Reading a novel by the exquisite writer Ann Patchett allows me to take her hand and go where she goes. It’s easy to decide, even in the first few pages, that I’m on board and can trust her guidance.
On page one of “State of Wonder” Ann writes: “When she saw him there at the door she smiled at him and in the light of that smile he faltered.”
Her simple words give reason enough to connect with this man and this woman, and now I’m standing in the light of that smile, too.
I see these two, I feel their appreciation for each other, their tenderness, and for just a moment, I’m there in the doorway, because of what Ann said.
She invited me into this private moment, into soft-hearted appreciation. She invited me to remember the moment I was in my own kitchen, and Eric in the doorway, when I smiled at him and he faltered. She invited me to remember the beginning of when Eric and I decided to be together.
Too, Ann wrote “in the light of that smile” — and I faltered about her writing. I softened. I gave her my hand, willingly, and said take me with you.
Partway down page one, I’m all hers, all in.
The morning view from my great room, deck or even my bedroom is the kind of view that causes this same kind of heart moment. The blue mountains in the distance, the mist in the valley, the sun rising — all of these give spaciousness to my being, and I awaken in awe, every single day.
This only happens, though, because I have given my hand to Mother Nature to say please lead me to wherever you’re going.
She says, “Good Morning, come with me, let me show you this day… ” and I follow, because I know her and enjoy her surprises.
ON THE OTHER HAND
Over the years, I have come to know that resisting (anything, anyone) is hard work. It’s hard on every part of me.
Resistance was my specialty for many years, however, because somehow I thought being firmly decided made me a better person. Even knowing the cost of resisting, I can’t say I’ve abandoned it altogether. It’s an old habit.
But when Eric passed, something happened to me that I don’t understand fully, and for all I know, may never understand.
I can only say, these days, it is easier for me to offer my hand when I’m being lead.
Life is inviting me to do things I’ve never done before. I figured out how to get a French drain installed in front of the garage (what in the world is a French drain and why should I have one?) and how to replace a laundry sink with a kitchen sink cabinet. I found someone to fix a serious roof leak on a Sunday in pouring rain.
Since Eric passed, I’ve been invited to walk forward more often in ways I never did in the past. And I’m more willing. It’s like this: instead of railing against the cold wind, the gray day, or ice, I’m more willing to falter in the direction of cozy jackets, hot tea, or warm soup.
Even if I’m afraid of something, or worried, or tentative, I’ve found the hand of fear isn’t so bad after all.
I walk forward, I look around, I feel what I’m feeling. Since I’m there, like it or not, holding hands with fear, I figure I might as well notice the scenery.
I might as well walk with, rather than run from — welcome rather than reject. It’s easier on me.
This is a process. Does one still blurt when over the edge? Does one unravel when one is in complete non-acceptance?
Sure. Yes. Absolutely.
I did it just the other day. A hand was leading me and I didn’t go. I blurted. I sobbed. I was beside myself.
A deeply compassionate woman listened to me with the kind of ears you can only hope for when you’re upset, the kind that hear the river of love and acceptance running under everything.
So yes, without a doubt, learning to take the hand that’s leading is a process.
Take your time. Shift gears whenever you can, and when you can’t, do what you gotta do.
Nobody that I recall ever said a Capricorn is speedy. Being goats and all, we’re agile and surefooted and willing to navigate steep slopes, whatever they may be. But we’re not exactly leaping about on the mountainside.
Finally, at last, just in time, right on time — I’m learning to offer my hand to whatever or whoever is leading me on the side of that mountain to where I’m going anyway.
In my upcoming book on relationships, I’m discussing a couple who broke up and got back together. They were giving things a second try. And what is so striking about giving things a second try is that you have options about how to begin this second chance. You can bring the past with you, or you can leave it behind and start brand new.
When this couple got back together, it offered them both a second chance. Their re-uniting became the brand new start of a love relationship. The beginning was like a warm bath. Ahhh! Everybody was happy and warm and they felt good! They sang each others’ praises and the song of the relationship was pleasant, melodic and beautiful. There was plenty of purring going on, too, because things were looking up. These two got to know each other all over again in the spirit of discovery, play, curiosity, and love, just like they had done when they first met. Life was grand.
