Website and blog for Lindsay Marks, author of Daddy Issues

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Quirks

Quirks. We all have them. Some of them are considered “normal,” meaning no one comments on them if they come up. Say the quirk of not eating broccoli, for whatever reason. No one will raise an eyebrow about that one. But other quirks elicit double takes, like “I can’t stand buttons,” or “I love ketchup on my cereal.” Who knows where these quirks come from?

Then there are the quirks associated with sexuality. What is normal, what is harmful, and who decides? If I say I like something that makes you uncomfortable, are you honor bound to “fix” me? Or, am I supposed to talk you into doing it until you get used to it? How do we accept each other the way we are on issues that make us squirm?

How much is a partner supposed to try things that the other partner likes if the thing in question is an actual turn-off? Is it okay in a loving relationship to simply not satisfy our partners in those areas? To say “no” to some things the other person wants? We’re supposed to respect ourselves first, so you could make a case for that. On the other hand, is it healthy to deny one’s desires for the sake of a relationship that is strong in every other way? To never bring it up or express a yearning for something we’ll simply never get? What do you do with that yearning? Or, as in things like movies or family holidays, could it be as simple as taking turns?

I love this quote from Gretchen Leary’s “A Call for Compassion“:

I can handle your quirks. Can you handle mine?

My hope is that a strong relationship would eventually be able to accommodate all desires of both partners, at least in some form. True unconditional love would accept and in fact strive to fulfill the partner’s desires even at one’s own (temporary) expense. This, at least, is my ideal. I wonder how often it happens?

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Perspective alters reality

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I wrote my book Daddy Issues, I’d never heard of the movie Rashomon, even though I play around a lot with perspective in my story. Clearly this classic movie has seeped enough into our culture that I’d been influenced by it unconsciously (or maybe it was this Star Trek episode that taught it to me).

A Rashomon Style story is where the same event is recounted by several characters. The stories [may] differ in ways that are impossible to reconcile. It shows that two or more people can view the same event quite differently. The author invites the audience to hear them all out and then compare and contrast these divergent points of view. Sometimes the work provides no definitive answer as to what actually happened. (from tvtropes.org)

I did finally watch the movie when a reader told me my story reminded her of it. And I found I had a philosophical difference with what it seemed to be saying. The perspectives in the movie are impossible to reconcile. Someone has to be lying or wrong for the story to make sense. But for me, that’s not the way life works. Usually, something takes place where several people have experienced the same events, but have widely different views of what actually happened and why.¬† People aren’t trying to lie and they’re not straight up wrong, they just have different perspectives.

The thing is, we believe in the reality our perspective has given us. To us, it’s not just perspective, but the facts as we experienced them. If I see things from a liberal-leaning point of view and my uncle sees only from a conservative-leaning point of view, we can look at, say, a gay couple getting married and have two completely different reactions. And, this could set off one helluva an argument.

What I’m becoming more convinced of over time is that there is no one “right” perspective. There is no objective fact out there. Even with things like the sun going around the earth, I only know what I’m told. The science makes sense to me, so I believe what I was taught in grade school. But do I myself know for a fact, in a way that I’ve observed and measured, that the sun is not going around the earth? Nope. To me, it looks like it’s coming up on one horizon and going down on the other. I have to use my ability to conceptualize abstraction to believe that I’m actually on a rotating planet instead.

So when I try to understand another’s point of view, I also have to employ that ability to conceptualize abstraction. I have to be able to put myself in their shoes. What makes my uncle the way he is? What is he trying to protect, what is it that frightens him? In that way, I can learn to respect his conclusions without necessarily agreeing with him. And maybe I can tell him a little of my life experience so he can learn from me as well. Will I ever be in someone else’s shoes? No, I can never walk the walk of life that another has walked. Even if I could for a day, I never could walk through their entire life, bringing myself to the same spot they are today. So it’s not up to me to correct them or judge them.

The first time I realized this was with a much older person, someone who was very successful in a field I wanted to pursue. He’d achieved wealth and status, and had just earned a prestigious award. He also happened to be the same religion as I was. We got to talking about some theological points, and sure enough, he had different views than the ones I’d been taught. Up until then, I’d been very dogmatic in my religious life, certain I knew right from wrong and black from white. But faced with this man’s conclusions from his own experience, I remember thinking for the first time, “Who am I to question the conclusions he’s come to in his life? His perspective is as valid as mine.” That was my first step away from dogmatism and into a more open-minded view of religion, even of God.

I try (it’s not always easy!) to keep this in mind when hearing things that jar my sensibilities. I try to remember it’s my perspective that’s being jarred, and maybe I can still learn something.

Love is a decision

A friend who has read my book Daddy Issues recommended this article to me:

Why Some People Hate Sex: the Fascinating Psychology Behind Sexual Revulsion

It’s a terrific, eye-opening article. I found much of it moving and instructive. For example:

The Latin adjective intimus means “inmost, deepest.” So real intimacy means, first of all, that both partners listen deep inside–i.e., get to know their inner worlds of emotion, desire, and vulnerability–and then reveal what they’ve learned to each other in an atmosphere of loving acceptance.

