January 17, 2010

Fostering Leadership in Partnership

Something I've learned about myself, over the past few years, is that I am loyal to partnership - specifically romantic partners. Not sure why but I hold on tight, even if it hurts me, even if the person is the wrong fit. In the rest of my world I'm all about self preservation, protection, privacy - the three "p's". That is why watching shows like Sons of Anarchy and Mafia films pulls me in - I'm so interested in that cross-over of loyalty to self, to the partnership and to the "pack".

Recently I've been spending time with dogs. Growing up we had a dog but it wasn't integrated into our family, shamefully. The dog craved our attention, needed our interaction yet we pushed him away. Unfortunately, I was the one who found him at the end of his life. Over the years I have had dreams of this dog speaking to me, he is a lion, he is strong, glowing, and loving.

I'm learning that dogs look up to a pack leader. They need a power above them in order to stay sane. This is yet another lesson I learned from TV - watching The Dog Whisperer. For me, following a leader always feels like selling out or bowing to religion. I don't do those things. But dogs need that order, and perhaps people do as well.

This balance of leader and follower has always been a challenge for me. Yet it is different when I'm in a one-to-one relationship. I wouldn't say I'm a follower, just loyal to my partner. Being on my own has been an interesting challenge as I am now a bit of a drifter, a floater, unattached. My inclination is to be attached so that I have that balance, that greater meaning. This loyalty is indescribable and insurmountable, a gravity to which I am pulled.

Over the weekend I met a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and was blown away by this dog's brilliance, loyalty and affection. He was eager to meet me, so different from the barking dogs that immediately go into defense mode. As my visit to his home extended he began to guard me and by the time I was ready to go home he was cuddling on me with his had on my neck. It was such a surprising interaction, especially from a pit bull. It reflected on the relationship he has with his "pack leader" who clearly provides stability, continuity and strength. A very safe feeling.

My life doesn't feel unsafe but I am drifting, place holding, looking. This is such a difficult dilemma as a woman of nearly 41. I never thought I would be on my own and although it is good to be strong and independent it is incomplete. Out here in CA I have my peeps, my friends, family, career...I work with artists who form their own packs, with Boards of Directors that are also packs. Perhaps in the classroom I am the "pack leader" and I am embracing that role as well.

But in my personal life I crave that partnership, union. All these other roles are merely foster relationships in which I overindulge to fill in that empty space. Striking a balance is oh so difficult.