From Guest Blogger – Deanna Rohrsheim
Guest Blogger Deanna Rorshiem
New age philosophy suggests that everything is a choice and I am one hundred per cent responsible for the position I find myself in. Sometimes this gives me great comfort and other times this idea shits me to tears. It’s not that simple.
Jean Paul Sartre proposes we are thrown into a world not of our choosing. What if I was thrown into a village where my survival depended on me getting married and having several children? Would I be any more or less satisfied? Would I even be the same soul travelling through this time and space? Would I have a desire for a different life?
You see I was thrown into a rich country. A relatively progressive country. A country of strong, hardworking, FREE women. I grew up in the 80’s with Madonna rolling around on the TV telling me to not settle for second best. Telling me to express myself. I listened. My Mum worked full time and my Dad cooked and did the dishes most nights. Liberation was handed to me on a platter.
‘We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact.’ Sartre
Single. Married. Divorced. Gay. Straight. Hipster. Flipster. We live in a polarizing world. It’s one or the other. What if we were healing; learning; growing; discovering; travelling; loving; communing and connecting with those around us? Doesn’t this feel lighter? More fluid. Enjoyable even. Not harsh labels that separate people from each other but ways of being that support life as an adventure rather than an end point.
In MY head I’m a dancer, gardener, counsellor, artist, organiser, cook, mother, sister, friend, lover, goddess, protector, space traveller, rock star …. the list goes on. It’s my list no one can deny. The Census does not consider my list. Nor does the government or the bank. To them I’m two-dimensional. A tick box with one income, no dependents able to borrow a certain amount of money as defined by them.
One thing I know for certain is that I’m not alone. Census data shows lone-person households at 24% of total Australian households in 2011 – a significant increase from 11% in 1961. And I know some of these 24%. They’re awesome! So why is it that I feel somehow feel ‘less than’ as a single person? So why is it that in my weakest moments, in the dark, I feel inadequate?
The quest to ‘be IN a relationship’ is omnipresent, like being single is an illness, less than. In fact, it’s an industry! Where would Hollywood be without the rom com? But haven’t relationships changed? Not the essence of intimacy but the structure and expectations of how we ‘do’ relationships.
Sixty years ago, roles were tightly defined and we had little choice about who did what. Today, anything goes really. But what is that anything? It seems to me we’re still in the process of working it out. And it’s a bit clumsy and a bit awkward as we (struggle to) pull away from an historical social construct.
Marriage. For thousands of years marriage has provided humanity with security, a boundary, a public commitment that makes it very hard to get out of – if indeed you discover it’s much harder than you thought and the butterflies of love and excitement turn to dread.
For many, this institution feels outdated, socially and politically constrained. Is there an alternative? My sense is we all know, deep down, that stereotypical scenarios can be degrading and quite comical – even though I still dream of my partner mowing the lawns while I cook dinner (in high heels). It’s ingrained in me! But I have no desire to change my name. Can we be modern and old school at the same time?
The basic problem with my love relationships with women is that my standards are so high – and they apply equally to both of us. I seek full-blast mutual intensity, fully fledged mutual acceptance, full-blown mutual flourishing, and fully felt peace and joy with each other. This requires a level of physical attraction, personal adoration, and moral admiration that is hard to find.’ Cornel West
People say they want freedom but are we ready? Do we even know what freedom means? I don’t think so, cause we’ve never lived it. We’ve lived a version of it – a socially and politically constrained version of it. And everyone’s got a different definition of what this means.
If we are to become truly free, then relationships will look and be done very differently from the past. How about open relationships? For most, the idea is very scary and in fact people in open relationships can be alienated.
I only know of one couple that have created an open relationship and wow do they inspire me! The negotiation and communication skills that I have witnessed to ensure all parties are psychologically safe and well are impressive. There’s no question of their love and deep care for each other. Imagine the conversations that are opened up, the vulnerabilities that are exposed that for most monogamous couples – rarely enter into. It’s hard work!
Conversely, how easy it can be to fall into the trap of taking each other for granted. I see it all the time. All the things that don’t get said. The assumptions and the false sense of security that can raise its ugly head from time to time. You and I both know people that have ended their relationship to the utter surprise and heartbreak of the other.
In fact I did it once. I was the Leaver. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. When it all came down to it – the future I looked into was a rocky road. A road where two people were not really ever going to be in sync. So I ended it. Not because of lack of love, on the contrary – it was a pragmatic decision. It allowed me to stop the ‘if only’s’. Didn’t hurt any less.
While its obvious human beings are designed to be in communities, in communication and connected with others, (its how we learn and grow), it’s equally important to have time alone. And I don’t mean a night out with the girls/lads. I mean time to reflect and transform unhelpful thoughts and feelings without the demands and expectations of others. For some, like me, this can take months and years.
‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’ Aristotle.
The greatest gift I’ve been given is time. Time to know thyself. Time to willingly investigate the dark places. Time to explore what the hell I’m doing here! These processes are not pretty and often very messy but it’s paid off. Literally thousands of dollars I’ve spent on educating and developing myself, which had I chosen a different path may not have been possible or as straight-forward as it has been. I’m very clear not everyone has this opportunity.
‘I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.’ Rosa Parks
Where to from here? I’ve worked out that focusing on become more mindful, more compassionate, more tolerant, more flexible, more attuned to what’s going on for others is a path to peace and contentment.
So I’m going to keep walking down this path while I continue to do good in the world. In my mind I am ‘in relationship’ with lots of people all of the time and it’s fascinating. As for sex, well that’s another matter and I’m saving that for the next blog. x
From Deanna Rohrsheim – Art Therapist, group facilitator and counsellor for children, “Design, Transform, Integrate”