Sunday, September 04, 2005

Dancing the night away

Blogger Ang slaps down the “one right person” myth in her post here.

As well she should. But I do want to put in a plug for one right frame of mind. Because really, relationships take off on their own momentum. Someone asks you to dance and you are in the mood for a tango lesson and you respond. You swell the first person with hope, elevating him or her to a higher level of infatuation and this back and forth propels each of you, in turn, to places others had never gone with you. You both want to be excited and are looking for signs that the other is as well and the validation of your feverish hope pushes you right into an ocean of good feeling.

All that is perhaps obvious. What is deserving of more thought is why relationships – those very same ones that hit new heights – why they falter and ultimately fail.

On the top of the list I have to place intentional or unintentional inattentiveness. It is impossible to sustain a tango if someone has stopped dancing, or is distracted and steps on your toes again and again. Imagine this:

Hey, you’re stepping on my toes!
huh? No I’m not. Quit complaining.
I’m only pointing out that blood is oozing from my pinky toe.
Hope it feels better soon!
Okay, I need to rest now. My toes can’t take it anymore.
Jesus, have I been stepping on your toes? I’m sorry! I’ve been trying to distract myself from the fact that your fingernails are digging into my skin. Hey, where are you anyway? Are you there? No? Hey!

It could be that the distracted one never intended to drift off. Maybe one person got stuck in a routinized set of steps and stopped paying attention, while the other wanted to add new configurations. But most likely, one of the dancers got lazy.

The hell with all this work! I’d rather read comic books. Leave me alone already!

Only they did not understand that being left alone would ultimately lead them to really be left alone.

Distraction, self-absorption, relational laziness – they are the killers of tango, or of any other dance. You go ask the ones who really are well into these movements: don’t they demand of themselves a higher concentration? Hard work, isn't it?

It is, indeed, impossible to sustain a dance if someone is not in step. (Love may endure, but it becomes a vacuous emotion without a base.) And once a dance is reversed, once the music starts slowing down, gradually the dancers feed off of each others’ apathy and distraction (in the same way that they once fed off of each others’ enthusiasm) until someone finally takes the bold (tired) step and says – okay, enough, we’re not dancing anymore, I’m ready to call it a night.

Can they pick themselves up and start dancing again? The cruel answer, I think, is this: most likely they can not. Because it is even harder the second time and here you're talking about people who didn't even have the energy to give it even a first successful go-round.

Hope, that essential ingredient, requires a suspension of fear. It once allowed you plunge ahead, even make a fool of yourself, because you believed in and more often than not, you did experience a completely gratifying response. How can you plunge anew if you now know better? If you know that this dance had an end, that you suffered disengagement? What devilish force would lead you to let go of your fears and anxieties all over again?

The biggest optimists, believers in fantastic relationships (I include myself here) ultimately become the world’s biggest pessimists when faced with the question of another dance. Prove me wrong, world, go ahead, prove me wrong!


Red, the color of anger, passion, fear, heat. Blue, the color of sadness, vastness, peace, ice.

Which is your inclination? Which color flashes before you when you’re barraged with provocative actions and statements?

Red hot lover, blue velvet; spicy red tomatoes, mellow blueberries. Which one?

New Haven Aug 05 105
Madison Farmers' Market, September 3rd

New Haven Aug 05 102
Madison Farmers' Market, September 3rd

Someone asked me recently why the events of my recent weeks have not left me feeling angry. Why should they? I can feel anger at politicians and decision makers who affect the lives of others, but what grave harm has befallen me?

Everyone tries with their available resources to make a go of it. People around me are well-intentioned good souls who sometimes don’t quite connect the dots and so the result becomes strangely distorted.

It produces no anger in me at all. Just sadness that this is the way life has to play itself out, that in wanting goodness we so often fail at getting near it. So, blue. My color remains
Ocean blue -- the color of sadness, peace, vast spaces.