Writings

The advantage of marriage


Do you remember the movie 'American beauty', Sam Mendes' master piece from some years ago? I don't really have a favourite film, but American beauty is still to this day definitely one of the best I've ever seen. I still remember the impact it had the first time I saw it, and the second and probably the third one too...
The advantage of marriage
One central part that made it such a great movie in my eyes, and that resurfaced a couple of days ago, was the marriage depicted between Lester Burham and his wife Carolyn Burham. Brilliantly portrayed by Kevin Spacey and Anette Benning
Igor and I had a heart breaking fight, I said some things he said some things...
14 years of being so close together has brought down all boundaries between us and we enjoy a sometimes brutally honest communication which also extends to our fights, meaning, we can ocassionally be hurtful to each other. This fight was one of those, and since we had given eachother a bit of a time out, to allow for the wave of agression to pass, I was having a coffee by myself. Heart racing, anger and vengeance in my thoughts, harsh words at the back of my throat. In the midst of all that dense emotion the image of Lester Burham came to my mind. More specifically Lester's end scene in American Beauty. When Lester dies and he has this last second of life, the one that stretches out for "an ocean of time", that second when he sees and feels all that he is leaving behind.

I always found a detail of that brilliant ending particularly touching. The fact that the last lingering image that we see when the subtle moments of the Lesters life flashes by, is Carolyn, his wife. Their marriage when we visit them was not a happy one, but despite all that has passed and rottened between them she is the one given that last very significant space. The image of love.

While this ocean of time passes for our dying hero, you see Carolyn, in the car outside the house thinking about her broken marriage, which she feels is the reason for all her misery. She has a gun in her handbag, brought to the edge by her own insecurity and she is seriously contemplating killing her husband. She gets out of the car and hears another gun sounding from inside the house. After finding Lester already murdered she enters their bedroom in shock. As the reality of his death dawns upon her she gives up a wail of remorse and deep grief while embracing his shirts in the closet. Once she realises the loss of her partner, she understands how much he and them together truly meant, how all those years together, getting under each others skin, was despite all the misunderstandings, truly love. End scene.
Theirs in contrast to mine was a broken marriage, but one that was still standing even though they were distant and even hateful of the other. And although you never got to witness the many years that brought the marriage to that silent war, you can imagine that all those conflicting emotions just snuck up in the middle of their suburban life, there was probably no big event or high flying drama responsible for the decline, just child raising, mortage payments, unfair bosses and all the other million things that just 'had to' be done. Nothing that either of them knew when they promised to stay together forever, just the unforseen stuff of life that fell in the crack between sickness and health and eventually solidified and became part of the marriage.

That Carolyn detail in the end of that beautiful movie perfectly describes a for me very important part of marriage, and perhaps it's biggest vantage point; that in the end that husband/wife/life partner you choose is your most important player, because they are your most intimate mirror. And as that mirror, they reflect your ugly, needy, jealous, insecure, and petty qualities, as you do for them, so no wonder there is fighting. When that mirror in plain view of the ugly naked truth, loves you even though, you know you have found a good partner, and vice versa. Your partner, whether it's for now or forever is a very important part in your process of self acceptance. When the whole uncensored, X-rated version that looks like shit in the morning and smells like shit in the toilet has been displayed and loved, you are given the opportunity to love back fully, including that part of your partner that accepts you unconditionally.
Your partner can be the bridge for you to fully know and also fully love yourself.

As Lester stayed in my mind my defenses softened while a whole gallery of images of Igor and Us throughout the years passed through my mind. I could relate to Lesters and Carolyn's marriage. Remember that we only got a very short glimpse of it. We stepped in when it had eroded for some time already. Catch me and Igor on a bad day or in the middle of a bad week...like that moment...
I finished my coffee and went home and apologized for whatever hurt I had caused and we made up.

This was not the first time I revisit this scene, have my own personal directors cut of it stored in the software of my mind, for the moments when I want to 'kill' Igor. During the times when Igor drives me mad, insane. When the marriage 'crisis' is really bad, I revisit my American beauty moment. I remember Kevin and imagine what my own 'ocean like' second would be like.
It would probably star my parents, some of my old friends, those few moments on stage that gave me goose bumps, snow, sun and a whole gallery of images containing my beautiful Iomi. But at the end there would be Igor, always Igor. The one I chose to have and to hold, the most Beautiful person I have ever known, the only person who I have actually hit with intent to hurt. The person that has turned my mirror image from an ugly duckling to an if not beautiful, at least unconditionally accepted swan.
To stay with anyone or anything is hard, whether it's a marriage, a friend or choice of occupation, we all know that. But when you stay there is an opportunity for love to mature, for you to mature. Like Lester did. He had a brief but monumental last time on earth, where he learned who he was, how beautiful life can be and how good it feels to really love.
I'll leave you with his last words:

"It's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in this world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much my heart fill up like a balloon that's about to burst and then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it and then it flows right through me like rain and I cant feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life"

 

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