Saturday, May 28, 2016

Visiting with Jibran

I just enjoyed a three-day visit with Jibran (Ma'ikwe's 19 year-old son) who swung by Duluth at the end of his sophomore year at Shimer College in Chicago before embarking on his summer adventures at Dancing Rabbit. I'm was touched.

In fact, Jibran's visit underscores a precious thing that Ma'ikwe managed in the context of our dissolved marriage. While there was plenty of awkwardness around her decision to end our intimate relationship 16 months ago, she has been scrupulous about distinguishing between what she and I had going from the relationships I had developed with various members of her family. That is, even as she got clear about not wanting to continue with me as her partner, she did not ask her family to cut ties with me. Instead, she left that up to each person to sort for themselves.

To be sure, there is no rule book for this and it plays out in a wide variety of ways when partners separate. In this instance I am pleased to report that, with care, a number of us have been able to find our way into ongoing communication and connection even as Ma'ikwe and I have been diverging. As far as I'm concerned the credit for that goes to both Ma'ikwe and to her family.

I don't try to process what happened with Ma'ikwe when I'm communicating with her family, and I don't ask her family to take sides. We just stay in touch and try to build on whatever good thing we had already started. It is directly between that person and me, and will grow on the strength of its own vitality, or wither if the juice dries up—just like any other relationship.

The reason I am focusing on this is because it's relatively rare, and because it can be a building block of world peace. It is so easy to take sides and to fall into the trap of conflating the condemnation of other as an expression of love and support for a dear one (the fallacy of life as a zero-sum game). Yet the Ludwig clan is not doing that and my spirits are buoyed by their courage and clarity. 

It is not so much because my current connections with her mother, father, stepmother, and son are so dynamic (there are moments when they are and moments when they aren't) as it is simply because they are possible and there is no need to create an even greater rent in the fabric of my life so that Ma'ikwe can pass safely through. That hole was big enough and we can all move on.

This is precious because there is so much about intimacy that can enrich the relationships it touches and this need not be lost as collateral damage when the primary intimacy shifts. In the instance of Jibran, I have lived with him for half of his life (Ma'ikwe and I got together as a couple in Oct 2005, when Jibran was only eight). I was part of his overnight ninth birthday celebration the following spring when we went to White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo in southern NM, and frolicked at Faywood Hot Springs for teepee camping that evening. Because of how Ma'ikwe and I are managing our separation, Jibran and I can still cherish those memories and they do not need to be excised, much less exorcised.

When I was in Salt Lake City last week, by wild happenstance Ali (Ma'ikwe's stepmom) was also in town doing some genealogical research at the vast Mormon archives. She and Jim (Ma'ikwe's dad) live in St Thomas ON and it was just a fluke that I learned from Jim that Ali would be visiting the capital of Utah at the same time I was. While it did not work out for us to get together (I was there for too short a stay and needed to protect my rest so that I could protect my energy for the workshop that was my raison d'etre for being in town), we're setting up a let's-catch-up phone call next week (with Jim, too) and I'm looking forward to it.

Since I was diagnosed with cancer in late January I have received a number of encouraging notes from both Ma'ikwe and Kay (her mother) who have been following the journey of my health challenges and treatment.

Over the course of our three days together, Jibran and I had a chance to talk about many things. After two years of college, he intends to take time off next year to better explore intentional community as a lifestyle option. This coming year, for the first time, he will be there by choice, rather than because that's where his mother lives. As a Millennial trying to figure out his future, he's taking a pause from running up college debt to contemplate what future makes the most sense.
 Jibran caught up on sleep, read a bunch, went for walks with Susan every day, played a handful of board games with Susan and me, and helped me sort through some boxes of my stuff that were dropped off in Susan's garage a fortnight ago (after having been stored for the last year in the loft at Moon Lodge that used to be his bedroom at Dancing Rabbit). 

It was a delight to see him.

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