Saturday, December 06, 2008


I just finished this book by Ann Patchett today. It's an interesting story that made me think about politics, race, class, religion, and family.

I quite enjoyed it, especially this passage:

"Bernadette would have been proud of the job Doyle had done with Teddy and Tip, but she never would have accepted his relationship with Sullivan. Whenever they were together, he could hear her, pressing him to show more kindness, pressing for sympathy. Even the wreck Sullivan had made of his life would not have dissuaded his mother from her love. At thirty-three he was still the baby she had held in her arms. That was one of the many things Doyle had found so admirable about his wife: her ability to look at their children and see them at every age. She managed to hang on to every bit of love she had ever felt for them, while Doyle could only see the person they were at that exact moment in time. He didn't have to wonder if Bernadette might have changed if she had lived, if time would have worn her down to a lesser state of unconditional love. He knew it would never have happened."

What a perfect tribute for a mother -- something to aspire to for me. I too often see people, and my life, as they are at this exact moment in time.

This just happened to coincide with something I've been thinking about a lot lately: intimacy.

I have some friendships where we can go months without speaking to each other, but then when we do, it's as if no time has elapsed at all. But then I have other relationships where the intimacy level just is not sustained. I have found myself thinking, "now that we've experienced such-and-such together, surely our relationship will have moved to a new level". But then subsequent interactions will prove me wrong, leaving me perplexed.

What makes the difference? Is it the degree to which we share ourselves with each other? A level of commitment? The amount of time invested in the relationship? Or am I lacking some fundamental ability to sustain intimacy with others? I'm still in a state of confusion over this issue, but if I could hold on to every bit of love I'd ever felt for someone, I'm sure it would really help.


wende said...

this is a beautiful post michelle, i love the idea of holding onto every bit of love. i think that's a wonderful thing to try and aspire to, especially as a mother.

i do however, think that you are capable of sustaining intimacy with others. if you didn't, you wouldn't have such a close friendship with jill and marc and your children.

sometimes with relationships, you either click or you don't. i think it has to do with emotional needs and just plain chemistry. don't stress about the ones you don't click with, just be grateful for the ones you DO. :)

Elizabeth said...

I enjoyed that book a lot. Her Bel Canto is one of my favorite books.

I experience exactly what you have described with one friend. I can't figure it out.

Anonymous said...

I love that passage. I wonder if being able to hang onto every bit of love is what makes mothers so unconditional when it comes to loving their children? I mean my mom held my girls in the hospital and said that it instantly takes her back to holding me in the hospital and brings back all those emotions, and I can totally see that.

I often wonder what you do about being able to be so connected to some and feel such a gap with others. I wonder if it is expectations? Like when you feel like you and "Sally" are really close, only to find out that Sally didn't realize that you felt that way because she doesn't feel as connected. Does that make sense? I wonder if sometimes it is effort too. The ones that time can pass and it feels the same for me are the friendships that have always been low maintenance on both ends, so there isn't pressure to feel the connection. I see a friend from high school a couple times a year when my sister visits and we talk and laugh like old times. But I have people I see often that I can't do that with. It is baffling.

Jill said...

I would really like to be this kind of mother, but don't think I am. I feel like I'm good at loving the core of who my kids are, but sometimes get flustered by their current behavior. I still love them, but I don't think I ooze it as much as I should.

As for friendships, I think are all different kinds and some of them are more surface or temporary and others are life-long and nurturing. They're all good in their own way.

patsy said...

I love this quote.
I'm pretty sure I'm not that kind of mother- but want to be.

I think relationships take time. Depending on the stage of life you are in - for me anyway- I haven't always had the time to put into relationships, besides my own family. I am learning (finally) that everything has it's season. Some people are willing to put in the time & others just dont' have it, or don't know how to give it.

this is a beautiful post. I love this blog & look forward to reading it everyday!

Amie said...

I love this post... what a great thing to think about...hanging on to every bit of love you have ever felt... I'm sure it would change how we view most of our relationships.

I tend to not worry about this so much with friends.... either it happens naturally or it never does... I guess I just enjoy the good friends I do have and don't worry so much about the rest.

I think about this a lot more with my family. I feel like the ups and downs in intimacy are more temperamental and take more work with those we live with. Because Jimmy and I are so comfortable together we can slip into co-parents/partners in life but I see how much more fulfilled we are when we make an effort to connect. Same with the kids.... I easily slip into task master and forget to be kind and loving just trying to get through the day... that is definitely not how I want them to think of our relationships.

Susan said...

Fine advice and I want to take the challenge.


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