Monday, July 28, 2014

“The history of your happiness is the history of your feeling connected.” *

Tonight, when we were each finally home from work and able to chat, Pat and I spent some time inquiring about each other's it we were. A simple thing, "How was work today?" "How are you feeling now?" We were each able to share some good things and each good thing was not only acknowledged by the other, but jointly celebrated. On other nights, when one or the other of us has had a bad day, we've been able to hear the other one out, offer support and encouragement, and be available for as long as necessary one for the other.

It's a way of coming together after another day apart and reconnecting. It's something I have always craved in a relationship, and while I have often asked how my partner's day has been, there has never been the same type of give and take and the same type of connection that Pat and I have been able to create with one another. 

It is that feeling of being connected that we seek in one another that creates our happiness together.

I was married once for sixteen years. Even excusing the last six of that union as a time of illness, there were still ten years of relative youth in which we should have been happy. 

But we weren't.

Because there was seldom any connection.

I can count on one hand the times when the two of us were truly happy and purely able to enjoy any time together. Each of those rare moments happened when both of us were truly present and available emotionally. It never worked if only one of us showed up.

Another time, I was married briefly, and there was a similar pattern of disconnectedness. Again, I can count the times we were happy with each other. Which is a shame given the many days that make up a year and the years that made up the relationship.

Whatever my motivations for marriage in the my youth and in a time of similarly discordant choices in my life...I tried to make connections where none existed. 

Maybe because I finally became my own person...maybe because we are older and wiser...maybe because we started out as friends first...maybe because stability and recovery have become more ingrained in our psyches...Pat and I have always been able to connect in more than just a cursory manner.

We have been friends for ten years. As our relationship has changed and grown, I can count the times when we have seemed not to connect...but I cannot count the number of times that we have met each other intimately on an emotional or intellectual level. There have been myriads of moments when like met like, when we learned something new about the other in which we can delight.

My history with him...and the history we are already one of abiding ways I could only before imagine. Because we know how to connect with each other...and we make a choice to do so every day.

*Vironika TugalevaThe Love Mindset

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“To thine own self be true…” *

In the throes of young love, I have recently seen several friends and relatives post about their relationships stating, “He is my whole world.”

I am always dubious about such statements. Perhaps from being some 30-odd years older and a few relationships wiser, that kind of “he’s my all in all” thinking just doesn’t sit well with me.

I get that people become wrapped up in one another the more time they spend together. I have a best friend that has become my boyfriend, and we probably think about each other more than we think about anyone or anything else. But he is not my world. And God help him if I am his.

Besides the sheer practicality of having work to think about for a large part of the day, there is just no way Pat can be everything I want or need in my life.

He can never replace (nor does he want to) my parents, my daughter, my other friends. Each relationship is unique and offers a specific give and take that is only fulfilled in that relationship.

We were talking about this last night. We have been commenting on how nice it is – after a couple of failed relationships in our lives – to have someone with whom we are finally so compatible. And we are. We like many of the same styles of music, genres of literature and film, stage productions, and jokes. We are well-matched intellectually and emotionally to the point that we each feel a benefit from having the other in our life, without feeling drained or stressed at any point.

One of the beauties of this relationship, however, includes the areas in which we are different from one another. I like Duck Dynasty; he doesn’t. He is intimately knowledgeable about computers and I have a nodding acquaintance with them. I’m never going to get him to go to an event with me to meet Uncle Si and Willie because it’s probably not something I will ask him to do. And though he plans on teaching me some HTML and wants to help me with some planned podcasts, I don’t anticipate “getting” all there is I will need to know.

There are other differences. I like wine. He doesn’t. He likes spicy brown mustard on his steak and I’m thinking I won’t try that. The man does not seek out zucchini in a salad bar. I can forgive him for this.

Recently, Pat has introduced me to the joys of riding motorcycles, flying, and the music of Al di Meola. I’ve introduced him to Cards Against Humanity and Norah Jones. Each of these things were outside of our realm of experience, but we were each willing to learn something new.

