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Mrs Satchel.: On passion (for WHITE magazine)
“All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
|White issue 32. Cover by Lara Hotz.|
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of love,
And feed his sacred flame.”
“Love”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In the Greek language, there are four words to describe love: “eros” (sensual, passionate, erotic love), “philos” (affectionate, virtuous love for friends, family and community; loyalty), “storge” (natural affection and empathy and acceptance, as with parents and children) and “agape” (selfless, unconditional giving; to want what’s best for the other). In a marriage, it’s “agape” love that we’re shooting for (aim at the stars and you may land on the moon).
Passion, in a sensual sense, is a strange bedfellow in a marriage; a perplexing paradox requiring some serious contemplation. On the one hand, you absolutely need it to have a healthy marriage. Your sex life is like a garden that needs constant maintenance to preserve intimacy and protect the marriage from any outside pests in the form of another person.
But, at the same time, this whole matter of passion also puts a lot of pressure on marriages to be spectacularly on fire – hot, hot, hot!
– all the time, which they cannot possibly be, because as humans we are prone to just want to mooch around the house in our comfy Bonds clothes, not get all Victoria’s Secret sexy about things (and, gentlemen, at certain times of the month, it’s wise to grant your lady a reprieve and opt for a cuppa and cuddle instead).
According to the eminent psychologist Elaine C. Hatfield, who with her research partner Ellen S. Berscheid has studied passion for more than 50 years, people in passionate love show activation in brain areas associated with motivation, euphoria and reward, which is similar to the pattern of activation seen in another all-consuming condition: drug addiction.
In those heady days of a new relationship, when your every waking thought turns to the object of your heart’s affections, you’re as close to getting a glimpse into the life of a drug addict as you’ll ever be. Preoccupied, irrational, paranoid and full of despair when things don’t quite go right (or you can’t get your “fix”), common sense is thrown to the wind in pursuit of passion.
Exhilarating and exhausting, isn’t it, those all-consuming early days of a blossoming relationship where you are driven more by desire than common sense, so eloquently phrased by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge? My husband and I often joke that we simply do not have the energy to go through all of that again (great insurance against divorce!).
During the 18 months we dated long-distance, bursting with youth and hormones, my husband would drive 12 hours to Sydney during the night after work to spend the weekend with me, and return bleary-eyed to work the next week. Each and every interstate meet-up was full of intense, exuberant anticipation, only to be followed by the gut-wrenching, back-to-reality check as we said goodbye for another month or so.
I would fall asleep with my clunky Nokia phone in my hand, drooling over the pillow, as we filled the intermissions with long phone conversations and endless text messages covering all manner of topics and variations on “I love you” (this was pre-emoticon, SnapChat and Skype!).
Attraction, and subsequently passion, might fuel the early stage of your burgeoning relationship, which serves as the Clag glue between you, but they alone will not sustain it. As with our work lives, passion will only carry us so far in our relationships: that's where commitment, conviction and dogged hard work come in to pick up the slack.
Yet we of the Gen's X and Y and Z, are set up to believe though our Disney-fied cultural conditioning (thanks, Ariel, Cinderella, et al) that passion is where it's at. But, as CS Lewis once wrote, "Mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step; for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair." To make passion your foremost marital mission and expectation is to set yourselves up for an almighty fall (see also: Romeo and Juliet
The philosopher Alain de Botton, author most recently of The Course of Love
, says, "In a secret corner of our mind, we picture a lover who will anticipate our needs, read our hearts, act selflessly and make everything better. It sounds ‘romantic’; yet it is a blueprint for disaster.” Just ask any exhausted couple who's tag-teamed nappy changes, cuddles and feeds into the wee hours of the morning.
This makes married life seem very ordinary, a characteristic that has become the butt joke of many-a Hollywood film. But it’s absolutely not. Dedication, tenacity and wisdom together with passion make for a formidable team. Hardship and difficulty only causes our passions to become refined; not quite so unwieldy. Passion needs to be put on a leash.
