Thursday, December 17, 2009

Developing a new sense of self.

Post 393 - The holiday season can be a stressful one for people trying to fit many new demands and events into their already busy, fragmented lives. Maybe a new year would be a good time for them - and for all of us - to reimagine our work, our self and relationships. David Whyte, the best-selling author and poet, says there are three crucial relationships, or marriages, in our lives: the marriage or partnership with a significant other, the commitment we have to our work, and the vows, spoken or unspoken, we make to an inner, constantly developing self.

In The Three Marriages, Whyte argues that it’s not possible to sacrifice one relationship for the others without causing deep psychological damage. Too often, he says, we fracture our lives and split our energies foolishly, so that one or more of these marriages is sacrificed and withers and dies, in the process impoverishing them all.

Whyte isn’t interested in the idea or ideal of balancing these three arenas of life. In fact, he believes that pursuing of this sort of perfection will only lead to more frustration and exhaustion than we can handle. "Most marriages are dynamic, moving frontiers, hardly recognizable to the participants themselves, moving frontiers that occupy edges of happiness and unhappiness all at the same time." The central idea is that people can be (and need to be) loyal and completely committed to more than one thing and/or person at the same time, and don't need to slight one for the other.

Whyte offers the possibility of living them out in a way where they’re not put into competition with one another, where each of the marriages can protect, embolden and enliven the others and help keep us mutually honest, relevant, authentic and alive.

The three marriages are separate yet interwoven life threads, capturing the need to belong to another, to belong to community, and to belong to something larger and deeper within ourselves, all at the same time. Each is vital, and neglecting any one weakens the others. But it's not simply about "balancing" them, Whyte warns. It's a bold lifelong adventure to keep them in an open and honest conversation. When we allow these marriages to learn from and revitalize one another, we risk becoming vulnerable but we also become open to a life that's "innocent, dangerous, and wonderful all at the same time."

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