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out on a limb

V o l u m e   1 5   I s s u e  3

Marriage Vows and Other Broken Promises

Some things are sure in life: death, taxes, full moons, litter. Other things are iffy, at best: tax refunds, getting a brake tag on the first try, catching any fish when you finally get the pole wet. But there are other things in life that we simply pray will be OK. . . things like our relationships, our health, and our future.

Some famous person once said that the worse thing that could happen to a person was to reach all of their goals. Well, striving for goals is all fine and dandy, but goals swept away like broken trees on the riverbank that stand in the way of the angry push of current are tragedies . . . tragedies that stay with us and affect how we act and interact with others.

Funny how we think it can never happen to us. First, we believe that we will never ever find that one true love, that soul mate. But one day we discover that connections do happen and we risk everything like a craps shoot on this roll of the dice. What's sad is when our hopes are dashed upon some hidden boulder . . . when the Titanic of our emotions slides unforgivingly into the iceberg of rejection. . . in other words, when love fails.

It seems to happen when we least expect it, of course . . . when we are least prepared to protect ourselves. After all, that's what being in love does to you . . . it lowers your defenses, you're not supposed to need them. The heart is a strange organ. It feels pain, it suffers, it knows joy, it harbors hope. No other part of us is as sensitive or as fragile. When the heart breaks, there is no glue for mending. There are only sharp pieces of glass waiting to cut us again and again. There are no band-aids for the heart . . . no Mickey Mouse or Snoopy adhesive strips to cover the wound.

Lately, it seems that there are many of us who are dealing with heartbreak. In what appears to be epidemic proportions, couples are going solo. Long term, short term, second time around relationships . . . none are immune. Oh the struggles of the heart . . . they are like no other.

I wish the gay community had some formula for breaking up. Unlike the laws of alimony or community property, we have no such legal precedents from which to carve our traditions. Is it even right to say that gay couples divorce?

How do we separate the dog from the cat? Who gets custody of the parrot? Who takes the sequined gown? The stereo, the photos? Ferron sings a song about it. Accepting loss is a progressive thing, she says. First we cry, then we rail against the injustice. Next, we use anger to build a wall around the pain: damage control. Finally, we put away the pictures, take down the names off the mailbox. We begin to think of things as historic facts . . . in the past tense.

There is no shortcut to healing the pain, although there are short-term panaceas that we employ. Just like your momma said, it takes time. And maybe Mardi Gras will help. It is after all a distraction like no other.

You can get lost in the crowd, hide behind a mask, be anybody you want to be, join in the madness and mayhem, drink too much, participate in the debauchery-all sensual pleasures to soothe the raw nerves of loss.

Let every string of beads mark one more step toward tomorrow. Let every doubloon be added to your store of golden moments. Every parade becomes a celebration of your freedom. Every hawker selling cotton candy is a reminder of your determined spirit to survive this madness.

Ah, life. It is what happens to you while you are making other plans. So if you are one of those persons who has suffered a loss lately. . . if you are one of those who has had to set aside the goals you had set while you travel this detour . . . remember: there are no sureties in life. Love is more like the stock market: filled with best guesses. The ticker tape of the heart is as unrelenting as the crawl of stock prices across the screen on the Stock Exchange. If only we could foretell the future?

I wish each of you a very Happy Mardi Gras, whether you are going as a dynamic duo or as a singular super hero. It is no wonder that one of the anthems of the gay community is "I Will Survive." How many times have you sung that song . . . and with feeling.

Happy Mardi Gras, my friends and laissez les bon temps rouler! Remember that the theme song of Mardi Gras is "If Ever I Cease to Love." We have no choice. We are creatures of a culture which values connection, family, friendship. The whole system is designed for people in pairs.

Be brave.

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