Friday, March 30, 2012

Will the "Truth" Set You "Free"?

I just read a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1978.  It was published in Playboy, April, 1988.  The story is called "The Bitter Truth."

Two men, Zeinvel and Shmerl, are close friends.  Zeinel frequents brothels; Shmerl does not.  Due to war the two men are separated.  After the war, they meet by chance and are joyfully reunited.  Zeinvel is a broken man, but Shmerl has prospered and has a wife and business in another town.  When Zeinvel meets Shmerl's wife, he recognizes her as a former prostitute.  He has a chance to stay with Shmerl and his family, find a wife, and live a happy and prosperous life; but he believes he is unable to keep his knowledge of Shmerl's wife a secret.  Also, he cannot bear to witness the deception into which his friend had fallen.  Before leaving, he asks Shmerl over and over again:

"Imagine that you were given a choice to know the truth and suffer or to remain deceived and be happy; which would you choose?"

Schmerl refuses to answer, saying it was a silly question and there is no point paying attention to gossip.

This question seems relevant today.  But today, the choice isn't so binary.  We are quite capable of "knowing" the truth and still remaining deceived and happy.

Kurasawa said, "To be an artist, one must not avert one's eyes."  Perhaps to continue to live with optimism, we have to be selective about what we are willing to see.  Or do we?

James Garfield, the 20th US president said, "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."

Monday, March 19, 2012

How Can I Live with My Partner's Flaws?

My friend N. was complaining to me about her husband.  She said, "When I met him, I knew he was 80% of what I was looking for, but sometimes the missing 20% is really hard to live without."  I shared that idea with a number of female friends.
Yesterday, one of them wrote me saying "Sometimes the missing 20% feels like 50%."

Is this a girl way of thinking?

I asked my husband, "What do men do when they don't get what they want in a relationship?  Do they quantify it?  Do they whine to their men friends, drink beer, have affairs, work more?"

"They start conversations," he said, stifling a giggle.  Then added that he wouldn't do that, but imagines there are men who do.

Whether it's 20%, 50% or whatever percent, the thing that is missing (thoughtfulness, conversation, attention, affection, shared values, shared activities, sex, fun, humour, health, creativity, whatever it is) is something we want.  Male, female, gay, straight, we all may experience some dissatisfaction with our current deeply loved, desperately needed, and most significant romantic partner.

The process is then 1) realizing that the person you chose doesn't have it in them to give, is unwilling to give it, or doesn't even understand that there is an "it"; 2) accepting that, yes, we knew going in; and 3) figuring out a way to give it to ourselves, live without it, or find it elsewhere.

And, yes, if possible, start a conversation.  You never know.