Pat Foley

There are reasons for his customs, he says. And well I know. He'll discuss those reasons ad infinitum if I should question – never say challenge, that's a word we prefer not to use in this house – the customs, habits, traits that Vulcans accept without demur. He'll go through the inception, the history, the modern adaptations, the variations in practices. And of course the reasons. Though not without something of a raised brow. Not so much at my temerity in questioning, but at anyone's. Because they are sacrosanct, these customs. It's not exactly taboo to question them. Vulcans don't really have taboos. But they're Tradition.

Oh, that word. As if, in a supposedly reasonable society, it alone should be reason enough. I hear it almost as often as logic. It gets used a lot in this culture. Worn out. Vulcans don't expect to be questioned on their traditions.

But of course there are exemplary logical reasons for each of Sarek's Vulcan traditions. Good enough, logical enough, that even an illogical human can see the sense in them too. Even if I should think to question them. And I seldom do, once the reasons are explained to me.

Humans have reasons for our traditions, too. People, Vulcan or human, don't act entirely without reason, though to convince Vulcans of that in regard to humans is sometimes difficult. Human reasons are not like Vulcan ones. Nor is human reason, for that matter. And we temper our reason with emotion. Whereas when Vulcans do break with logic, it's only for a biological imperative that's as inviolate as tradition. And which is never discussed. Reason, custom, tradition. That and biology make the cornerstones of Vulcan society. With them, Vulcans are safely grounded. Safe. And content.

And if I were content too, there would be no issue. But Vulcan traditions aren't the same kind that humans have, warm ceremonies that make us hang holly on Christmas, hunt eggs in spring, or tell ghost stories around a harvest moon. Of course, once ours had more meaning, when we were a more superstitious and less sophisticated people. When our lives were more tied to the seasons and tides, the phases of the moon. Now for many of us, that ticking biological clock often is on a far distant planet. For us far ranging humans, our traditions give us stability in a very large universe. Perhaps that is also true for Vulcans, but they don't seem so to me. Tradition here doesn't generally make me feel warm and comforted.

Of course, they aren't my traditions. I gave up most of mine, on coming to Vulcan. I knew they wouldn't transplant well. A few of us, such humans as are on planet, practice such traditions as we find hard to let go. Absurd as they might be. It is somewhat ridiculous to celebrate mid-winter ceremonies on a hot planet like Vulcan whose calendar year does not remotely match that of a Terra lightyears away. Futile to observe the seasons or the phases of a long distant moon on a moonless world. Even the concept of celebrating – love, harvest, midwinter's passage, spring -- is difficult in a culture that doesn't really embrace even the notion of celebration. Vulcans note. They can honor. But they seldom celebrate.

No, Terran customs don't really transplant well. Leaving me something at a loss. I need safe grounding too.

Not that Sarek isn't interested in my traditions. He certainly is willing to hear about them. Particularly the reasons behind them. Missing that much of the reason for them has been largely lost over millennia. That humans observe them as much if not more for the warm feeling, the emotional resonance they give to our lives. Even I can't explain all the arcane reasoning behind some of the inexplicable things humans celebrate, nor do I really care to.

Sarek doesn't miss that point entirely. He knows I have feelings. He knows how I feel. But, Vulcan to the core, the reasons for these human traditions are as irresistibly compelling to him as the equal sign in an equation. He wants to know the reasons as if that, first and foremost, will give him the key to the equation. The answer to the riddle, that I suppose, is sometimes me.

In a way, that's part of his Vulcan charm. That curiosity. That willingness to learn. But when he discovers the reasons for them are hardly, well, reasonable, particularly on this planet and in this century, you can see the disappointment flare in his eyes, briefly. Another gulf opening between us. No common, no logical ground on which to meet.

Truth be told, I just want the feeling.

And that's hard even for Sarek to understand. Their, his, first reaction to emotions is to control them and hope they go away. The idea of deliberately courting emotion, feelings, with rituals, ceremonies, customs is anathema. Like courting madness. Customs on Vulcan exist to alleviate or eliminate emotions. Or in the case of Pon Far, to suitably contain them. To foster control, to build strength against them. Or when they must come, as in pon far, to shroud the whole experience in ritual ceremony. Not cultivate and embrace them, enhance the emotional volubility. Another huge disconnect between my husband and myself.

I know why Vulcans believe they must be this way. I even approve. For a race as inherently violent and warrior prone as Vulcans, logic is certainly better than the alternatives. The whole Federation breathed a collective sigh when they realized Vulcans weren't like their warrior brothers, the Romulans, regardless of the physical resemblance. At least, they are not in philosophy. Deep down, that's another matter. Even I'm relieved Vulcans have given up their warrior ways – I wouldn't want Terra to have had to meet Vulcan in a showdown. So I'm grateful for Vulcan logic and the traditions and customs they use to reinforce that dominance in their lives. It is a better way of life for them, than their past.

