Love, Colin and Other Drugs
One of the things that I found the hardest to read in Claire Bidwell Smith's The Rules of Inheritance was not her mother's death. Or her father's death. Don't get me wrong, it was difficult to read about their deaths. It was also difficult to read about her addiction to alcohol. But it was her relationship with Colin that I really found the most difficult -- her beautiful, flawed relationship. I wanted her leave but I understood why she stayed. We don't always love things that are good for us.
"The only thing that anchors me is Colin. And he does so fiercely.
When we fell in love it was exactly like that: falling. Deep and dreamless, love was like an opiate, rendering each of us powerless against the other. It was like we were the only two people in the world who spoke the same language. It was like we had no choice about falling in love.
But there's always a choice, isn't there?" (Page 107)
It's easy to look at some of Claire's stories about her time with Colin and wonder why she wouldn't leave him. I understand the urge to yell at the pages of the book and plead with her to get out. There were times, especially when she seemed scared of Colin, that I wanted to reach through the pages and lift her out the situation.
But I also got it. I've stayed in relationships too long myself. I own that. I've stayed because I haven't wanted to be alone. I've stayed because, as Claire put it, I wanted to be someone's special person. I've stayed in relationships and friendships for too long because I've seen something in the other person that I recognized in myself.
That last point was what I thought I saw in Claire and Colin's relationship. Both of them were touched by grief when they were young and it felt like that shared grief was the cornerstone of their relationship. When it seemed like many people their age had no bigger worries than whether or not they were going to pass that college course, Claire and Colin carried a bit of darkness with them. They knew that that life wasn't always happy and the future wasn't always good.
When I read Claire's memories of her time with Colin, I often felt like they needed each other -- they needed to know that they were not alone. They needed to know that other people experienced grief and darkness. No, it wasn't always a good relationship but I understand why she was reluctant to leave. Having someone close that understands that darker edges of your life? That's a powerful thing.
Have you ever stayed in a relationship or friendship too long because you felt that person shared a special bond with you?