Michael J Fox has been married to Tracy Pollan for 34 years. I remember her on Family Ties. I’m happy they’re still married. It’s always impressive when 2 people can stay in relationship for long periods of time, especially in one as close as a marriage. There are many, many reasons a couple wouldn’t make it, would become a statistic, and only one they would, so whenever I see it, I am encouraged in my own marriage and it gives me hope for all of us.
What I mean by that second one – hope for all of us – is that it’s obviously a boom time for division in this country, in this culture, where any disagreement or difference becomes a crack that soon evolves into a huge chasm that will separate us forever. So how does Alex P Keaton and a co-worker build a marriage that lasts, through kids, new jobs, and now Parkinson’s disease?
By most accounts, he’s a good person, but good people have bad moments, days, seasons, years. I imagine a debilitating disease like his, where his body no longer listens and behaves, easily feeds more and more of the bad – annoyance, anger, frustration, everything running the spectrum of human emotion. I’m pretty hard to live with without a good excuse, just because. So how? What’s the secret?
In a People magazine (remember magazines??) article, Tracy Pollan says, “We assume the best.”
You know how a somebody sends you a text and, even as you are reading it, you’ve given it a tone and ascribed a complete story to his/her motivation? It’s almost never a soft tone or great story. Or someone is walking your direction and you tighten up a little bit, expecting aggression, so the slightest action, however innocuous, becomes evidence to your fear-based hypothesis.
I’ve been working this out in my soul for months (maybe the years and years since my twenties), if you’ve read this space lately, you know about my hyper-focus on perspective. Yesterday I was invited to a ‘clergy’ breakfast at the local high school (I said I would go before I could talk myself out of it) and wasn’t looking forward. Religious people make me uncomfortable. The stories of what I would experience ran rampant through my head – not one of them positive. I was irritated before I even had an opportunity to be irritated.
So I turned up the CD (remember cds??) in my car – Madonna (remember Madonna??), ‘Like A Prayer’ on repeat, I love when she sings “just like a dream, you are not what you seem,” and sing along as loud as I can – and remembered. The Bible seems to have the word remember as a sort of refrain, there are things we do to remember. We remember because it usually leads to a perspective shift and eventually gratitude. Like, “This time was horrible, I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I did, and now when I remember that, I can probably weather today, too.” I happen to see the ‘how I made it’ as a gift and something for which to be thankful, so I lift my eyes and take another step.
Just because religious people have historically made me uncomfortable, maybe they won’t today. I am not who I was, and maybe they aren’t either. The meeting was good, for the record, but maybe it wouldn’t have been if I continued in the same old footprints. I wonder how many times we tell the same stories in the same tones that only lead down dark paths in our souls, leaving no room for alternative conclusions.
If we assume the best of each other, is it possible that we might find those alternative conclusions are actually not conclusions at all, but beginnings of conversation, understanding, and relationships? Maybe and maybe not, but it can’t be worse.