My family is hopeful about a new beginning . We spent some time, at dinner, planning what we could plan and agreeing to surf the waves of this beginning as they occur. Smiling, fingers crossed, brows furrowed, hopeful.
A short time later, I walked through the Botanic Gardens, wet and steamy after rain showers. Sounds of Santana, playing at Ravinia just a few blocks away, wafted over the eastern gardens and tempted me to jive walk over the bridge and toward the water garden.
As I moved toward the greenhouses to see Spike, the Titan Arum, the mood of the garden was somber as if in mourning. We had all been waiting for weeks to smell Spike’s aroma as Spike’s spathe opened to invite pollinators. Word had just gone out a couple of hours before that Spike wouldn’t be “blooming,” and therefore aromatic, as expected. Disappointment was as palpable as Spike’s aroma had been purported to be. I walked through, curious and intent on attending to Spike as I had for weeks [Geek status revealed: sometimes twice a day], regardless of performance.
Moments later I walked past a wedding celebration: boisterous, effervescent, joyful! Glasses clinking, guests smiling and laughing; bride and groom captured in surprised joy that they were held closely by so many.
And on to the prairie, walking through long grass that whispered “shh, shh, shh” in response to cicadas and mosquitos. Soft contemplation as I walked alone attending to the vibrant life around me. Life that was not advertised and did not have an audience. Life that simply lived: busy, quiet, successful, strident, waning, passionate nonetheless.
A night full of examples of life’s terms. Predictably unpredictable. Life happening in so many ways for so many people all at the same time. Some Santana fans wet but unstoppable in their desire to hear the music while the artists were close at hand. [Others stayed home, unable to be there in the rain.] Garden Staff and visitors adapting to news that Spike would do what Spike does, not what folks thought Spike would do. Bride and groom, family and friends, celebrating joy in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. And the prairie: passionate in its vibrance, overlooked in its constant presence. And our new beginning, not here yet but so vibrant and visible in its preparation.
Loving on life’s terms is simple: love while Life does what it does. Life’s terms can be vibrant, boisterous, disappointing, solitary, overwhelming, fabulous, unpredictable, breathtaking, crushing, quiet, full of jazz fusion, Pharrell Williams and John Legend. And Change waiting to happen…
I live in an area that is filled with Achievers and the families they are raising. This area buzzes with activity. The atmosphere is saturated with this message: “We are busy people. We all need to get somewhere and we need it to happen with as little mess as possible.” Stress levels are high. Our children watch how we handle it. They learn.
Of late, I’ve noticed an up-tick in head shaking. You know the kind I mean: when you take too long at the stop sign, letting pedestrians pass in the cross walk, and the driver behind you honks with frustration and shakes their head in disgust.
Yesterday, a teen driver miscalculated his position on a small road in our area. I was in his way. As he drove over a stretch of lawn to force his way past me, he glared and shook his head at me [barely missing a mail box]. Monkey see, monkey do. This young driver has witnessed, as I have, the difficulty of managing delayed satisfaction, the head shake, the quick judgement of idiocy from others while making one’s way down the road.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve given my fair share of exasperated head shakes meant to wake the other person up to their failure, as viewed by me, from my perspective. Lately, I’ve done it more often that I care to admit.
Today, I am visiting another area. This is dance competition season and I occasionally land in a coffee shop waiting to pick my daughter up from a performance. New to the area, I drove slower than usual while trying to find my way. I may even have accidentally cut someone off when the road narrowed to one lane before I was aware it was happening. Not one head shake. Not one. When I waved to let the other driver know I knew of my mistake and was taking responsibility, she smiled, nodded her head and drove on.
A head nod. All was well. This gentle, accepting behavior has continued through my morning at the coffee shop. It’s possible I’ve landed in a happy respectful hamlet of achievers who do not need to judge, demean or alert me to my failures. I may have landed in a hamlet of folk who have good impulse control and an ability to tolerate delayed gratification.
Either way, that head nod felt so gentle, so accepting, I found myself reviewing the power of this small action. Allowing for the other person’s humanity, assuming good intention, is loving on life’s terms. Sometimes the best way to show up for another is to simply choosing a nod over a shake.
…on Life’s terms takes presence, attention and attunement.
Love cannot thrive in complacency.
Love demands attention, mindfulness and focus…with a dash of blind faith, that faith that doesn’t demand complete understanding or perception.
Loving on Life’s terms is a partnership in which the Couple, that creation of two people, is tended to as if it were a child. That same level of focus, care and stewardship.
Loving on Life’s terms is accepting the child, the friend, the co-worker, the enemy as they are. Understanding that they, too, are making their way in their lives. [Even if we see clearly where and how they might change for the better….]