Still, he would love me no less if my old fears of motorcycles and airplanes were still in effect. We would work around it. I would not demand that he give up his beloved Goldwing to accommodate my dislike of them.

Similarly, if he didn’t like Cards Against Humanity, he wouldn’t ask me not to play it with my family when we all get together. He’d probably just go out and talk with my mom, who also doesn’t play, and they’d crack jokes about how crazy the rest of us are.

We would each have our own separate pursuits…indeed WILL have our own separate pursuits…and we will each be fine with that.

Because here’s the thing. We fell in love with each other for all the parts that create our whole self. There is nothing you can separate from me that wouldn’t change the person Pat decided to love. There is nothing I can separate from him that wouldn’t make him some other man in part or entirely. We are the sum of our experiences, our likes and dislikes, our thoughts and feelings.

To deny ourselves the things that make us uniquely ourselves is to deny ourselves the freedom to be the person we have been created to be. Not being true to ourselves denies us the authentic self we have become…and ultimately robs the other of the person we were first attracted to.

As a relationship progresses, of course there are periods of adjustment when people adapt their behaviors to one another for a more harmonious existence. But if it becomes that one person has to bury a true part of themselves to keep the peace, then something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

The key to all of this – the adapting, the changing, the being true to oneself – is communication. And if you have good, strong, open lines of communication – you can have the whole world at your fingertips…without being someone’s “whole world”.

*William Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“Travel makes one modest; you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” *

I have recently been on two trips with Pat. The first was a three day get-away to a tiny little town in the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, and the second was a three-day weekend in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains in Utah. In each place, the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, though each was vastly different from the other.

The Wichita Mountains would likely not be considered mountains at all if held against any of the other better-known ranges in the United States, but they are one of the most prominent land features in an otherwise flat region of the central part of the country. The dirt...the rocks...of so many sizes...come in all shades of red and orange. It's dry this year because of a drought that's been plaguing us here.

The Wasatch Mountains were incredibly tall to me, having grown up near the Wichitas. They stretched far up into the sky so high that even on the sixth floor of our hotel I had to crane my neck to see the tops of them. There were trees that were several stories high, and so many shades of green that I couldn't even begin to name them all. We were 8000 feet about sea level, and even on the Fourth of July weekend, there were pure white patches on the highest parts of the mountain from a not far gone snowfall. Mountain streams, something I'd never seen before, cascaded down the mountain in full view of our picture window.

Another difference in the two visits was the distance we traveled to arrive at our destination. Pat rode his Goldwing motorcycle from Georgia to Texas to take me to Oklahoma for our first vacation. For him, it was a trip of better than 1000 miles. For me, a mere sixty miles from home. Riding on a motorcycle was a completely new experience to me. The sounds of the engine and wind roaring in my ears was exciting; the feel of the sun was warm and enticing; and the scents in the air as we rode over bridges and waterways was so exhilarating. It was just the two of us, so it was a very intimate way to travel...with my knees touching the backs of his legs and my hands on his shoulders or around his waist.

Heading to Utah, we both flew out from our respective hometowns. It was my first time to fly any great distance, and I was doing so on my own. I navigated the airports with more confidence than I ever thought possible, thanks to some heavy-duty preparation preflight from Pat. I managed to find myself...over the course of that weekend away...on two airlines, five planes, two buses, two SkyTrains, and in a rental car. I overcame a long time fear of flying and refusing to even think of air travel, and discovered to my delight that I really enjoy it. I loved the experience of the bustling people and all the many destinations they represented at the airport; I loved looking out over the clouds, mountains and Great Salt Lake; I loved the sensation of taking off and even landing. I loved that I was really and truly traveling and having a whole new set of experiences added to my life story.

I think the biggest thing I took away from both the trips is how big the whole world is...and how very small I am in comparison. There are seven billion people in the world now. A billion more than when I was a senior in high school a scant 33 years ago. And I am only one among them all.