While commitment without passion or intimacy looks like a goal sentence and intimacy without passion or commitment looks like friendship, when you get the balance of passion, intimacy and commitment right, you’ve reached the pinnacle of what psychologist Robert Sternberg, in his triangular theory, calls “consummate” love.
Consummate love differs from “companionate love”, in which the couple is intimate, in a long-term commitment and has deep affection for and mutual understanding of one another but no passion, and “empty love”, in which there is commitment but no intimacy or passion.
The hallmarks of consummate love are delighting in each other, having a high regard for one another, the mutual desire to make each other happy, communicating, helping, nurturing, overcoming difficulties gracefully, increasing in devotion and…passion!
“The truth is, it does need a bit of work to bring back that spark in your love life once you have kids, a mortgage and renovations to attend to,” says photographer and popular Instagrammer (#housefrau) Sabine Bannard, who has been married to her school teacher husband, Martin, for nearly 20 years.
“My solution is just decide to bring it back whenever it gets lost. As simple as that. When you think everything is dull and grey, just put flowers on the table, wear something pretty, cook a nice meal and, most important, make time for each other and listen! The key is not to grow apart from each other, but to grow together with simple pleasures like mini road trips through the glorious countryside creating happy memories together while listening to a mixtape. Martin can spend hours creating a mixtape for a road trip. That alone can be a reason to completely fall in love again.”
When entering a marriage, you have to have a remedy for those times when passion has given way to the mundane (think pedestrian sex, zoning out after dark on Facebook, rarely smiling at each other, let alone flirting) before the disconnect leads to actual marital issues.
In her excellent book covering the fleeting nature of creativity, Big Magic
, Elizabeth Gilbert writes of one couple, both illustrators, who rise an hour before their children to sit in their studio and draw before the household becomes busy and they trot off to their respective “real life” jobs. That is both sacrificial (of sleep), marriage affirming and intimate. And I bet they are better parents and human beings for it.
Fulfilment of a passion, creative desire or dream isn't always convenient; but better still if you can find that fulfilment together or at least support each other wholeheartedly on the journey.
The idea of the "sweet spot" or “flow” can be transferred to a marriage, I believe: those times when you are both operating with a singular sense of purpose and revelling in not only your relationship but also your work, friendships and extracurricular activities.
It is possible to reach some sort of "climactic"*, complementary human experience driven by passion for each other, and your marriage, which in turn creates benefits for the world inside and outside your home. With passion, impossibilities seem not so impossible.
But passion misdirected can get us into an awful pickle. I'm pretty sure Hitler and Stalin were passionate people (passion + egomania + ideology = yikes!). Jealousy, rampant ambition, outrage, addiction, selfishness and hate coupled with passion have led to some heinous human atrocities.
But what happens if passion is stifled? Not able to manifest? Constricted? Not given freedom of expression in some material, physical or emotional form, as would have been the case for many-a-woman pre-Suffragettes under the proverbial thumb, or the breadwinning bloke who brings home the bacon from the insurance firm but really wants to write books for kids. I think you might explode.
And your marriage might implode for lack of it.
A passionate marriage - one of dogged, I'll-de-damed-if-we-do determination to see it through until you're old and grey and saggy - allows us to reach our full potential. From the safety of knowing we are hedged in within the security of our marriage, we can find solace in our weak moments, encouragement for droopy spirits and belief when our personal stores of passion run dry.
It is our partner’s role to help us flourish, to see what we cannot see, to look us in the eyes and say, “I DARE you to dream that dream that lies dormant because I know that if you don’t at least TRY, you will die a thousand times every time you think about it.” And dying in any way, shape or form - other than to purposely subvert one's will ("I want to eat all of my hot breakfast, so get your mittens off!") for the good of another ("Okay, I can see you're still
hungry, dig in") - is not good for our relationship.
Of course, some dreams and passions simply must fall by the wayside as we go about creating a home, bringing children into the world and investing more of ourselves into other relational avenues. Often, your passions will have to shut-up while you devote more of yourself to practical matters, such as sick children and parents or getting the house cleaned. Real life together is a whole bunch of inconveniences, troubles, hardships, clusters of disappointments, uncertainties and domestic necessities.