This is the scariest place for many people. In my own relationships, I’ve found when I’m crawling the walls and needing to reveal something deeper, often my partner doesn’t want to go there. Or, when he has a moment of despair, I misinterpret it and take it personally. It’s only when both parties can agree that they will do their best to meet that need whenever and however it comes up that the relationship can deepen and grow. Love becomes a decision, not merely an emotion.

A few years back, the book Love-Making from the Inside Out, by Dr. Bill Cloke, transformed my attitude about relationships. I had thought that I had to be perfect, to have all my issues settled and all my neuroses handled before I could expect anyone to love me. Dr. Cloke’s book taught me instead that it’s in our moments of weakness and vulnerability that we can feel the deepest and highest love. A love partnership is when both make the commitment to keep the love flowing when one or the other needs it, not merely being okay with the person when they’re totally fine.

My last relationship failed because while one of us was willing to make this commitment, the other admitted they were not. There was nowhere further we could go after this discovery. We couldn’t get any closer. It saddened me because in many ways it was the best relationship I’d ever had.

So my challenge to myself is: Am I available to hold someone when they’re going crazy? Am I willing to be there when my partner is defeated and hurting? Will I stay by his side when he’s filled with self-hatred or internalized anger? Will I listen and try to understand his childhood phobias without trying to change him?

That’s the love I want. And I think it’s the love we all need.

Shame on me?

Happy New Year, everyone… am now back from the constant party that is December. Hope your holidays brought you peace and joy.

At an inspirational business networking meeting last night, one of my fellow attendees spoke compellingly about where she’s found herself in her career. After several decades becoming well-known for what she does, she still hasn’t achieved full-on reliable cash flow and success. She’s a freelancer in a very competitive field, and even though she’s received awards and every door is open to her, she hasn’t yet hit on that one startling success that will guarantee her security for life. And, sitting there before our little group, she admitted to something I also wrestle with: shame.

I get caught in this trap myself. Here I am, a supposed grown-up, yet I still struggle to feed and clothe myself. At this stage in life, I should be thinking wistfully about retirement and years of ease — or at least, that’s what the prior generation trained me to expect. It doesn’t look like my life will ever go that way. What did I do wrong?

I did make a decision several years ago to follow my dream. In the sense of not yet starving and being able to live in an area I love, I’ve succeeded. But I will never be able to stop. My life doesn’t sport the accoutrements of many of my contemporaries. I’m not wanting for anything, but I’m not living a life of ease, either. Should I be ashamed?

One of the other attendees at the event last night pointed out that we’re all caught up in the maelstrom that is our country’s adjusting economy. She reminded us not to take our personal situations personally. We all agreed that the requirement to downsize, to simplify, to hone in on what we really need to be happy and healthy has strengthened us in recent years. When I think about how much money I wasted in earlier years pursuing things I didn’t really want because I thought I was supposed to want them, I now shake my head.

Yes, things have been tight. I’ve had to make choices and forgo things that before I could have gotten easily. But I’m running lean. I’m tougher. I know what I’m made of. Very little fazes me at this point; I now know how little cash it takes for me to be happy. I suppose then that I’m the consumer-culture’s nightmare.

When the economy does turn around, as it seems like it’s poised to do, I’ll be armed with the knowledge that I don’t need what I thought I needed. I will be much less inclined to waste, to over-indulge. I’ve lived without it for so long, and I’m lighter for it. Why take it back on?

So in 2013, I’m leaving behind the inclination to feel ashamed I haven’t achieved the worldly wealth I’d been raised to expect I’d have by now. I’ll embrace the fact that following my dream has brought me a different kind of abundance. Perhaps it doesn’t fill my bank account, but it does fulfill my life. And I’ll be prepared, when the time comes and the economy turns around, to hold onto what I’ve learned rather than slipping back into thoughtless consumption.

Shame? No way. That’s pride.

Making people cry

People sometimes tell me that my book’s ending makes them cry. And that makes me happy.

Not that I want to cause anyone any angst. Readers usually mean that the ending has moved them somehow, that they related to it deeply enough that their emotions overflowed. What could be better news for a writer?

I am hoping, when telling my stories, to use the tools of fiction to communicate truth. Are my characters real? No. Is the situation real? No. Is the transformation real? Yes.

I’ve often thought that fiction allows us to experience things we would otherwise never know. If the fiction is “real” enough, we gain a memory of something we didn’t have to physically experience. Yet, in experiencing the fiction, we become more compassionate for those who have experienced it in fact.

This has been known to change the world. Look at The Jungle. How else would people have discovered the misery of the meatpacking industry? Certainly few had ever walked those blood-soaked floors. Yet they read that book and felt something. It caused them to take action. And lives were changed.

What books have changed the world for you?

 

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