Tag Archive for: Love
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.
Like a Good Neighbor…
When we all emerged from our cozy homes the day after Snowmageddon we were faced with a parking lot filled with snowed in cars. Everyone was outside armed with shovels, brooms, and willingness to help. As we began to dig out, the snowplow arrived to help clear the lanes. We were laughing, dodging snowballs, using teamwork to get each other’s cars free, one by one. Our strapping teen boys dug fast and hard. Our playful middle schoolers climbed the biggest snow drift to shout out direction about things they could see from their 13 foot perch. Little ones watched from windows with mugs of [warm] chocolate. We all had work to do and understood that gathering together made that work much more manageable.
Except for one of us. He was in his four wheel drive truck, frantically shifting gears from reverse to drive, rhythmically gunning his engine in an attempt to rock his truck out of its snow prison. He was clearly panicked, needing to be mobile sooner than the rest of us.
At first, the group reaction was one of annoyance which turned quickly to concern for the kids running around. Neighbors alternated between looking over at his distress and putting their heads down to complete the task before them. His distress, however, was increasing. After a couple of minutes, we began to trickle over toward him and explained that we would dig him out if he would be still for a little while and let us do that. He slumped in his seat and let us get to work. When his truck was free he drove away with great relief.
We knew he had survived genocide before he arrived in our townhouse complex. Neighbors may or may not be reliable. They may only think of themselves and their own safety. He later told me that his panic that morning had everything to do with his sudden knowledge that, no matter how prepared he was [even with a large 4 wheel drive truck to help him escape just about anything], he still had to depend on the benevolence of his neighbors. Digging out from Snowmageddon made him feel as vulnerable as he felt the moment he understood he would have to get himself and his family to the nearby mountains in order to survive the slaughter going on around him. The difference, in 2010, is that neighbors advancing on him with shovels and brooms came to help him escape.
Hopefully, not every neighborly opportunity to help will feel as desperate as this one. There are opportunities every day to let someone near you know you see them and are friendly. I know a woman who makes several sandwiches each morning to pass out to homeless folk as she walks to work. Offering your seat to a fellow commuter who seems tired is a gift. A smile or a nod as you walk by. These moments, so small, communicate community. Such a simple thing. Such a necessary thing for all of us.
Loving on Life’s Terms: being available for small and big moments of connection and awareness of the needs of others.
Unscheduled time on retreat. We were mulling the statement: “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” We all weighed in. I shared my current thoughts: the limbic system functions to help us find the partner; attention, thought and choice help us stay with the partner.
Love is a verb. It is an ongoing action step.
In an interview with Carolyn Alterio, poet Li-Young Lee said that as a parent he felt he needed to act “as much as possible out of a condition of being totally present.”
This conviction embodies love as an action step. There are those who say that Love asks us to hold ourselves to the highest standard.
- Am I with you in body, mind and spirit?
- Do I understand that your experience matters as much as mine in this moment?
- Am I treating you with respect?
- Do I care what you say [even if I have heard this 10000 times before]?
- Can I count to 10 [24 times] before responding when pausing is prudent?
- Can I attend to the moment and appreciate the fact that I am with you? That I am doing something for and with you?
- Can I receive? [a compliment, a hug, help, soup, love, a push, constructive criticism]
Choosing to love puts me at risk for joy and loss, easy times and work, intimacy and more intimacy. There is the danger: intimacy and more intimacy.
- Can I let you into my space, my boundaries?
- Can I risk the consequences of loving you?
- Can I risk the consequences of being loved By you?
As you mull Love as an action step, know that perfection is not an option. None of us are capable of being present, of loving fully, during every single interaction. Life doesn’t work that way. We aren’t made that way. We can, however, strive.
After all, it’s the loving thing to do.
…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.
Jason sat on the edge of my couch, his head in his hands, weeping. He had graduated from a top college on the Eastern Coast with solid grades and a gritty year abroad. On paper his capabilities were strong. However, 6 months into his first job, Human Resources had sent him to me to assess motivational and planning issues; standard executive functioning issues. He was exhausted, befuddled and needed something he could not name.
Raising children can be the most amazing, frustrating, exciting, crazy, awe inspiring, agonizing fabulous vocation in the world as we know it. This tiny life is suddenly in our hands, in our care. Many parents have the hope that they will not make the same mistakes their parents made. Some hope they will be able to replicate the childhood they had. Others set the bar very high and hope to give their child a very different childhood experience from the one that created them.
Hovering. Helicopter Parenting. These words describe a parenting style in which the parent “helps” the child by organizing the child’s social schedule, manages the child’s “free” time with enrichment activities, offers a crushing amount of unsolicited opinions, hires tutors for the child to mange high expectations and eventually does the child’s homework so that the child gets a good grade or doesn’t have excessive stress.
As parents engage in this parenting style, they rarely say to themselves: “Let me do what I can to stifle my child’s sense of self; I want a child who cannot structure a day, execute a project, manage anxiety or forge solid working relationships with co-workers.” Usually, the hope is to attend to their child the way they were not attended to. The hope is to be sure their child doesn’t experience undue stress or discomfort. The hope is to make sure the child knows that the parent loves them and will always be there for him or her. Sometimes the parenting style is used to make the parent look good or to help the parent remain in the social group the parent wants or needs to be in.
Aron had executive functioning issues. Or, equally accurate: he needed to learn, in his early twenties, what kids were learning naturally in middle school and high school. He had never learned how to make his own schedule and keep to it. He hadn’t learned how to budget time to complete various stages of projects. He struggled with co-workers and the distribution of work. He needed a supervising agent to tell him what the next goal was.
Aron’s case is extreme. He had a lot of unlearning and learning to do in order to catch up to his peers. Other kids experience this steep learning curve when they go to college or move out of the family home and leave their helicoptering parent behind [as much as possible]. Cell phones and texting can make this very difficult. We also had to work with his parents, his father in particular, on managing their reaction to his anxiety as he mastered some of these goals.
Loving on Life’s terms means giving a child enough guidance and support that they can accomplish the learning they need to accomplish without doing it for them. Children must learn how to manage anxiety, learn through trial and error, handle down time without screens or being entertained, think for themselves.
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?