I often think about the way the world likes to define narratives and create artificial dichotomies of good and bad. Often I think those human constructions blind us. We can't even imagine other choices because the lines of the status quo narrative are so entrenched. I think of this often with economic systems. The narrative says capitalism linked with democracy and continued growth indicates a "good" country. Anything else is "bad". The thinking has rubbed out nearly everything else to our and the environment's detriment. There are many ways to run an economy or a country or an individual life. Unlimited ways. We just need to peek over the edge of the box they've thrown us in.
This essay by Melissa Broder made me think about that. It's a touchingly written account about how she and her husband deal with his chronic unidentified illness. That dealing with also includes having an open relationship. It seems a crazy option to most of us, a dangerous emotional game. A society no-no. After reading, and considering my current circumstances, I've been thinking a lot about how society and its pre-defined narratives, its boxes, impose themselves on our most personal aspects of our lives- our love, our relationships.
I always think of myself as someone who lives by my own rules, a life decided by me only. What a shock it is to realise that the most important part of my life is actually well defined by society, not me, and I seem to have accepted it without a thought, so unlike the person I thought I was.
A marriage is a monogamous relationship between two people. Anything outside of that is wrong, society says. But when you read Melissa Broder's essay you realise how loving it is to allow the person you've dedicated your life to the chance to be happy. To assist them to find their own path to happiness. A long term relationship of any kind must at its basic foundation be a safe, loving, and forgiving place that allows each person to go out into the world and be all that they can be and still know that coming home they will find love and kindness. No matter what. How that safe haven is organised must be allowed to be as unique as the two (or even more) individuals require. The choices of how it is created therefore must be endless.
But that's not the marriage box that we're given by society. The one we're given is about rules. About control. There is only one way that safety and love can exist- in a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. Breaking those rules means the marriage is a sham.
The problem with the rigid walls those boxes are made of is that us humans, we're malleable and soft, with curves not edges. This beautiful essay helped me see that even more. Like all exceptional writing it has helped me see the world differently.
The other essay that I read only last night that I must share is this one by Liberian writer Hawa Jande Golakai. Hawa is known as a crime writer, writing under the name HJ Golakai. Her book The Lasarus Effect was very well received, and her latest The Score is getting much praise as well.
This essay is one of the most touching and honest I've read in a long time. It is about her life in Liberia and out, as a refugee from war (she once lived in Botswana during that time) and her recent emotional war with ebola. Beautiful writing by one of the continent's very talented young writers.
" Guilt bites a chunk out of me. I kick it in the teeth. It goes away. Well, retreats. Into a dark corner, where it squats, eyeing me, gnawing on something I didn’t give it permission to eat. I don’t lock it up or put it on a leash. I want it to come back and harass me. We have a weird relationship."
Do yourself a big favour, go and read it.