I have a friend… let’s call her Maggie… who is the second child born in her family. The first child, a boy named Fred, died before Maggie was born and has always been known to Maggie by his absence in her life. For Maggie, Fred has always been the constant presence of absence. This leads me to wonder about the relationships that we have with others in our life. Are those relationships marked by our presence or by our heart’s absence? It’s possible to be in a relationship simply because two people have gotten used to being together, and yet at the same time either one or both are not really present in the relationship!
What brings this to mind is a scene that occurred recently in the supermarket. As I went up and down the aisles I kept coming across a young couple who were bickering… about what, I don’t know. At one point I heard the guy ask testily, “If I went away, would you miss me?” The girl took the box of cereal she had been examining and chucked it at his head, yelling, “How can I miss you if you won’t GO AWAY?!” I quickly headed for another aisle! She wants him to be present by being absent! How nuts is that? So what does it mean to be present? Just because two people sleep in the same bed, share the same meal or have sex together does not mean that both are present! It’s all too possible for the body to be in one place while the heart is in another! By present I mean that the mind, the heart and the body are in union.
Sometimes we do things in order to just get by. At what point does getting by become the norm? At what point does an acquaintance become a relationship? At what point does frustration become the desire to “go away”? Being present also has to do with how one views a relationship. Is it the ground on which we experience our life expanding, or of our life contracting and restricting? James Cabell once commented, “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” In our relationships are we an optimist or a pessimist? Do we feel the relationship is the best of relationships or do we fear that it is all that it will ever be?