Thousands at the airports. A thousand or more in Utah at the hotel and conference. Not so many in Oklahoma, but we were two from away in a small town...learning the lay of the land. Meeting people in both places, briefly, having conversations and going away richer for having met others in new surroundings. Finding our commonalities, learning our rich differences.

A year ago...even five months ago...I would not have dreamed of so much travel this year for just the sake of pleasure. And neither could I have known what interesting things I could learn about myself and others merely by meeting the challenge and getting out of my comfort zone.

*Gustave Flaubert

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

“…but the one thing love never did have was logic.”*

To a large extent, we choose the people we love and we choose how to love them. Sometimes, we choose wisely and well…sometimes we squander our love on people that don’t seem to care that we are offering them one of our greatest gifts.

But that’s the thing about love, isn’t it?

It is a choice more than simply an emotion…and it is one of the myriad of human sentiments that is a direct reflection of the love God has lavished on his creation.

I believe that God does love the people he has created. I believe that he has chosen to do so…against any indication that most of us are deserving of it. I believe that he, as the ultimate parent, loves us as children…in spite of our willfulness, stubbornness, and tendency to wander away.

That is without any logic that I can fathom.

My human mind…with its selfish bent…is prone to love the lovable people. The ones that will love me back. The ones that shine the brightest and bring out the best in others. My human heart wants protection from hurt and misuse. It only makes sense to protect your investments, right?

Yet God loves the unlovely. The unrighteous. The sinners (which, last I heard, was pretty much all of us). The people who fail time and time again to love anyone else. The people who ignore him or outright choose to hate him.

He keeps putting his love out there for them in the form of other people, circumstances, unannounced blessings.

It’s highly illogical.

And he does it anyway. Because he chooses to. Because he cares and wants the best for us. For all of us.

So I hope that is how I want to choose to love: illogically…willingly…lavishly…even recklessly…without need of a return on my investment…only wanting to bless another human with the same blessing I’ve been given by God.

*Dick Francis, “The Banker”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

“No man is an Island, entire of itself,” John Donne wrote. It’s true. There is not a single person whose life does not touch another’s life. Family, friends, neighbors, strangers in grocery stores – we all enter into and exit out of the lives of numerous people on a daily basis.

Perhaps we think our daily interactions have little impact on other people’s lives, but I’ve not found that to be entirely true in my life.

A receptionist’s sincere greeting can set my mood for an entire doctor’s appointment. A friend’s compliment can boost my self-esteem. A smile from the person in front of me at the check-out will bring one to my face in kind. A grin from a toddler in a shopping cart as his mother and I pass in the aisles of a store can lighten my mood.

Seconds only of interaction, but it makes a difference in my life at that time.

How many times has the opposite been true, though? Someone’s bad day and surly response can cause an irritated reaction. A frown or glare from a stranger who may not even know he’s giving me the evil eye can make me uneasy. A couple arguing in my presence will upset me...even if it has nothing to do with me at all.

All of our actions make a difference to someone.

Because my mouth has a natural downward turn, when my face is most relaxed, I can appear to be frowning...or even angry. When I go out in public, I try my best to keep a pleasant look on my face, and I make a concerted effort to smile at everyone who makes eye contact with me. Why not? It costs me nothing and even if I don’t gain a smile in return, I’m still better off for having lifted the corners of my mouth.

I also try to watch my tone of voice. A quick response, off the cuff, can sound snippy to others and many is the time people have thought I’ve been upset when I was just giving a cursory answer. I don’t always succeed, but I try to do better.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference” also applies to us individually.

My daily decisions to eat right (or not) impacts my weight, my sleep, my sense of well-being. My decision to go to bed on time impacts whether or not I feel rested and at my best the next day.

My decisions to spend time with my family, my boyfriend and friends impacts my sense of community and connectedness; to go to work and do my best impacts my sense of purpose and meaning.

We all have a choice in every situation as to how we will present ourselves and how we act toward others and ourselves.

Choose wisely. Do and be the best for yourself and others. It will always make a difference.

*William James