Twenty two years ago I choreographed a dance that, when finished, I realized was my wedding dance. It was a beautiful and romantic duet. The dancers, Angie and Jeremy were sensitive, equally strong and moved together seamlessly. I had no idea at the time the dance was performed that the vision of the relationship created on stage would become the way I would eventually live into my relationship with Neil. It took 18 years and a decision to radically change my life to become the dance.
The dancers began the piece in silence on a platform at the back of the stage. Angie come down off the platform first, leaving Jeremy above her. In an early rehearsal Angie suggested that she stay on the platform and Jeremy fall down leaving her above him. It was a transformative experience and turned out to be one of the most profound moments of my life. I had never before conceived of a woman being above a man. In my world, unknowingly to me, men dominated and women submitted. In that moment I saw that it could be different, and most importantly, that it should be different.
Throughout the piece both Angie and Jeremy supported, carried, lifted and raised each other up and down. It was the first time the unconscious idea of what a man and woman should be like, in terms of their power and strength, shifted for me. My Father was the ruler, my Mother acquiesced. That is what I witnessed growing up. And that is why my Mother became an alcoholic.
Neil did not want that dynamic in our relationship no matter how much I unconsciously thought it should be another way. It was essential for him that I be strong. It was essential that I did not give my self away. It was essential that I brought my full self and strength to every moment. He never wanted me to give away my power and authority.
It took me many years to recognize the truth of who Neil is and how he perceived our relationship. He wanted me to be on the platform and lift him up as he would lift me. Equally. He wanted an equal partner in our life together. A part of me wanted that. I could never have made the dance if that wasn’t true. I couldn’t live the dance fully with Neil till many years later.
In many ways it was easier for me to stay in a pattern I was familiar with. I had no model of how to be a strong woman in a relationship. I had no map to follow or path to take. All I knew was ‘man is boss, woman is subordinate.’ I followed what I knew. The man takes care of the woman. The woman takes care of the family and home. The woman and man have a lousy relationship, an agreement. The agreement was to suffer through a reality not of their choosing. A relationship neither of them wanted yet didn’t have the skills to create an authentic and self-fulfilling way of being together.
For many years we did this very uncomfortable dance of yielding and resenting. Of carrying burden and challenge. Of giving away our authority and autonomy to dance an awkward dance of disconnection. Of being out of step and dancing to different music.
Then I stopped drinking and started working on growing myself and everything changed. At the same time Neil and I began working together with his clients, coaching and teaching about the Embodied Enneagram. I had done some Enneagram training and was also learning from Neil as he was studying the Enneagram. Learning together was a natural fit because we both were doing the work of transformation. My work was through the somatic realm and Neil’s was through depth of thought and inquiry.
The first time we worked together it was, like Angie and Jeremy dancing together, seamless. It was one of the easiest and most natural processes I have ever been involved with. It was as if we were two halves of the same whole each completing the other’s understanding. For me, it was remarkable how easy and full it was. We started to dance together with ease, knowing how to meet the steps of the other and where we were going together.
In our dualistic world we often see things as black or white, right or wrong, either-or, when in reality there is always a third way which combines elements of each perspective and creates something new. A new way of perceiving or understanding. A new way of being with and relating. A new way of thinking about an issue which creates healing. A third way is so much more than compromise, which keeps us stuck in giving up something. I have to give up so much and so do you to somehow meet in the middle. When, in fact, true growth is when something new is created through two unique views.
What I am writing about is what has happened through Neil insisting, demanding, I bring my whole self to our life together. He continually insists on me showing up with all of me and not leaving any part of me out. He insists on me seeing who I really am and being all of my self in each moment. He insists on me being as strong as I truly am and not falling into old habits and patterns of giving up my authority and autonomy. And he consciously brings him self, as well, so that we create something new together. He works as hard on him self as I do on my self so that we grow together.
Our work together teaching the Embodied Enneagram is flourishing. We are changing others in ways that are profound and beautiful. We show up in organizations with vitality and commitment to a shared purpose that is deeply felt and understood. We bring both of ourselves fully, passionately and heartily to each encounter we have with others, and one another. We are growing together in ways I never could have imagined. We are learning to dance together in new ways every day. I believe in our life and work, the best is yet to come.
So today Neil, on your 61st birthday I celebrate you with all of my self. I bring all of me to you, to our family and to our life and dance together. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow my self into someone I love, treasure and am deeply proud of. Thank you for teaching me how to live my own dance. I am becoming someone I look forward to growing old with. Like Sam Keen said, “figure out where you are going first then choose someone to go with you.” I know where I am going thanks to you. And I want to go there with you. And I want to grow old with you.
Happy Birthday to you, a remarkable man who enables other’s to grow and reach for their true North Star, to follow their dreams with courage, a wide open heart and strength. You are the most beautiful man I have ever known. I thank God you are my partner, my mate, my soul mate, my love and the father of my children. I am strong and full and whole because of you and I now know my own goodness.
Happy Birthday beautiful man.
I love you, totally,