When love is fresh and new, we’re like young kids at play. We’re elated and hopeful. We expect to have fun, and guess what? We do! This joy creates a very powerful kind of positive momentum. We’re holding someone else in the steady sunshine of our approving gaze. We find all sorts of reasons to love and appreciate because we’re looking for the good stuff, and we find what we’re looking for.
Being positive is a natural thing, and I believe it is our natural state to look for what is fun, joyful and meaningful, because it connects us with our best self. And we like it when we are at our best and feel good. Watch young children at play. If left to their own devices, they play for the delight of playing and discovering. They are exuberant. A relationship can start out like that, and it can stay that way in large part if we remember how we began.
And then, as we settle in and spend time around each other, old defaults will for sure creep in. What are yours? Where do you see them? But defaults are just defaults. They don’t have to dictate where things go, if we wake up and smell the roses. This is the golden point (seriously it is) where everything good can happen, if we want it to, and if we’re willing to pay attention in new ways. It’s a pivot place, and it’s full of positive potential.
The interesting thing to me is what if we were able to go to sleep at night, and wake up in a truly sparkling place and manage to spend most of our day in this open and receptive state of mind? How would our lives change if we could approach most of our day as if each moment was a true beginning?
It turns out that whether or not a couple will stay together and be happy is jaw-droppingly predictable.
Researcher, John Gottman dedicates his life to studying couples. In a 1990 study, he set up a love laboratory to learn how partners either create a culture of love and intimacy, or squash it.
Gottman designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched couples do what they do on vacation: eat, chat, hang out, cook, clean, and listen to music.
Making A Bid For Connection
Throughout the day, partners made requests or “bids” for connection. For instance, a wife might ask a question, make a comment, or start a conversation, hoping her husband will join in and show signs of interest and support.
Now her husband has a choice. He can “turn toward” the bid or “turn away.” If he turns toward her, he engages, and shows interest and support. When he comments back, smiles, or asks a question, he encourages intimacy and connection.
If he turns away, he keeps doing what he’s doing (watching TV, reading, checking his smartphone or iPad). He makes little or no eye contact, and responds minimally or brushes her off. He ignores, downplays, opposes, refuses or mumbles “uh huh.” He might even say or imply, “Stop interrupting me, can’t you see I’m watching the game?”
Take A Look At These Impressive Follow Up Stats
Here’s what John Gottman found.
Couples from his study who had broken up six years later had “turn-towards” responses 33 percent of the time. Only 3 out of 10 bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy.
The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-towards” moments 87 percent of the time, or 9 out of 10 times.
Quite a difference!
Gottman’s findings, by the way, apply whether a person is straight or gay, rich or poor, or has children or no children.
Gottman says successful couples are consistently looking to build a culture of respect and connection. He says these couples are on the look out for what to appreciate and say thank you for. On the other hand, couples who don’t stay together (or are chronically unhappy) are looking for their partners’ mistakes.Contempt, according to Gottman, is the number one thing that tears couples apart. And get this — when partners are focused on criticizing, they miss a whopping 50% of the positive things their spouse is doing, and see negativity when it’s not even there.
(Been there. Done that.)
Kindness on the other hand, is good glue, and bonds a couple together. It’s good to think of kindness as a muscle you can develop. That way, the longer you live together, the more kindness you create in your relationship.
And kindness tends to create more kindness, which is a very good thing in relationships!
About Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 15 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant. I love really good food, good friends, and great relationships!
Some days I think it would be nice if all of us humans could be a little more angelic, and well, more enlightened. We’d accept whatever was in front of us without blinking an eye, and do every daily task with a smile on our face as if it was truly, honestly, right down to our toes OK.
And other days I think, naaaaaah.
Because…. the stuff you do and don’t do, what you prefer, and what you downright love — this is what makes you you.
So, yes — heck yes — there are things I do and things I don’t do. Things you do and don’t do. You know what I mean?