But I can't live it. Even though in some respects I admire what the Vulcans have accomplished.

You see, I watch every year as the Vulcan clans meet in full regalia, dressed for war, bristling for battle, armored to the teeth, their ancient armies reformed. And then in a ritual ceremony they lay down their weapons and swear, for one more year, to keep to the ways of peace and the dominance of logic in their lives. They do it one year at a time. A full acknowledgement of their warrior past, their renewed peace in the present, their need to forswear it all again in the future, knowing their essential natures are unchanged. Evolution doesn't work fast enough to change that sort of warrior, not in a mere 5000 years. Their ceremony still has the capacity to amaze me, to take my breath away. All that power, ferocity, energy, and then, once again, logic. It proves to me, and to them, I suppose, that Vulcans aren't really that far removed from their basic natures and that they must still, always, strive to control.

And there are other, more personal traditions I'm familiar with that aid in control.

It's a very wide gulf. Still I try to bridge it. I hardly have much choice.

When I talk to Sarek, he listens attentively, with a mind obviously determined to be open as I describe the history behind the customs I miss, those reasons he so wants to hear. And then I get to the emotion, and I see his eyes narrow, and he takes a mental step back, as if burned. Wary. Careful. He's willing to see me indulge in my emotions. To tolerate, accommodate them in his wife, in his marriage, in his home. As long as he takes that extra effort to control. The experience, the practice is allowed. So long as it stops with me. And doesn't touch him. He'll watch, attend, honor. Compromise to that extent. But he won't, he can't participate emotionally. He won't feel what I do, what I need him to feel with me. He won't bend.

That's a really big step, I suppose, for a Vulcan. But it isn't enough. Honestly, I don't think he'd break. Even now, after all that's happened to us, we've survived it. But he doesn't believe it.

Vulcans do everything with such single-minded passion. Once war. Now logic.

And that's not what I want. I want him to be really with me at these times. Happy. I'm happy to be with him, happy to be in love, happy even to be on this dry husk of a planet where emotion is anathema. I just want him to share in that for a few brief moments. To feel what I feel in these arcane customs. Not always but at times, now and then, to be there with me. Openly. Willingly. Dare I say happily?

I know he has emotions. As his wife, I'm well aware of what hides behind that Vulcan façade. He knows he has emotions. I'm not asking for all that much of a breach. But as a Vulcan he can't think of anything but control, the legacy of 5000 years of single minded devotion to logic.

Vulcans are so stubborn.

So what I want is not his to give. He does give me passion. Love of a sort. If not exactly human love, then the Vulcan equivalent. That's allowed, in the marriage bond. But nothing more, nothing else. His emotions stop there, by force of will, by discipline, practiced to reflex. I'm familiar with Vulcan reflexes. And a discipline strong enough to control Vulcan's warrior ways necessarily has to be formidable.

Not even I can breach that discipline in him. Nor, I suppose, do I really want the fallout that would result if he did. Such disciplines, practiced to reflex, aren't easily set aside.

I understand that now. I didn't really when I first married him. That he could have those feelings of passion for me, and yet still strictly control all others with such single minded intent. He, of course, can compartmentalize his life, himself, with Vulcan ease. And can be content, at ease, with a dichotomy that in a human, would almost be a split personality. A dichotomy that sometimes I want to rail against, as if I could force him to feel what I want him to feel. Throw a human tantrum, make him react, respond. At times it makes me angry, that he can give me so much of himself emotionally, so easily, in respect to our bond, but balks at letting go in any other way. As if he sees me in one way only, can have that sort of emotional resonance with me only in one aspect of our relationship. To a human female, that's outrageous, insulting, At least it would be if it were a human male that gave of himself only in that way.

But Sarek isn't human. It's just Vulcan tradition and control, necessary to his view, part of what he is, that he lets go only in one aspect of our lives. I understand that, or try to, though I've had more than a few temper tantrums over the frustration I sometimes feel. But it's not a very wise thing to do, goading his Vulcan emotions past his controls. He has a temper, too. Even on Vulcan, among Vulcans, it's legendary. And for the most part, firmly under his control. My contention only makes him control more stringently. Not behave the way I'd wish him to.

Certainly it doesn't tempt him to fully engage in activities that to him have no historical significance, and that foster emotions in his wife that he believes, at least in him, are best controlled. He won't, he literally can't, let go. Feel what I feel, what I need him to feel. Even at these times, when I ask, he's not really here. He's merely present. On the outside, looking in. An observer. Not a participant. And I'm not stupid; I can sense that.

What I really feel trying to practice human traditions on Vulcan, under those conditions, is a little bit foolish. I don't want to be humored or indulged. Yet it is ridiculous for me to expect him to feel any emotional resonance at customs that aren't his.

He has his. I have mine. Like bath towels. Except, that of course, being Vulcan, on Vulcan, he uses Sonics. I'm the only one that likes to bathe.

Or, for that matter, feel.

