Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things falling apart

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats wrote this poem about life after WWI, and as I learned from reading Kevin Smokler's book Practical Classics, the phrase and idea of "things falling apart" has been the subject of much art, literature and music since this poem was published.  

I might argue that this stanza could be an analogy for the implosion of a marriage. 

I am reading the novel What Alice Forgot, which is about a woman who falls, hits her head and forgets 10 years of her life, including the fact that she is in the midst of a divorce.  Gwyneth and Chris announced their split.  A friend of mine told me this week she and her husband are breaking up.

So, of course, my mind is on marriage and "conscious uncoupling" (whatever the heck that means).

The funny thing about this much-made-fun-of phraseology by Paltrow is that it is the exact opposite of what happens in a marriage that makes things fall apart.  While D and I are as happily married as two people can be who have lived with each other day in and day out for 16 years, when I think about our rough patch almost 2 years ago, it was due, in some measure, to unconsciously being married.

Being married, especially after multiple children come into the picture, becomes like driving in one's car to work.  You arrive but you haven't the foggiest how you got there.  It is an automatic that requires little to no effort on your brain's consciousness to make it happen.  I think the same thing happens in marriage.  Suddenly you've been married a dozen years and have no clue how it happened, where the time went, and how you got to be the person you are right at this moment.  It is, essentially, unconscious coupling.

Some people say marriage should be easy, while others say marriage takes a lot of hard work.  I wonder if marriage was easier to swallow and endure when life, and therefore marriage, was cut short due to disease, starvation and the perils of childbirth.  Perhaps this is why so many people I know who have divorced or needed marriage counseling do so around the 14-18 year mark.  Nature is wanting someone to kick off, but modern life makes us just keep.on.going.

Plus, a focus on survival tends to make one not terribly interested in or aware of happiness.  Happiness is a luxury we can afford these days, and sometimes happiness does not coincide with the rigors of marriage.  And when I say rigors, I mean dullness, monotony, and annoyances.

I am always saddened when marriages end, even if they should end, even if they started out on the least solid of footing.  It is a death.  Even when there is relief that the marriage is over, as there would be if a loved one had been gravely ill and in terrific pain, there is grief at the loss of something you had, a way in which you lived, an identity that had been with you for many years.
Marriage is much like parenting, or at least the rigors of marriage become very similar to the rigors of parenting once you become a parent.  Insert the word "marriage" and this clip pretty well sums it up.

Like with parenting, I used to feel pretty smug about marriage.  There is nothing like raising an actual child (or children) to force one to eat tremendous amounts of crow, and there is nothing like living through a rough patch to knock one for a bit of a loop.  My experience has helped me understand better what it might be like for a couple that isn't just going through a temporary blip but has years of prickliness and fighting and resentment built up and cannot find a way to reconcile.  A couple that has long lost the ability to like each other.

That has to be a special ring of hell unto itself.

No comments: