Fifty years is a LONG time. Clo, my life partner of 16 years just turned 50. That is a half century. In Sept., I turn 71. That is almost three quarters of a century. Dear goddess and all the angels, how did we get so many years under our belt??? And on our waist-lines and etched on to our faces. I hope it is wisdom I see in Clo’s eyes and I feel in mine, and not disappointment.
We had a week of grand and glorious celebration. We have been celebrating: 50 years of life, both hard and soft, on this planet, for Clo; the magnificent job she has done in the renovation of our home and yard; the beautiful summer retreat area our back yard gives us and those we love; friends; relatives; differences; the French, American, and Canadian connections in Clo’s life as well as mine; blending families; catching up with old friends; and integrating new friends.
We had twice as much food as we needed. Good! I ALWAYS fear not having enough, and thus by extension, not being enough. Multi-cultural food with: sushi, samosas, salsa, egg rolls, tapenade, fruit, veggies, baguette, marvelous cheeses from lots of places, shrimp, smoked salmon, St. Honoré Cake. And that was just Saturday night. Sunday we took a grand tour of wine country in a limo with 9 women and a bottle of excellent champagne. What a hoot! We had lunch at Henry of Pelham’s and dinner at Strewn. We were home by eleven feeling safe, tired, sated. We laughed, had fun, shared caring and love, created new memories together and cemented relationships. Clo’s Quebec family and my U. S. family snuggled into the limousine together and deepened the caring and respect.
Don’t wait until you are 50 to celebrate yourself! Life feels difficult sometimes. Take time out and away from struggling and go into a time and space bubble of your making. Let yourself experience the mystery and magnificence of the moment. It will help make sense out of being here on this planet.
Why are we here? Who am I? Where do I belong? Whew, big questions. Some of my answers to those questions would be: I am Clo’s partner, mother of 4, grandmother, one of Aimee’s moms, psychotherapist, dreamer, writer and friend. My role as psychotherapist gives me great pleasure. One of my many delights is working with couples. In doing the couple work it often feels like I am trying to build, in my fashion, a bridge between my U. S. culture and Clo’s Quebec culture.
As I work with a mixed cultural couple I think of the differences Clo and I have and I am able to have a very soft heart and tender understanding of the desire to create a safe bridge between the differences. I realize the need and desire to understand and respect both cultures. It takes being intentional and listening carefully to each other. Your partner isn’t trying to be oppositional. You both believe what you were taught as a child growing up in families with very different backgrounds and expectations is the right way to look at things or settle matters. You are both right. That is how it was done when you were growing up. Seemingly simple things like how to celebrate the holidays can become huge.
I was raised in a somewhat cool and a bit standoffish Dutch family. Clo was raised in a demonstrative and noisy large family from Quebec. I am right. Not everyone wants to be gushed over. Clo is right, hugs and words of pleasure, laughter and good will are great things to share with those who matter to you. Clo is right, some people love stop in by surprise visitors. Just I am also right, some people absolutely do NOT want surprise guests. These are some of the cultural differences Clo and I struggled with. It embarrassed me for her to drop in on people without an invitation. It saddened her when my mother barely greeted her upon meeting her for the first time. In all fairness, my father spread out his arms and welcomed her into our family with a big, albeit uncharacteristic, hug.
We learn from each other. That is what gives me so much pleasure in working with couples. They have the opportunity to learn from each other and to co create the way they are going to manage their differences and do it with pleasure and pride.
I want to return to the 3 big questions it is important for every couple, same cultural background or different, to share and explore together. The questions are: Who am I? Why am I here? And where do I belong?
I wonder what your answers to those 3 questions might be. I encourage you to dialogue with your partner about them. It can be fun if you put your mind to it. Dialoguing helps you feel connected, grounded, updated. Who you are today is not who you were 20 years ago or who you will be in 15 years. That’s good! Change and transition are a constant. We are always transitioning from day to night, old to new, pain to health, negative to positive, happy to sad. The challenge of change and transitions must be shared with your partner. If you don’t take intentional note that a new baby has come into the family and that changes things; or you have just returned from a business trip and are a different person than when you left; or you have made a decision to do something in a new way, the change of energy between the two of you will be felt but not expressed and shared is very likely to cause distress, tension, and pain.
Take at 10 or 15 minutes in the evening when life has settled a bit and you are preparing to go to bed and intentionally check-in with each other about who you are today. Listen carefully to each other and don’t judge. Listening with an open mind and full attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give each other and goes a long way in bridging any cultural gap or differences you might be experiencing.