trying not to speculate on things that I will never know, or understand, or have any control over. A little piece of my heart broke with them.

It turns out, this is a celebrity couple I actually give a damn about, though I have never met either of them. Consuming art over an extended period of time gives you the illusion of knowing the artist, however, a phenomenon as “real” as any flesh-and-blood relationship. Artist and audience have a unique bond, a kind of call and response relationship, a game of mirrors. Both of these artists have held mirrors up which spoke to vulnerable, secret parts of me that I was unaware I was hiding. They have both buoyed me up, carried me, dusted me off, vindicated me, urged me forward. To say I feel their pain may seem like hyperbole, but…I am feeling their pain.

This is a hard time for everyone. Because life happens, and it certainly doesn’t give a damn if it’s an inconvenient time, I’m aware people are divorcing their spouses, wrestling with their children, dealing with suicides, watching their loved ones die, losing their jobs, struggling to pay their bills…there are lots of things going wrong right now. Not everyone is as public with their grief.

But this makes me curious: why the secrecy with grief? Some people grow uncomfortable by those who share their raw feelings with others. It is ill-advised in some circles. Button your lip, get through the steps, see a therapist, take medication, get back to work. Whatever you do, don’t air your dirty laundry.

For a couple of artists whose livelihoods rely on fans consuming their content, they’ve both been rather taciturn about any details of their separation. Were it a different pair of fairly-famous people, I might assume some angry “breakup art” would be in the works. Given the disposition of both of them, and everything they’ve shared about the nature of their relationship and the family they’ve built, however, it may not shake out this way. One of them is extremely private, and other is, well, a sharer. These are two different ways of being which can work beautifully together, or can totally devastate each other. I am hoping so much that they work out a loving space for their son to grow within and to hold each other inside of as time goes on. I have faith in both of them, respectively and together.

I guess I’m writing this because of something a professor once said to me in class: “every hero is just someone else’s villain.” No matter how “perfect” a couple may seem, there are always problems–problems lurking and percolating, shrinking and growing with attention, or lack thereof. “Speak no evil” doesn’t always work, but neither does “let’s talk this out.” Communication doesn’t always land the way we hope; sometimes silence really is best…sometimes it’s deadly.

I guess the best we can hope for is a partner who stands their ground but is conscious of this fact–that no matter how ugly things might seem, there is always an alternative perspective. How much faith do you have in each other? The extent to which you “see” the other person and what you “don’t see” are of equal importance. May we all find a collaborator, co-conspirator, and life partner who sets us aflame and pushes us; but may we all find within ourselves that clear spring of compassion, a tender meadow where we hold space for everything that we don’t understand about the person we hope to understand most of all.

Published by Hannah

Just yer average girl next door.

2 thoughts on “a few thoughts about romantic partnerships, love, and loss in pandemic times

  1. This is a very well written, honest analysis of self and others. I feel that it’s natural, maybe even necessary to idolize someone, or an idea, or way of being, so we have something to aspire to. Something to strive for or model ourselves after. It’s a healthy aspiration. But, as humans, we are usually set up to fall short, either through our own actions or our heroes. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a hero letting us down, and yet, it’s got to be expected. In this life, there is no perfect, only striving for such, remedying, healing, growing, waning, it never stops. One hero goes, another shows up, or we “remedy” the former. I believe with heartbreak, and disappointment comes growth. Not one chosen or welcomed. But most real growth isn’t. It arrives on your doorstep. You either “steel” yourself and greet it, entertain it until both have spoke, and then watch it walk away or we RUN from the door like hell and find a hiding place. But eventually, the hiding place doesn’t work and by then the entity you refused to greet at your door has wrecked your living room. Now you have to clean up the living room and greet the “growth”. I heard someone say, “Disappointment lies in the beholder. Their expectations of other were not delivered”. Even though the prosy words (is there such a term?) sound lovely and true, it is frustrating and ugly at the same time. Blame the victim? We all have felt the fallen hero. Some of us in our spouses, parents, friendships, business partners, ect. And, it sucks. It’s an unwelcome guest at the door. (BTW for me it was Choudhury Bikram)

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    1. Interesting take, on “greeting” disappointment either now or later. When is best to do damage control? If you act to soon on potential disappointment, what is the cost? What potential good are you cutting out? And how tense do you have to be at all times in order to successfully cut out disappointment before it “wrecks your living room”?

      Without expectations, we have nothing to move towards. We would never improve. But so much pain comes from having expectations, whether of other or self. Being disappointed in outcomes does not make the hopeful party to blame per say, but to admit that the “dreamer” had no hand in the disappointment is to render them powerless, in a way–like they are victims to their optimism, if that makes sense. Expectations are terribly powerful. So are dreams.

      Had to google Choudhury Bikram. A flood of emotional imprints came back from watching that Netflix documentary on him. Talk about powerful expectations. He may have started with the purest of intentions, but we can never know where we’ll end up when we start a journey. Constant check-ins with heart and mind seem to be the only way to “stay true.”

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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