|Looked like a pig. But see all the change inside?|
And then Coelho released his novel Adultery a couple of years ago and I decided that I really didn't like him very much.
But this past weekend, I listened to a radio interview in which he spoke beautifully and sensitively about life and love and finding meaning in this world.
And then he mentioned something that we all know but most forget. When asked how he's managed to stay married to the same woman for 34 years, he said this: She's not the same woman.
His remark hit me in a way that The Alchemist did not.
Of course she's not the same woman. Neither am I the same woman I was 34 years ago. Or one year ago. We change all the time.
I hear it on this site: "What happened to the man I married?" "How could I not have seen this coming?" "I feel like I'm married to a stranger."
It feels terrifying. We collectively buy into this illusion that some things never change. How many love songs promise us unchanging commitment? How many greeting cards assure us that love doesn't change.
But it does. And so do we.
And while that can make the ground on which we've built our lives feel unstable, the beautiful truth of it is that change can make that ground fertile for growth. It can promise us that even as we change, we can grow in ways that allow us to love more deeply and honestly, especially ourselves.
I realized recently that I'd stopped really looking at my husband. Day in, day out, he's the same guy, right? Except he's not. So while I could have summed in a few sentences – he laughs embarrassingly loud at comedies, he's incredibly disorganized and forgetful, he stresses too much about money – the truth is that he's far more complicated than that. There's much about him I don't know. There's much about myself I don't know.
I've made it a priority to remain curious about him. To ask what he thinks about things even when I think I already know his opinion. To, and this might sound ridiculous, pay attention. How often do we stop paying attention because, well, bills and kids and sleep and laundry.
My husband is a complicated guy. We all are. And that can feel frightening. But it can also ensure that life is fascinating. Because we are fascinating.
Of course, it's excruciating when our partner betrays our trust. And it's normal and healthy to expect a level of commitment to a relationship. Change doesn't mean we each get to toss out our vows on a whim.
But knowing that each of us is constantly changing, letting go of old information, gaining new information, adjusting our view of the world, can remind us that connection is crucial. Paying attention is crucial. Each day, week, year we're continuing to get to know our partners. And ourselves.
And it means that the oft-repeated adage, "once a cheater, always a cheater" just isn't true. Some will cheat again, absolutely. But those who use this breaking open to better understand themselves are far less likely to cheat. We are not who we were. And neither is he.