We have a house dog, an oversized Pomeranian. My housemates’ ‘boyfriend’. Pomeranians are very attached. This means if she is around, he is so not interested in anyone else. A few weeks ago, she was going away for a few days and asked us, my sweet partner and I, if we wanted to have the dog at home. She usually takes him everywhere. I think she asks us just to be polite, that she is not ‘hogging’ the dog. I said “sure”, wouldn’t mind having the little guy around for awhile, he can actually be quite sweet, sleeps with us if she’s not around. Ten minutes later she is downstairs, wanting to negotiate. She’s in tears, “how about she takes the dog one evening, brings him home the next. Having a daily practice of examining attachments, all of us in the house actually, I’m wondering what’s up here. She’s really attached to the dog. Wow.
Now I’ve had a lifetime of looking at jealousy from every possible emotionally charged angle. Married for many years to a man who had a seemingly limitless queue of women. Involved in the examination of coupledom, polyamory, all expressions of intimate relating. Mentally, philosophically, I’m down. In my sane moments I rest in the spacious, unattached expression of living a life. Love and freedom being able to live in the same room. Desiring to take pleasure in my partner’s pleasure. And aware that my cultural and social imprinting do not support this. From an early age, we are taught to share some things, but definitely not others. Anthropologists even suggest that there is an aspect of jealousy that is part of our DNA. As a neanderthal girl, if you followed that young thing down the hill, I would be left helpless against predators, disadvantaged in raising my young. When land became private property, sometime after the Dark Ages, paternity became relevant, hence ownership of women, a guarding of purity of that gene pool.
Ok, I digress. What does this have to do with the dog? I initially was surprised. I like to think of myself as pretty open. Yeah, yeah, in my clear moments, I love to think of myself as open. I like to think that if my partner is not with me, maybe having a good time and not even thinking of me, I’m OK with that. Yeah, I can even be happy. He’s away for a few days, I’m fine. So there’s a little judgment going on. She can’t be without the dog for 2 days? Come on.
Things happen pretty fast for me now. If I find myself in judgment of anyone else, it’s a matter of days, at most, where those points are not reflected in myself. Get this. The next evening, I have a dream. This lovely woman who lives in Hawaii that I literally have not seen nor thought of in years is at our house. Basically, she is saying to me, “I want him”. Not in any, she wants to take him away, just, she wants him. And in the dream, I am panicked. I am exhibiting all the physical emotional responses of my housemate. The anxiety in my sleeping body is palpable.
This is reminding me of something that happened, oh decades ago. I was doing acid with my soon to be first husband, an ex-lover and his new girlfriend. I had this really cool fringe hippie vest I had gotten in NY. The girlfriend wanted to wear the vest, put it on and was wearing it. The whole trip I was anxious that she would just walk out with the vest on. I should be able to let it go, it looked great on her. Even then, as a dumb 18 yo, I intrinsically knew I had an attachment to something that was causing me suffering. I spent the whole trip tightened around my attachment to the vest. I couldn’t say a word about it. I should be able to just give it to her. Let it go. I couldn’t let go. It was expensive. It was the one thing that had come out of NY with me. It represented who I was then, the money I spent, the way I saw myself. At the end of the trip they were leaving, going towards the door. In a moment, she turned, slipped the vest off, and walked out the door. I still had the vest. Of course I have no idea what happened to it, or if I ever wore it again.
So I keep getting to practice. I get to practice being compassionate to those around me, knowing that we each have an edge, of holding on, wanting to feel safe, loved. That somehow if we just have this partner, this dog, this vest, we can stave off, at least temporarily, how untethered we really are. And isn’t it interesting, that spacious untethering, that free fall, that looking right into the face of our aloneness, is where freedom is. I just know it.