Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love -- By Clancy Martin "Our feelings change from day to day, and yet if we don't expect too much from our feelings, if we don't react to those feelings too vigorously, if we are patient with our feelings, even a bit ironical about our feelings, we will remember that Friday will come around again, and we'll find ourselves once more in love."
I'm working on learning to trust the ants, in my own Psyche myth. I tend to want to leap up and do something, and feel guilty for sitting around thinking. I still sit around and think, a lot, but I don't give myself credit for that work - real work is something you can cross off a list. But what this tends to lead to, in my personal life, is a giant flaming disaster. My Eros is not a fan of being an item on the list, ever. He enjoys the mystery of his invisibility, and an organic unfolding of events and relationships.
I am much more likely to be wringing my hands over the phantoms the female chorus whispers in my ear, about the doom around the corner and about how I need to take a lamp and a knife in the dark and set about creating my own "real" solution.
But I am learning. Trying. Practicing trusting the ants.
Part of it involves letting the phantoms wash over. A few days can make a world of difference in how big and scary those phantoms look. Coming home from a feminist rally, ideas and horror stories churning in my brain, is NOT the time to sit down to have a serious conversation with my lover. A night out with the girls, listening to their worries for my ultimate lifelong happiness...A week of tidal hormones, cold icy waves under a dark sky...I want his comfort, immediately, I want to bring all of the insecurities to him and have him banish them away with steady solid masculine practicality. And yet, my Eros, I have learned, is not so good at that. His typical response when I reach out in tremulous, amorphous fear of an imagined future is a brusque rebuff, "What? [sigh] I'm really busy."
So I'm practicing letting the phantom hang out for a bit. Trusting the ants. What if he's a Titan, a monster who will eat you and that's why he won't show his face? Well, that is true, that would be really terrible. I'm going to put that on the shelf for a little bit, though, and trust the ants. You need to pull out a knife and a lamp and slay him first, before he suspects that you know his true identity! Well, there isn't really any undoing that path. But I can find a room I can lock, and go in there for a while. Peek out in a little bit when he can't see me, and make a decision then if he looks Cyclopean or mostly just regular.
Because the part that Psyche can never really explain or share is the way it feels the morning after he visits her. The languid happiness of connection. I am allowed to trust my own intuition, too. My third eye is valid and dependable, too - and is acting from more data points than yours. This feeling, of wanting to gambol around in the forest and string flower necklaces for him, is not something I have to set aside in order to find truth - it is part of the truth.
It isn't the only part. The fear is part, too. And pretending that the fear isn't real is not sustainable, I've been learning. I can't will it away when it comes. I can't logic it away or wallow it away or get it to go away, period. But I can find alternative responses to the fear, that are less drastic, more private, and that permit me a way to practice trusting the ants. Ways that permit me to feel, but still watch for them. To lock myself in a safe room if need be, but without shooting off missiles at people before I do. "What can I do at this moment, to honor and acknowledge this anger and hurt, and to get it outside of myself, without actually turning it loose like zombies or weaponizing it at a person?"
And if I can watch other women's relationships with new eyes, not the eyes of a child who needs to make people get along, or the eyes of a girl afraid for her fellow girl, but the eyes of a heroine, watching her fellow heroine, I can see new things. The disappointment that she feels, but does not allow to overpower her. The weighing she does between her feelings of anger and resentment and rejection, and the decision she makes to love, to listen, to understand, to choose patience and forgiveness and to respond with gifts of tenderness. Not perfectly - not as some strange saint. But as herself, with all her usual edges - and yet, a clear and conscious decision to act with grace. To trust, not just him, but her intuition of him, her choice to open herself, her ability to be ok despite his shortfall. To trust her ants.
And the magic, as an observer, to see this unfold, and to see a graceful response from the hero. Not gallant, not storybook - but a response of a human recognizing grace and returning it.
I can do this, too. I can be my graceful self, instead of my Medusa self. Grace is not a weakness. The grace is a choice, carefully considered and selected from all of your options. It is a gift from strength, because you have it to give, because you aren't in need, because you will need to rely on someone else's grace another time when you do not have reserves of strength.
And maybe the question to ask is not, "Am I ok with this?" and certainly not "What is the worst that can happen if I let this go?" but rather "Where am I, right this moment? How am I, right this moment? I think I am probably ok, despite this. Is this true? Can I leave this for the ants? Can I trust them?"
Because if I can trust the ants, I am free to act with grace instead of panic. I can enjoy the breath in my lungs as I watch them sort the grains, and make order out of my emotional disaster. And perhaps when it comes time to speak, I can speak both with sincerity and strength and with tenderness and compassion, and I will not have to make the compromise that breaks my soul.