Healthy Tension.

(A sequel to my last entry)

And so it was that, after lately ruminating on the void left by one acquaintance lost, I accidentally rediscovered a different acquaintance.

I’ll preface with this: my domestic partner (DP) is an amazing person – the kind who is incapable of feeling jealousy because he understands complexity, who is not programmed with cliches, and who, first and foremost, trusts me. His amazingness was on full display when, after the mini-collapse I suffered in the last episode from thinking I’d become either unrecognizable or insignificant to someone I used to know deeply, he reminded me that I often get myself worked up over assumptions before testing them. At least when it comes to assessing people and their sentiments toward me.

Long story short, with a more buoyant heart and a renewed sense of humor, I tested an assumption that night before heaving myself over to sleep. I won’t say much more than this: when I came to in the morning, I found out my partner was right, and one can never really call these things without coming right out and asking.

And, with that, I became kinda sorta pen-pal friendly with one of my former significant others (SOs) again.

Allow me to elaborate. This is a person with whom I went through a hell of a lot, and for whom I still have strong residual feelings of platonic affection. It’s almost unfortunate that other…complications… intervened. After our breakup almost a decade (!) ago – once my wounded ego, grief over a failed venture, and sheer terror of saying goodbye cleared – I realized the worst part of the whole fiasco was losing a best friend.

I learned that, the other night in that dark room full of music, he truly had not clocked me in my current incarnation, and the unanswered outreach from a couple years back had had nothing whatsoever to do with me. I learned that our existential natures and bleak humor are still complimentary and our mutual respect enduring. I learned that communicating with him, a fellow writer, still makes me giddy, even as all the appropriate doors remain closed. I learned an actual NICE thing about time and aging, for a change.

It’s fascinating and sad how stripping away the romantic and/or sexual part of a relationship can restore its gentle honesty.

I admired the way he embraced the prickliness of the situation: “thought it would be awkward then, probably no less awkward now, but here we are”. It juxtaposes well with another term I’ve had on the brain this week: “healthy tension”.

That’s in relation to YET ANOTHER internal job interview I just inflicted on myself. I found this particular opening unexpectedly and very near its closing date, and it seemed oddly suited to my particular background and skill set. So I said “what the hey” and went for it. (I won’t hear anything until next week.)

It’s unlike me, but this time I forgot to save the job description before the posting closed. As a result, while preparing for the interview, I found myself scrambling to find enlightening tidbits about the position on our company intranet. One thing I found was a goal-setting document geared toward current occupants of the role, and it mentioned needing to be OK with “healthy tension”.

“Healthy tension” – defined by me, not the job posting – is what happens at the point where dramatically different and likely irreconcilable perspectives, beliefs, interests (etc.) converge, and you just SIT THERE WITH IT like a grownup and figure out what to do next. Something fewer and fewer people seem capable of. Something I just told y’all I tend to avoid like the plague in my personal life, but have been known to navigate skillfully in my contact center professional life (though only when it finds me, of course!).

“Healthy tension” – I even used it in the interview. They asked me what I’d done to prepare, and I admitted to that intranet search (though not the reason why I’d done it), and to latching onto that very term in their literature. What ensued was a fascinating exchange about the ability to thrive in conditions of ambiguity, which I can earnestly say is a personal strength of mine. Time will tell if that was merely a nice moment, or something that actually ends up impacting my employment future.

As for my former SO, he admitted to having made a boatload of cabbage soup the other night as part of a midlife healthy eating regimen he’s determined necessary for himself. I made a low-hanging-vegetable joke about the aroma I imagine to have pervaded his living space as the concoction bubbled away. Just as the funk of crucifer in an enclosed space may, in the hands of a good cook (as he is/was), actually lead to a yummy dinner, I’d describe “healthy tension” as something I’m not into, exactly, but rather something I usually find it oddly rewarding to push through.

Amidst these thoughts of progress and unease, I’ll close with this. I recently learned that music critic Anthony Fantano, whose takes I have grudgingly come to respect despite his off-putting stylistic choices, took a profuse piss on the latest verbose album of perennial sad-dads The National, and I cannot seem to shake the opinion that he is just WRONG. I’ve always thought The National are for people who just quietly and perversely tweak away at their own limbic systems, and from what I’ve heard, this is just giving that demographic (of which I count myself a part) more of what they want, maybe even more emphatically than usual. The following call-and-response-style tune is arguably an anthem of “healthy tension”, born as it was of collaboration between Matt Berninger and Taylor Swift, who have each persisted in writing (and sometimes even CO-writing with their SOs) fabulous failed-relationship music in the midst of outwardly successful relationships (well – until recently, in Swift’s case). This is an approach I’ve always seen as relatable and therapeutic, given the art I tend to make and the relationship dynamics in which I tend to find myself.

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  1. P.S. Some of y’all were probably tempted to tell me that cabbage soup really doesn’t smell like flatulence unless you eff it up, which, yes, I acknowledge that, but I needed a literary device here, dammit.


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