Maybe you “don’t do mornings.” Everybody knows you’re a tad crabby, or quiet and unresponsive before noon or so. Or you are a “leave me alone until I’ve had my morning coffee” person.
On the other hand, you could be a person who wakes up ready for the day. Your most productive, happy, creative time of day is before other people get out of bed.
What’s On Your “Not” List?
So… there are things you do, and things you don’t do. There are things you prefer.
This is a good thing. It doesn’t mean you’re inflexible and awful. It means you know yourself and you know what makes life more fun for you. You could even say this is one reason we all came here, to experience the available variety, the buffet of life, and then sort it out for ourselves, and celebrate “our way” of doing life.
One thing I don’t do — I don’t mow lawns. I don’t know know why. I’ve managed to avoid mowing all of my life, and if you think about where I’m from and how I grew up — it’s a darn miracle. In my home state of Iowa where the tall corn grows, people are always mowing — miles of ditches, b-i-g farmhouse lawns, fields of hay (acres and acres), and the (huge) Quaker Meeting House lawn.
I don’t consciously try to avoid mowing. And I don’t refuse to mow — I just somehow never have to. I’ve watched a lot of other people mow. It’s really quite magical.
When I was visiting Iowa just recently, two sisters mowed a neighbor’s lawn until 10 pm and yes, the lawnmower had headlights. Their story was that the grass was so tall, they had to empty the bag about every minute. That was a lot of mowing. It took them five hours, but they got it done.
I thought to myself, ” Wow, I would never do that. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that. You’d never find me mowing, let alone until 10 pm, and be happy about it.” What I loved about their story was that the power-mower-girls felt positively victorious! They loved the challenge, they had fun, and they mentioned that they felt they were a really good team.
Growing up with 5 siblings, someone else (who liked to mow) always volunteered. I was glad.
However, I raised my hand to do other things.
My mother taught me how to bake bread for the family, seven loaves at a time. She also taught me how to make (our personal) standard family farm meals like beef liver and onions with mashed potatoes, Sunday chicken pot pie, and meatloaf with (you guessed it) more mashed potatoes. We ate a whole lot of potatoes growing up.
My volunteering to cook was a really welcomed thing in my big family! First, I was clearly busy while the question about mowing was happening. As in, gee she is busy, I guess the rest of you have to figure out who is going to mow.
Second, I was good at cooking and I liked it.
And third, being the family chef worked especially well for my mother who was doggone weary of cooking for such a growing family. She loved whenever I threw down my garden hoe and headed for the kitchen. At a certain point in high school, meals for 6 kids and my father and whoever else was around appeared on the table. I did it for her. It was natural, pretty easy, and I enjoyed finding new recipes.
So… there are things you do and things you don’t do.
Are you “being yourself” in this way? Are you doing what you want to do, and letting others step up to do the rest?
Or are you resentful about doing what you “have to” do? Do you push through it, or make yourself miserable doing a task, just because you tell yourself there is no one else to do it? Or you should do it? Or that it’s just easier if you do it?
Clean it up.
This being “true-to-yourself-about-what-you-have-to-offer-or-what-you-like-to-do” is one of the best maintenance practices I know of for nurturing your happy self and keeping a happy relationship with a partner alive and thriving.
Do what you want to do and then find a way for someone else to do the things you can’t do or don’t want to do. Delegate the things that drag you down. Attract someone to do what you dread. The very thing that causes you a heavy heart is another person’s passion.
Ahhh…now that’s WAY better!
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In Care of Relationships with Terri Crosby– Tools For Creating Positive Momentum. http://incareofrelationships.com. Terri is a relationship mentor. She helps create life-affirming, ever-evolving, happier relationships with those you love. She offers change-of-heart, change-of-mind perspectives to create great relationships. If you are ready to take your relationship to the next level, you can sign up to be on the mailing list HERE. To subscribe to her blog, go HERE.
You’re broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can’t find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again And I’ll rise up High like the waves I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn’t quiet And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We’ll rise, oh, oh We’ll rise
I’ll rise up Rise like the day I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we’ll rise up High like the waves We’ll rise up In spite of the ache We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousand times again
During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.