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.