My wife and I have been meaning to write a piece about relationships for the One Billion Rising San Diego blog. If you’re reading this, we did it.
It wasn’t easy.
It took a combined 20+ years of therapy (individually and as a couple) and a bunch of other crap to get here. Because we both have baggage – and it doesn’t match.
When we came to realize that, we realized that there is no such thing as an argument or a fight (or what has been come to be known in our house as an “Oh-my-God-you-didn’t” fight). There are just rules that we both break from time to time. And, when we’re breaking the rules, we’re each in our own lonely world, at our own lonely age and, being there, we cannot understand that we are adults who love each other. We are.
We are adults who love each other.
But, we are also the children who didn’t get what they needed growing up. Part of us still stands frozen in those moments when we had to survive at all costs.
I’m the crying baby and she’s the dour teen.
This is not a match made in Heaven.
I have realized that the crying baby inside of me shouldn’t be the one who drives, cooks, has sex, and is married, and my wife has realized the same thing about the dour teen inside of her. So why do we take them out from time to time and let them run our lives?
I cannot answer that. I only know that when I get scared, I revert to the person I was, the person I needed to be when I had to figure out how to keep going in a family in which it was okay to yell, demean, defile, de-everything except do what it took to be a mature and valuable member of society.
This reversion to childhood survival instincts is something I recognize in other people, especially when it comes time to learn difficult things. As a surf and flying trapeze instructor, I could often tell when fear is taking someone over.
When people are scared, they need everything except an impatient instructor yelling at them. For me, if I was in their place – that place of fear of the unknown – I would see my mother’s abuse. They see…whatever or whomever scares them as much or more than the idea of flying on a trapeze. They revert to whatever age they were when that inciting incident happened. As an instructor, I can deal with them – as long as my own crying baby is tucked safely away.
Because crying babies can do many things, but teaching trapeze is not one of them.
Teaching flying trapeze is ultimately about teaching people to act through fear. I remember telling people that fear is the easy part. Everyone experiences fear. Running from fear is a normal reaction, because we are scared. However, if we choose to act through fear, we become courageous. I congratulated hundreds of kids on being courageous – and many, many adults who found themselves confronted by their inciting-incident-driven children.
This process was such a common occurrence, that I could eventually tell within thirteen seconds of someone approaching a trapeze rig how old their hurt child was, how much fear was being expended, whether the abuse was physical, emotional or both…
Eventually, it got to be too much.
Besides, I found myself in another, much scarier pursuit: the act of staying in a relationship. This idea was far more terrifying to me than giant ocean waves, or big trapeze rigs, or trying to kill myself with substances or with automobiles or by pissing off angry drunks.
Accepting love, accepting life, being soft instead of hard, asking for love takes courage.
Sweet Mother of Pearl, someone should write an action/adventure flick about how dangerous it feels to be on the kiddie ride when you’re hard wired for the roller coaster, to constantly fight the love we so desperately need.
Thankfully, I have a partner who understands me – when she’s not a dour teen. And thankfully, I believe that it’s all worth it – when I’m not a crying baby. We will undo years of formative abuse and decades of wrong belief because we have decided to put our rings together and use our power for good.
It works sometimes, too.
Kevin Olson Six and Jennie Olson Six are actors and writers in San Diego and members of the production team for One Billion Rising. Earlier this year, Jennie’s play Welcome Home was workshopped and performed through Playwrights’ Project at New Village Arts. As an actor, she was most recently seen in Persuasion at Onstage Playhouse. Kevin was the 2009-11 Playwright in Residence at Swedenborg Hall and his play Love Negotiated was published by Next Stage Press in 2012. As an actor, Kevin was most recently seen in Holiday Spirits at Scripps Ranch Playhouse.
Jennie and Kevin will be dancing on February 14, 2013.
There is such truth is this sentence: “Accepting love, accepting life, being soft instead of hard, asking for love takes courage.”
Thank you for sharing your amazing story and for being part of my journey in learning to accept love.
Fantastic article! Thanks so much for sharing your true relationship growth story! And from my one time experience on the trapeze, you have hit it on the head of what happens up there. Was exactly my story, and to move through the stuck fear is a great experience. Thanks, Kevin. I hope I get to meet you both tomorrow…