I’m not a Britney Spears fan, but “Piece of Me” rings true about all those who want, or think they want, a piece of me. Images of Robert De Niro asking, “You talking to me?” come to mind. Exhausting. But there is another way to think of this concept; that everyone gets only a piece of me. Which is as it should be.
I’m still re-reading High Voltage, the latest in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. This time I’m savoring instead of racing through the pages in search of what happens next. KMM is among my favorite philosopher-authors and the themes she promulgates touch me in places I don’t know how to articulate until I read her prose.
One theme involves a recurring character in the series, the Unseelie King (UK), whose essence is so vast he is unable to assume a single human form; he must divide himself so that different humans see distinct aspects of him. Everyone gets a piece. But never all of him. Provocative. This got me thinking about the way we humans emulate the Unseelie King by dividing ourselves into pieces and sharing them, piecemeal, with others.
One of the things I’ve learned the hard way over the years is that no one can be everyone to anyone. It is an unreasonable and inevitably disappointing expectation to with which to burden a single individual. Nevertheless, some of us get married thinking we’ve found the perfect puzzle piece who will complete us; that a single soul mate will make us whole. We expect our spouse to be everyone and everything we need. The people who believe this are always going to be unhappy. No one can match every aspect of ourselves and we shouldn’t ask for that. It’s unfair.
In the Fever fantasy series, the UK is a dreamy-eyed guy, a homeless man on the street, an old bartender, and more. He is all of those things at once; how he is perceived depends on with whom he interacts. There’s a lot of truth in this fantasy. I am lucky in that I’ve always known that there is no one person who can handle the totality of my being. I think that’s true for anyone living an awakened life. We play so many roles, and we have so many views and interests, not to mention divergent needs.
We need different things from different people. Mostly because that’s what we’ve got to work with, because no one is exactly like us. I might call one friend to commiserate about idiots at work, and another to complain about my teenaged sons. I will share professional triumphs with some friends and personal bests with another. All of us do this because it works.
The hardest place to implement this practice is at home. We can’t be all things to all of those who live with us. I’ve seen too many parents who want to be friends with their children. Not I. My kids have lots of friends. They have one mother. It’s my job to provide the expected reactions, the ones they’re not going to get from a friend. This doesn’t mean I’m unaware that they’ve had a beer or four, or that I don’t understand what’s going on in my basement when I see a pair of feminine shoes near the front door. It means that while I don’t want to put my sons in a position to have to lie to me, I have been and will be quite clear on my views with respect to their activities. This may not change their behavior in the short term, I know that. But I trust that it will give them a foundation of values for the long term. Values upon which they can reflect and act on once they’re through these experimental years.
I had a friend whose mother was very young, especially compared to the rest of our parents. This mom was hip and covered for all of us with our less enlightened parents. As a teen, this was awesome. As a mother, I look back and wonder if that mom didn’t do us a disservice. I think my friend needed a mother, not a bestie.
Similarly, our mates cannot be all things all the time. My husband gets profoundly tired of hearing about the details of my office dramas and the latest gossip among my friends. He just doesn’t care—although to his credit, he listens. Whether he retains any of these mundane minutiae is debatable. But I love to talk. And he’s a captive audience. As I said above, not fair. So I’ve made an effort over the years to limit this kind of conversation – okay, maybe it’s more of a monologue -- and to share my enthusiasm on various topics with those who, appropriately, share my enthusiasm.
I have friends with whom I debate religion, spirituality and philosophy. I have others who love to spend an evening drinking wine and reminiscing about our misspent youth… and how to make sure our kids don’t follow in our footsteps (sure, we lived through it, but that was just dumb luck; that shit was dangerous). Still others want to discuss international relations and there are those with whom I dissect my beloved paranormal and urban fantasy books as well as the art and craft of writing. Almost none of these spheres of my life overlap. I think this is true for most of us.
Like the Unseelie King, we are too vast and too unique for any one person to receive all of us. It’s healthy and good to compartmentalize our various needs and seek to have them met by those who can meet them. Otherwise, we put an unreasonable and ultimately destructive burden on our closest relationships. And who wants to do that?
Better to make like the UK and divide and conquer. This gives us the advantage that our deepest needs are fulfilled, so we’ve got that going for us, and we haven’t drained our loved ones completely. It’s a strategy that works. After all, there are certainly enough pieces of me to go around.