Thursday, August 16, 2012

Making Lymeade

Ma'ikwe and I had a heart-to-heart talk this morning about the strain in our partnership. While it's not easy to sort out how much of this is triggered by the onset of Ma'ikwe's struggle with chronic Lyme disease, and how much is revealed by her battle with a long-term debilitating illness, problems are problems however they're revealed.

The pivotal issue we worked on today was my emotional engagement about how her health issues are affecting me. Having witnessed the gradual diminishment of her energy level and how much she needs to focus on recovery, there has been a concomitant reduction in her ability to initiate contact with me, or to inquire about how I'm doing. (To be sure, there is still a substantial amount of sharing that happens spontaneously between us; I'm just reporting a significant drop off in what Ma'ikwe initiates about how I'm doing.)

In my attempts to adapt to this change, I made a parallel cut back on what I initiated about myself, for fear of putting her in a bind about needing to raise her energy to be present for what I'm sharing when she may not have that energy to give. From my perspective I was trying to be sensitive to her energy budget and not invite her into examinations where she'd either be at risk of: a) feeling bad for turning down my invitation; or b) risking exhaustion for rising to the occasion. I didn't want to put that pressure on her.

While that may sound good, my curtailing my sharing has had the consequence of Ma'ikwe not feeling as connected with me. Yuck! While she was right this morning to point out that she's never turned down an invitation to discuss what's happening in the relationship, I have seen her overspend her energy budget and crash afterwards. I've been sacred of encouraging her to do too much, and don't want to be seen as selfish (asking her to place her health at risk to attend to my issues).

Ma'ikwe made it abundantly clear how important it is to her that I not edit what I share with her, as the strength of our relationship is directly proportional to our emotional sharing. In an effort to be kind and appropriate, I was inadvertently starving the connection! Mind you, I was not declining to respond to a direct invitation. Rather I was not initiating in response to Ma'ikwe not initiating. Boy, does this get messy!

When we got past the hurt feelings surrounding this dynamic (it was a bumpy ride) I was able to share what's been going for me—including my fear that she might die on me in the night—and we were able to break through to a much more tender and flowing place. Whew.

Because Ma'ikwe and I don't live together (she's at Dancing Rabbit; I'm at Sandhill Farm, three miles away) we're ever mindful of ways we can interweave our lives. In that regard we've been successful in developing a joint career in process consulting, but the viability of that is challenged by the Lyme disease, which makes it onerous for Maikwe to travel.

In casting about for what she might do instead, she been inspired to focus on Lyme disease patient advocacy. Not finding it easy to get the information or support she craves herself, she's been inspired to develop that for others and it's given her a worthy cause to devote herself to that's within her energy range and doesn't call for travel. Having been dealt a bag of lemons, I love that she's determined to make lemonade. Or this case, Lymeade.

Ma'ikwe admitted today that she's worried that this new calling may lead her away from our marriage (because I don't identify with Lyme, this isn't my calling) but this wasn't a trigger for me. If she ultimately decides she's better off moving away from our partnership—because Lyme advocacy is where she can be most of service in the world and I'm in the way—then she'll be leaving me for the right reasons and I wouldn t want it any other way.

While I fervently hope that won't be what happens, and that we can find a way to stay strong in our partnership even if we're marching to different drumbeats, I am not afraid of the things that are outside my control. It takes all the energy I have to focus on the things that I can influence. My challenge is to stay vulnerable and transparent, and see what happens.

Who knew that partnering could be this hard?


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