I try not to let it bother me. The same way he tries not to let my indulgence in open emotion disturb his Vulcan calm. Even when I want it to. Deep down, he understands. At heart, I understand. It's just his way. It's just my way. And we do respect our differences. And more than that, accept them. At least, we vowed to. We have to. Neither of us can change, that much. In fact, I swore I never would.

And that's when it really hits me. You see, it goes two ways, this agreement we have. I warned him that I wouldn't be made Vulcan in marrying him. And I haven't. I still love; I still laugh; I still cry.

Some days more than others.

I didn't realize when I made him promise that, that my promise was inherent too. I didn't even really think about it. Part of the selfishness, or the optimism, of youth, I guess. Only years later, balanced on the knife edge of that double edged sword, human emotion and Vulcan passion, logic balanced in between, did I come to realize what I tacitly agreed to in turn. And that it would be harder to practice, at least at times, than his promise was to me. Certainly harder than his practice of logic is to him.

Yet there are times when I really want/expect/need more from him. Need him to be human. Just for a day, an hour, a moment. I catch myself before I demand, plead, beg. It's not fair. No matter how I want to. Regardless of how much I need it. He couldn't really anyway. That's not him. Even in what feelings he allows himself. And it's the feeling, the emotional resonance, that I want.

It's so ironic. I made him promise not to make me Vulcan. Before I would marry him, I made him vow that. I made quite something of a fuss about it at the time. Amanda Grayson, first and foremost human, and taking a moral stand, pro-emotion and pro-humanity.

So now, after all that, well, I can hardly expect him to turn human for me. Even for a moment.

But of course, I do. I catch myself, needing it. Needing him. Caught by that tacit promise.

How it can cut, that double-edged sword. There are days when I grit my teeth to bear it.

Yet the solution is simple. Don't expect it of him. Relax, control, take stock of what I have, that is more than many have. A husband who loves me, if in a purely Vulcan way. That's a feeling that he allows. Who'll give me anything he can, even if that still means he can't give me everything I want. A wonderful child, even if one who has struggled so hard with his dual heritage. A home that I love, even though it's on an alien world. A successful career, even if it gets periodically interrupted for Federation affairs of state. My life, double-edged.

I'm very lucky. I know it.

Yet sometimes I wake in the night, anxious at some reason I can't define. And look around, at my Vulcan husband, and my Vulcan home and I say to myself, "It's all right. It's all right." As if I'm reassuring a child, crying in the night. Except my child didn't cry in the night. He's Vulcan too. If I would go to check on him, and he had learned not to wake at this, when normally he'd startle at any surprising sound, I'd have found him fast asleep. Not dreaming. Vulcans don't normally dream. Perhaps it's something in the air. I don't dream much here either.

Whatever is waking me, it isn't a dream. It's reality.

No wonder I feel that I need some traditions of my own, to ground me.

Perhaps everyone lives this way, balanced on a knife-edge. If I were married to a human, there'd be different issues with which I'd struggle. Different misunderstandings, different unhappinesses. No one's life is a rose garden, not all the time. I know that too.

Or believe that I do. In truth, that road's long closed. And that sort of knowing is closed to me too. I'll never know what it means to live that sort of marriage. It's not as if I regret it. I am happy. As rose gardens go, mine, both literal and figurative, are exceptional. At least in my opinion, and as Sarek is wont to say sometimes of himself, mine is the only one that matters, in this. And I'd make the same choice again, this double edged life.

But it can be tiring, living this way. One has to stay very balanced. Careful. Controlled. Calm. Stay away from those cutting edges.

Except when my emotions spill over against my own self imposed controls and I find myself reaching out to Sarek, waking him in those anxious hours of the night, kissing him, caressing him, past control and desperate.

He doesn't really understand. But that response is something he can give me. It relieves me, that he can give me that touch. I'd be starved without it.

I suppose it's a sort of periodic madness in me, a reaction to too much control. Like a Vulcan. And here I had been so determined to be human, to be untouched in that, by my marriage, my Vulcan home, my life in a culture that is both home to me and alien.

I'd laugh at the irony in which I've placed myself. But there's another side to that laugh, on this double-edged world I live in, and I won't give in to those emotions. I'm very lucky, and I know it. What I have far outweighs what I lack. So I stay in the center: balanced, calm, controlled. Except from those panicked lapses.

There are times when it seems the Vulcan way is better. When the choice is between such tearing emotion and control, then even I deliberately choose control.

And then I realize what I'm thinking, how I'm straying from my humanity. That's a Vulcan choice. And I remind myself I swore to remain human, and I'm torn anew. Feel that panicked edge again. And my husband holds me, calms me, and just doesn't understand.

The double edged sword. And me trying to keep balance on that blade, keep clear of those cutting edges. It isn't easy. At times, it can be very hard.

Yet I think I manage pretty well, over all.

At least, I seldom bleed. Much.



Pat Foley

Holography 3-F


June 2006