“Check that latest draft message and send it on if you’re ready!”
Morning voices bounce through the hard-surface stairwell with collaborative news. We each sit in front of our own computers on different floors typing away. We are once again reminded how connected this life has become. Most of our e-mails are signed “c and e,” making it difficult to tell where one starts and the other leaves off. This, of course, is a tricky balancing act—how to keep healthy individuality in the midst of significantly integrated lives. But for us, it’s a challenge worth taking given the possibilities.
We started out years ago with the vague notion of creating a different relationship built on the idea of “integration” and “equal partnership.” Now over 10 years later, it is no longer a foggy dream, but rather, a reality. The way it has actually played out in a day-to-day sense just quietly sneaked up on us. As time passed under the loose guidance of a shared vision, the how-tos just magically materialized.
The truth of the matter is that there are still issues that arise, boundaries that must be honored and “time outs.” The key for us, though, is in the mix—how much time is spent in the different ways of relating to each other. To help out, we came up with a “shorthand” way of thinking about our relationship, of which there are three simple models:
1. We imagine two hands, palms facing, side by side. This means we are operating independently, basically heading in the same general direction, but not necessarily sharing a lot of what we experience on a day-to-day basis. Conversation is there, but more sketchy and more about events, activities and things rather than moods, feelings and dreams. We lived this way for many years quite successfully, but eventually it took its toll. That is how we spent most of our early years together, raising kids and earning a living. The fact is, there was a lot of time spent apart—living parallel lives.
2. We imagine two hands with clenched fists, knuckles together. We have also had our share of head-butting with different opinions and styles. We still do to this day, but to a lesser degree. This is where we can’t see eye to eye, or can’t seem to relate to each other—or simply don’t want to. The arising of disruptive ego or just not listening to each other usually causes and/or perpetuates this one. It can get real ugly and out of control, so we acknowledge it, but try to minimize it as a way of being together. When those times happen, and they inevitably do, we try to think of it as a sign pointing the way out, to something better.
3. We imagine two hands with fingers intertwined. This is the one that holds the gold! It was our primary model when we started this journey together. We said, “What if we could create a life that looked and felt like this all of the time?” We believed that such a vision could open the door to possibilities not reachable any other way. We now know it isn’t likely that we’re going to activate such a dream in a pure sense. But, we can keep an eye toward constantly shifting the balance. A little more time spent intertwined means less time parallel or butting heads.
The intertwined hands sign the emails “c and e,” and work together each day in the studio on co-creative projects. They lead us into “shared experiences” nearly every day. This is why we almost always eat meals together face-to-face in candlelight—to coax out the more meaningful conversations, because that’s where the intricate weaving of lives actually happens—in the every-day plain talk.