Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

A Discovery

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Portrait of the author after hand-shoveling around the barn doors this morning.

We received a walloping amount of snow overnight (between 10-11 inches) and strong winds are creating epic drifts. It will be a monumental day of digging out. Luckily, I wrote most of today’s post yesterday afternoon. I’ll give a more complete report on the details of our winter storm recovery tomorrow…

Meanwhile:

After waking up too early yesterday, resorted to random searching Google while awaiting the return of sleepiness. I simply typed the word, “love,” and happened upon an article from 2014 about living happily ever after in a long-term relationship.

In lieu of the Wikipedia definition of love, I clicked on the headline, “The Secret to Love is Just Kindness.”

That title included two things that I value the most: love and kindness, together with the enticing word, ‘secret.’ How could I resist?

Eventually, I drifted back into a dream-filled sleep, but not until after I had gained great insight, and felt totally convicted, about moments of my behavior. After breakfast, I read the article to Cyndie. She had the same reaction as me.

We have been married for 37-years, and somewhere in the middle of that span of time, dedicated a few years to marriage-saving couples therapy. Basically, our sessions went like this: we entered the hour looking to have our therapist “fix” the other partner, and left each time having learned more about ourselves than we sometimes wanted to know.

The years since have been better than I ever dreamed possible between us. How could this ever be improved upon?

Now I know. Despite all the work I have done toward seeking optimal health, specifically, not taking on any of the several deplorable traits of my father, I am very clearly a product of my parents. (Luckily, I did inherit plenty of Dad’s finer qualities!) In the midst of any project I undertake, I will find myself doing the “air-whistle” my mother often “phoo-whewed.” I am also all too adept at seamlessly replicating Ralph’s ability to be a sourpuss.

Cyndie is sweet enough to tolerate the random –and I’m hoping, mostly subtle– air-whistling (song-breathing?) habit, but she never deserved the boorish behaviors she has endured in our marriage.

In my depressive years (multiple dubious skills of which I no doubt picked up from my father), I could totally relate to the line in John Prine’s song, “Angel from Montgomery:”

How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.

I knew exactly how that is done. Ralph did that to my mother so many times it became normal and accepted. It was no wonder that I could recognize when he’d imbibed to inebriation. He was suddenly chatty as could be with Mom.

From the article in The Atlantic, I now understand how divisive it is when Cyndie’s bids for connection are met with my lack of engagement. The kind thing to do when someone seeks connection, is to turn toward them, not away. For some reason, I have an uncanny skill of treating the one person closest to me at home, with a cold shoulder, something I would hard-pressed do to a person in public.

“There’s a bright red cardinal out the window!” Cyndie might report.

If not silence, I might offer an uninterested, “Okay.”

She hadn’t asked a question, so did it require an answer?

The healthy thing to do for a relationship –one that I want to thrive for a lifetime, not just survive– is to meet all of her bids for connection with kind attention, even when I don’t necessarily feel like it.

Even if it is limited to telling her that I just don’t feel like being kind right now, that would be a connection.

Actively being kind to our partner’s bids for connection, especially the trivial (ultimately, not-so-trivial) ones, seems the healthy way to nurture a thriving life-long relationship.

That isn’t a mind-blowing insight, but it was an eye-opening self-discovery for me that resulted in a quest for greater love.

Onward, on my quest toward optimal health…

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