The other night us Mahayana riders took a break from the Zen Den for a special occasion. J's brother (since we've all been introduced to him already, let's just call him Burt for brevity's sake) invited J, the MIL and I over to his girlfriend's parents' house. Let's call Burt's girlfriend ... Clothilde.
Now I don't know Clothilde all that well but I've liked what I've gathered from speaking with her in a social setting. Even when she and Burt surprised us with 3-D Avatar tickets and that social setting was a movie theater in Santa Clara that I was dragged to by an overeager J who
I asked this same question two nights ago when I found myself, a Corona in hand, sitting in Clothilde's parents' house, a McMansion of sorts in the hills of Santa Cruz. The kind of house tucked near the end of a windy intestinal tract of backroads that make the property cheap enough to build on for the nouveau riche but too difficult a trek for Google executives or the like looking for a convenient summer home. Nevertheless Clothilde's parents had a beautiful partial view of Monterey Bay through the giant arched window in their kitchen that housed a six-burner viking stove that would have made Gian Carlos or Giada or whatever her name is on Food Network jealous.
As I pondered the massive thing Clothilde's father -- a salty old dog of a man with the crass good nature of a grizzled Vietnam vet -- clomped into the kitchen in his shitkickers and asked if I wanted anything else to drink, pointing at my empty Corona bottle.
"Sure," I said. Pointing to his glass of what looked like diluted blood slash cherry cough syrup, I had to ask. "What are you having?"
"Wine," he exclaimed. "I've got this or Pee-not Greeee-gee-o." I had to admit, the mountain man slash biker accent was growing on me.
"I'll take the Pinot," I said, smiling at his glass of what I was convinced was cosmo mix.
After he poured me a glass of wine we stepped out onto the back patio, he clomping in those amazing shitkickers behind me, the two of us taking our seats in a large circle that included both our families.
I soon found out that Clothilde's father was in construction and Clothilde's mother worked as an admin clerk of sorts down at the county courthouse; the land that housed that giant viking stove was given to Clothilde's father by his parents for free. Clothilde herself, turning a ripe 24 this year, just finished grad school and was currently taking her certification tests to be a teacher. For what Burt wanted, it all sounded perfect. He fit in seamlessly with Clothilde's family; they loved him. We all seemed to get a long with them (well, as much as a spiritual hippie, her conservative son and his deranged writer wife could), and it dawned on me: This wasn't just any dinner. This was the pre-proposal dinner. Right? If it wasn't then this fragile, delusional heart can't take this kind of anticipation.
And here's why: It's no secret that Burt wants a family. He'll be 30 this year and it's not like he's scared of the whole marriage establishment -- he proposed to his last girlfriend, who I should add was no walk in the park, as most recovering drug addicts slash basketcases generally are. But Burt stayed with his ex for years, even moving in together and enduring the years of emotional abuse she put him through, until it finally culminated in a breakup right around the time J and I got married and Burt saw just how dysfunctional his relationship was compared to ours.
So my question is, what is he waiting for? Clothilde is head over heels for him. So are her parents and her dad's shitkickers. And my good ol' MIL loves Clothilde (though she has yet to introduce her to the Tantric Sex manual I've been handed to read, so obvi I'm still her #1 daughter-in-law). Everyone wants it to happen, but when I corner Burt about it he says he's got to finish school (he wants to be an architect), save up money, blah blah blah. Excuses. All of them. None of this stopped him from proposing before. So why all the fear?
Now I know it's none of my business but life is too short to tread with such trepidation. Sometimes you need to be brave and follow your gut, especially if you're one of those types who thinks "this can't be right -- it's too easy." Listen, contrary to popular belief not everything that makes you happy has to be hard or mired in layers of complication. Some things really can come easily. I feel like we're taught in our early years to expect the opposite sex to play games, that we ourselves have to play these games to "win" and luck out with the right person. But do we really? Or are we, by and large, just buying into the bs? In trying to "win" have we already lost?
Relationships take work, but the point is they shouldn't feel like work 24/7. And some just come easier than others. But all this raises the question: How complicated is too complicated?
Many relationships start off easy enough, but when the gloves come off, when you really get to know the other person -- morning breath, manipulative tendencies and all -- when does it start to get over-complicated? And when do you lose sight of yourself and what you wanted because you're trying to make up for the other persons' inherent flaws that are all just neon warning signs pointing to incompatibility? It's important to be aware of when something is working versus when it isn't (as in most things in life), but it's hard to do when you've got issues like loneliness and age looming in the shadows of your insecurities. And these were all Burt's problems before with his ex. The over-complications, the excuses for her poor, abusive behavior, the fact that it was easier just staying with her than breaking up a 4-year+ relationship and being alone again.
But life with Clothilde is different. J says he is the happiest he's ever seen him. I can sense how fulfilled he feels. Now all that's holding him back is hesitation, fear, that things feel too easy. They'll be celebrating their 2-year anniversary this year. For the love of God, just get married already I want to yell, shaking Burt around by his neck like a rabid chicken.
Maybe I'm just getting used to smelling like a patchouli-scented wood sprite, or maybe it was watching How to Strip for your Man the other night with the MIL when I realized people tend to over-complicate life, tend to spend so many days and years stuffing life into their little box of expectations and standards. And of course every expectation and standard and goal can't possibly be met so malaise sets in that your life isn't perfect because of A, B or C. I'm guilty of doing this, and I know others are too.
But maybe it's time to stop the comparisons and stop the hyper expectations. There is no perfect woman, or perfect man, or perfect job or perfect life. It's about finding what's perfect for you, and for some -- like Burt in this instance -- what's perfect for him (Clothilde) came minus all the heartache and complications he was used to in a relationship.
Don't expect that the path to every single dream has to be fraught with peril or games or heartache. It's true that failure -- in any endeavor in life -- is always lurking around a corner, but it's liberating to live without fear of failure, even better to reach out and shake its hand, since that means you actually gave your endeavor a try instead of just dreaming slash talking about it. If we embrace life for what it's all about (love, death, some successes, some failures) instead of constantly forcing it to be exactly what we want or expect, I think we'd be happier. It'd be easier to ride the ebbs and flows.
So Burt, I know you don't read this blog at all, and would most likely be embarrassed by my stream of consciousness about your love life, but bite the bullet already. Plug your hair in to hers or whatever you have to do and make it work. All happiness does not come with hardship.