Loving on Life’s terms is understanding that soul mates are those folk who challenge us to grow into our more mature selves; those folk who do not let us rest comfortably in stasis.
Loving on Life’s terms means understanding that the person we love, whether romantic partner or fellow traveler, is making it up as they go along too. For better or for worse.
Loving on Life’s terms means showing up. Attending. Closing the laptop, placing the smart phone face down [perhaps even turning it off….].
Loving on Life’s terms is opening.
In the most recent post “To Fall in Love,” I wrote about a pathway to falling in love. It includes asking and answering 36 questions with a partner, sitting face to face, then finding a quiet spot and looking into each others eyes for 4 minutes.
Key ingredients: A willing partner, willingness to Listen, willingness to Share, a quiet environment, sitting face to face, authenticity.
When you try this, are you going to fall in love? It is easy to fall in love. Harder to Stay in love. Falling in love, within this context, is actually the decision to open oneself to receive another person. Opening oneself to show one’s authentic self to another person. The questions are designed to offer deepening authenticity; designed to offer opportunities to receive a level of truthful communication from another. These things create the platform on which love and connection can thrive.
We humans crave attainment of a state and hope to live there as if we have scaled a vertical cliff and reached the mesa at the top. Stasis, however, is not a viable option. To stay in love requires effort. It requires us to continue to risk with our partner. To continue to be willing to be seen clearly, to risk being disappointed, to risk living in intimacy. This can be a terrifying state of affairs…at the very least, exhausting.
My willingness to continue to ask questions, your willingness to live with my answers when I give them has everything to do with connection and attunement, those experiences that deepen love. We humans often move in and out of states of awareness with each other and in our day to day worlds.
Loving on Life’s Terms is avoiding tuning out, finding that balance between connection with an Other while living life as it needs to be lived today.
In “Attraction versus Résumé,” I mentioned that Nature has primed us for procreation. We respond accordingly. Nature hasn’t figured out, yet, that we humans have set expectations that we will live with each other, often monogamously for a lifetime. Nature expects us, has pre-programmed us, to have lifelong connection whether we live together or not.
Hooking up, friends with benefits, one night stands, athletic sex, anonymous sex, fun sex. Nature didn’t get the memo that we humans have figured out how to move sex into the recreational, non-consequential realm. The advent of the Pill in the mid 1960s freed women and couples from the probability of unplanned pregnancies. Contraception options abound and therefore sex as recreation is abundant.
Nature made sure sex would feel good and, most report, it does! Except for that unattached lost feeling folks have after the sex is over. Sam Smith [“Stay With Me”] sings plaintively about what it means to lose the connection with another person after sharing bodies.
We are made to connect with each other. Sharing bodies: touching, tasting, teasing skin to skin. All of it serves to join us.
When you connect sexually with someone, you create a history with that person. Each kiss, touch, embrace builds that history. Whether you tell yourself, intellectually, that it doesn’t matter or not your body knows it does. The body remembers. The heart yearns.
If this were an advertisement for beer I would carefully follow ethical code and tell you to remember to drink responsibly. Since this is a blog about Loving on Life’s Terms, I will tell you to remember to have recreational sex responsibly. When you enjoy another’s body, you create history with them. This creates connection. Connection, in Nature’s world, is what sex is about.
My friend was beginning to think about dating after his divorce. Well, in truth, he wasn’t necessarily ready to Date. It seemed that everyone in his circle was ready for him to date. His dating life, or lack thereof, was a hot topic. I signed on as his wing woman, ready to help him navigate, offer sage advice from my own dating experience and give him support as he took risks.
What was my most important piece of sage wisdom? Easy:
There is Attraction and then there is Résumé.
Nature wins, every time. We understand that our primary function is to procreate and make more humans. Nature decrees it and we follow it. For this reason, we see a suitable sexual partner and respond accordingly to that hot guy or sexy woman. We are made to attract and to be enticed.
What Nature didn’t take into account is our propensity to share lives with each other, or try to.
This is where résumé comes in. That potential lover looks and feels So Good. We sign on for some enjoyment hoping that enjoyment will build into something we can rely on. But what is the résumé? What is this sexy creature’s history with lovers and partners?
If we agree that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, the way our Sexy Creature has treated his or her lovers in the past has everything to do with what we can expect in our future.
Questions to attend to:
- What story does she tell you about previous relationships? Both beginnings and endings?
- What relationship patterns does he describe? Understand?
- Does she blame his or her partners for most of the relationship health or pain?
- What about current relationships? Does he have healthy friendships? Family relationships?
- Does she expect certain things in friendship but forego those same expectations with lovers?
What does your résumé look like? What do you bring to relationships? What are your strengths? Growth edges?