But without passion, those flying sparks and tremors of the heart that occasionally occur when your partner enters the room or you glory in your partner shining like a disco ball in their moment of achievement, we would be bereft of a wonderful human feeling and the opportunity to be fully alive. And while it can come and go, we shouldn't expect that passion will pass completely beyond our honeymoon. Passion matures, like a good wine, and serves a greater human purpose than simple self-gratification.*See what I did there?
Read the original piece here
"Everyone has a dream. To write a book, travel the world, or quit your job and do something completely different, such as create some groundbreaking art, for example. Often, the dream doesn’t come true. But is this such a bad thing? We don’t think so. Some dreams are best left as dreams. Maybe that B&B in France is better in your dreams than in reality. And realizing that we cannot fully control our own destiny humbles us and helps us to accept that sometimes things go differently than we had hoped they would."
When I first met Luke and Carla Burrell in an Oxenford cafe, their little one Milo in tow, I was mesmerised by their earthiness and dedication to the beautifully produced magazine they kindled into being in Newcastle nine years ago; she with a background in community support services and he in advertising, marketing and publishing.
Since then, I've been a semi-regular contributor and staunch advocate owing to the consistent high quality of the magazine and also its editorial mission of helping couples stay together long after the wedding day. To achieve this end, they commission raw and real content discussing the manifold complexities of sustaining a marriage made of two very unique individuals. Think of it as Frankie for marrieds.
"In our eyes, if we can help couples to draw closer together, year after year, and if we can give them the tools and inspire them to work hard at their relationships, then we can say we’ve succeeded," the Burrells say. "Our goal is for couples to experience the daily joy of intimacy and loving commitment."
Now, with number three child on the way, and several more independently published wedding magazines on the stand, the couple is hoping to take White magazine further afield with a plan for global distribution that encompasses greater reliance on good quality editorial and less on advertising revenue.
You too can support White's foray into new frontiers via Kickstarter with some lovely rewards awaiting.
Girl With a Satchel
"Be the heroine of your life, not the victim," said Nora Ephron. And isn't that true of Michelle Payne, the female jockey who put the wind up the sails of Prince of Penzance and performed a precision move at the last to conquer the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, beating the boys at their own game.
"Queen of the Sport of Kings" sang the front page of The Courier-Mail
! "Tenacious country girl makes history aboard roughie - then tells doubting blokes to get stuffed."
Michelle's story is remarkable; the stuff of Australian folklore, a true triumph over adversity in the land girt by sea. The youngest of 10 children, Michelle's mother, Mary, died in a car accident when she was only six months' old. Big sister Brigid, then 16, and father Paddy brought the baby up. There was no choice but to work hard and work together to keep the family's head above water.
“I’m just so grateful for my upbringing because I wouldn’t be here without that,” said Michelle.
Under Paddy's tutelage, the kids learned to ride; eight of the 10 would become jockeys. All the girls, except Michelle, retired from the saddle and the boys, too weighty for the saddle, became trainers. Brigid, an accomplished horsewoman, died in 2007, aged just 36, of a heart attack while recovering from a heavy fall.
So it was brother Stevie who partnered with Michelle on the day to defeat the odds, drawing the number one barrier and predicting the horse would be "in front at 200 metres [to go]". As strapper, feeding, grooming, rigging, swimming and saddling the horse for track work and races are all in a day's work.
A dynamic duo, for sure, this brother and sister, the youngest of the Payne tribe, who grew up playing together. But without trainer Darren Weir, who runs the whole show, they'd be up the proverbial creek without a paddle (or a horse without a saddle?). He was lauded by co-owner John Richards and his jockey in a post-race interview
"I've worked for some great trainers around the world, including Aidan O'Brien, Luca Cumani, Gai Waterhouse and Peter Moody," said Michelle. "Everyone does things a little differently. He [Weir] is such a horseman, he knows what horses need - not just one horse, but all of them."
