“Possibly the most basic and necessary feature of any living process is the fact that it goes gradually.”
Christopher ALexander

The Nature of Order Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

A gift from the mushrooms?


I came out of practice and went to the kitchen to take the next step in bread preparation. I was mixing the dough when Iulia stepped out of her room. This was our first encounter of the day.

I stepped back from tending to the bowl on the counter and turn to face Iulia. I consciously and intentionally made myself available to embrace her. I was communicative in my body and in my eyes. But the next step is up to her. I will only embrace her if I feel clearly invited and welcome. She knows this. We talked about it. Many times. She just stood there. Her presence didn’t say yes and didn’t say no. But in the context of touching Iulia, maybe is a clear no. I waited. I gave it time. Breathe. Nothing. OK. I stepped back and continued tending to the bread.

Iulia: why can’t you just offer me an embrace?
Me: I did, and I didn’t feel a yes.
Iulia: why does it need to be …
Me: It was you who …

And we were almost back on track to a very familiar and unpleasant (to me!) pattern of conversation. But then something switched in me. I became amused … and I softly disengaged. No hard feelings. Embrace is OK. No embrace is also OK. Some psycho-babble conversation about why I didn’t offer an embrace … NOT OK!

In that moment I realized a pattern that I was putting a lot of energy into over the last few years in my relationship with Iulia. I usually assume that I am missing something, even when I feel confident that I’ve thought things through rigorously. No matter how right I feel, I still assume that there is a possibility that Iulia is seeing something that I may be blind to. She likes to remind me that I have issues, and she is probably right. So I stay open … and doubt myself.

Not this time. I was very clear in my intentions and actions. I will not just walk up to her and embrace her. That is no longer in the books for us. I wanted to and offered to embrace her. I clearly communicated that to her and she received the message it. For whatever reason, she didn’t say yes. But she didn’t choose to state her reason. I have a tendency to speculate, but even that was suspended. She chose to put it on me. But I felt VERY clear … and the confrontational mushroom experience resurfaced. There, I tried, demanded, begged her to speak to me directly, without evasion, without avoidance, without deflection. The clarity of the mushrooms came back.

In a flash, I recognized all that. In a flash, I recognized and accepted that she has her reasons. In a flash, I recognized that this was not coming from me. In a flash, the potential for a typical confrontation between us dissipated (for me!). I didn’t retreat into darkness. I didn’t feel hurt or attacked. I didn’t feel a need to defend myself or convince her of anything. Things were fine. I felt amused. I smiled. I shared this realization with her …. and got on with my life. I am no longer interested in or available for this kind of communication.

I DID NOT expect to experience a lasting effect from the mushrooms. But there it was! I felt clear about myself. I don’t think a clear line can be drawn between Iulia and me. I can never be sure where I end and she begins. But THAT was not mine! How refreshing!

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