Drunk Buddhist clowns?

problems between ex-wives and stepmomsIn "Peace is Every Step", Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suggests periodically checking in with loved ones and asking, "Do I understand you enough?  Or am I making you suffer?  Please tell me so that I can learn to love you properly.  I don't want to make you suffer, and if I do so because of my ignorance, please tell me so that I can love you better, so that you can be happy."

For some reason, these words have been ringing in my ears for weeks now.  I finally went and found my copy of the book so I could reread that section (no, I did not have those words memorized, verbatim - and I don't recall them sounding so formal either, but they still work).

This blog focuses on creating better relationships between ex-wives and stepmothers, but by proxy, there are also many other relationships taking place inside these two families.  There are the relationships between the women and the children (sounds like we're about to get into lifeboats).  The men and the children.  The children and the children.  And the relationships of the adults with each other.  Ex-wife and ex-husband.  And in our case, there's also ex-wife's BF and stepmom; BF and ex-husband.

If this were one of those elementary-school quizzes where you draw lines from items on one column of the page to matching items in another column, we'd sure have a lot of lines, almost like those maps in airline magazines showing where the company flies, criss-crossing the world.  You start imagining all that air traffic and it sure seems like there should be more mid-flight collisions, doesn't it?

So I guess I've been asking myself: how well do I love all these people?  Am I loving them based on what *they* seem to need and want?  Or based on what *I* think they need, what I feel comfortable giving them?  How much are my actions based on *getting* what I want from them, in return?  A secret bargain, of sorts?

The answers aren't always pretty.

And for my own dignity's sake, I won't get into specifics.... (Damn, the readers say.  Spill your guts!  I need something lurid and entertaining to go with my morning coffee!)

I do know that life is made much, much more interesting when you have two teenagers living in the house (with the younger learning from the older's behavior), you're still close friends with your ex-husband (and pieces, or people, from your past occasionally rise up out of nowhere and highlight the life you used to share), you genuinely love and care for your ex-husband's wife (and want to support their family unit and partnership), and you have your own romantic relationship to balance, along with all the elements listed above.

And then there are all the friendships too: best friends, close-as-a-blanket friends, "middle" friends; people you'd love to see more but never seem to be able to; past paramours you still care about.

Are we all clowns in the circus then, juggling in the middle of the ring, under hot lights?  Are we scary clowns?  Are we happy clowns?  Drunk clowns?

How often do we drop the ball?

Just posing lots of questions.  Some of them ridiculous, some of them absolutely serious (but not morose, that wouldn't help anyone).

How much do you altruistically give to those you love, no strings attached?  In what ways are you stubbornly holding on to outdated ideas about what you feel is "appropriate" to give to others, even though they keep trying to to tell you otherwise?

What are you trying to *get* from people?

There is much to be gained from trying to understand what other people need and want, from their perspective, first....

And that's what love really is, isn't it?

Easily and simply, from the heart.



Michele said...


thanks for this reminder of how to love other people. I think it is also a good comment on how to love one's self - how to listen to your own heart and hear what it is saying. This came at an opportune moment for me today! Thank you so much for writing this!



June 4, 2007 11:38 AM  

Jen said...

Glad to hear it, Michele.. You're welcome. And you're right: all the same questions could be asked about your own relationship to your self. (Although the clown-options start shrinking, perhaps....)

Are we kind and compassionate, or exacting and critical?

warm wishes, Jen

June 4, 2007 12:27 PM  

penny said...

what Foxy photos of you gals! Love the concept - it is needed I daresay. I stopped in briefly to visit my ex's wife today and it is indeed nice to be nice to each other.

June 4, 2007 7:00 PM  

Kim said...


Will you be my therapist? :)

xo Kim

August 6, 2007 4:47 PM



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