“It must be lovely to be able to bake like this” I said to my friend ‘D,’ savouring the moment of being in the Alice and Wonderland style “Treacle and Co” tea rooms, and every morsel of the delicious home made Victoria sponge in an hour stolen from household chores on a Saturday afternoon. ” I always aspire to baking” I added. D quickly retorted “Yes, but don’t. What were those cakes you made supposed to be? Rock cakes? But they were actually rocks” I smiled as I remember D heroically swallowing down a couple of challenging bites before driving to the local shop to return with a box of French Fancies.
An hour later, after tea, in D’s flat watching a film of the river Ganges, two river birds performed a courtship dance. The narrator describing how this dance was being performed by birds in a long established relationship. Such birds mate for life and dance the courtship dance regularly to cement their relationship. “That’s a rubbish dance” said D, triggering laughter in me as his comment was so banal when compared to his intricate knowledge of all things geographical and ecological which he had articulately shared with me (like it or not) up until that point
In my platonic friendship with my dear friend D we are each blessed to have a very close experience to that of unconditional acceptance. I accept – and even enjoy- his particular humour. For his part he has not only been both witness and guinea pig to my appalling attempts at baking, but also to my more intimate insecurities and errors and never judges, yet neither does he conceal his authentic response to what I share with him. And that feels okay, because I trust that whatever aspects of myself I reveal to him, he accepts me in my true colours.
Reflecting since on the birds in the film I thought of how different to them and to my platonic friendship with D our romantic relationships as human beings often can be. We are keen on the initial courtship dance, when attracted by the colourful plumage of the other we dance our very best dance and draw physically close, carried along perhaps by the transcendent qualities of sexual attraction and falling in love. We often find the steps of “mating for life” a little trickier to master. Moving into a deeper more psychologically and emotionally intimate relationship requires a different type of dance. More of a tango where relationship evolves to new levels to include the push pull that we see in that passionate dance, which is symbolically the dance of relationship. It requires taking the risk of our partner seeing us in our true colours which may not always be as pretty as we would like them to be. It involves taking the risk that we will encounter anger, disappointment, sadness, fear of rejection and abandonment… we need to have courage to move through a myriad of feelings and emotions.
Sadly, so many potentially beautiful, joyous and delightful dances stop at this point of truly beginning to know our partner or, often most scarily, taking the risk of allowing ourselves to truly be known. I remember my first private supervisor teaching me this; ” in order to experience true intimacy we need to allow ourselves be present. To be in the moment without fears from the past or fears for the future”. In my therapeutic work I have found this to be so true. If we have been hurt by a previous partner we fear the same pain should we allow ourselves to be truly seen in our less than perfect colours. Or in our minds we leap steps and steps ahead to the future and imagining that the hurt and pain of rejection will cripple us once more, we reject our partner before they reject us, pretending to them and to ourselves that actually, we always preferred to dance to our own tune, anyway.
Maybe when fear from the past, or from the future, freezes us or cause us to take flight, then we might truly call that a “rubbish dance.” ?