The horse must be mentioned, of course, of course. He, too, overcame several setbacks to make it to the track and is now mentioned in the same breath as Phar Lap. A six-year-old gelding bought for $50,000 and given 100-1 chances to win the race, the Prince, too, defeated the odds (a bowel operation, surgery on joints, illness) and the doubting bookies to boot!
Oddly, but fitting for such a story, it was a consortium of blokes chipping in $5,000 each, reportedly unbeknownst to their wives, who helped bring the Prince to the track with a 10 per cent share of the takings. A podiatrist, two engineers, an IT consultant, a solutions expert and a producer walk into a bar and...
So, a horse, its owners, its trainer, jockey and strapper. What a team! What a dream! This is the stuff of Australian history. And we'd do well to celebrate such sporting feats in times such as these where we are questioning notions of national identity. The last words must go to Michelle, who had this to say to the kiddies:
"It's just a reminder that if you work hard and you dream, things can happen...You've got to believe in yourself, and for some reason I've always had great belief in myself, I don't know why, but I always thought I was going to be a good jockey and one day win the Melbourne Cup. It just goes to show that fairytales do come true and you've just got to stick to your dreams and keep striving for them."
Girl With a Satchel
In an interview with Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne on a television show called The Meaning of Life, Stephen Fry takes God to task for the pain and injustice of the world. His intellectual reasoning is utterly convincing and convicting. And this I say as a Christian.
“Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you. How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?”
He goes on to say, “the God who created this universe is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac, totally selfish…yes the world is very splendid, but it also has in it insects whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind …why, why did he do that? He could have easily made a creation in which that didn’t exist. It is simply not acceptable.”
He’s RIGHT. It is simply NOT acceptable. We should be ANGRY. Full of RAGE.
About the SELLING OF CHILDREN.
About GREED and GLUTTONY and ALL MANNER OF AWFUL HUMAN THINGS.
These are the exact human responses God would want us to feel toward these injustices…to propel us to DO SOMETHING about them. Because if we sit on our laurels and just accept that that’s the way things are, then we too are utterly responsible for the misery we see around us.
There is SCIENCE and MEDICINE.
There is DOING GOOD TO OTHERS.
There is HELPING THE POOR.
There is LIVING RESPONSIBLY.
There is KINDNESS AND CIVILITY.
When my husband goes away to Cambodia to build the business he’s created to liberate girls from their misery of sex slavery and build better lives for themselves, their families and their offspring, he faces so many challenges he could just about GIVE UP. What is the point? Better to just build your own fortress, buffet your existence with fluffy pillows and the comforts of home. But he doesn’t. And what keeps him going is the ABSOLUTE CONVICTION that if he turned his back on these girls, then he will ultimately be held accountable to the God he believes in for doing so. It is a WEIGHTY LOAD.
And I get ANGRY for him.
Angry at the Cambodian government for not taking care of its poor; angry at the funds leached by the corrupt at the top and those who drive around in Porches and Mercedes while others don’t have enough to eat; angry that my husband works like an absolute dog to fund this business and help these people; angry that things aren’t easier for him; angry that my own selfishness and needs and emotional wellbeing often present a challenge to him.
But FESTERING ANGER is a cancer. And so it must be redirected. And so I need to write all this not only to save my own soul but to honour my God. A God who does not grow weary under accusations that he is unjust, a God who has an immense capacity to forgive even those who hate him, a God who has saved my life and given me the gift of my own child, a God who has restored my marriage, broken destructive habits and has given order and purpose to my life.
I’m sorry, Stephen Fry, but if there’s anyone to be angry at, it is ourselves, for the demands we place on the omniscient God when we are each responsible for taking care of the world and the people who dwell within it. It is a privilege to have such work to do and it’s our duty to do it. To do anything less is to sniff at our humanity, to belittle our personhood and the God that gave it to each of us to dispense for the greater good.
As William Wilberforce, the great slave liberator once said, “true Christians consider themselves not as satisfying some rigorous creditor, but as discharging a debt of gratitude.”