the Effort with the Ease

Relationships are often difficult.  It warmed my heart and settled my mind recently when I heard these words, read aloud during my morning yoga class, to balance the effort with the ease and I thought it might possibly be the best description of how to be in a relationship that I’ve ever heard. Surely there have been countless ways people have described how to be a partner, how to BE human with another human, but these words, so profound, yet simultaneously simple, touched me.  Being part of a pair, this conscious coupling in which two people choose to participate, every day, not just on a day that is “supposed” to be romantic or loving, but EVERY day that we make a choice to BE WITH another person, is what Valentine’s Day means to me.  This February day is a reminder to myself that I am choosing this person to be my person and recognizing that truly, the only thing that really MAKES two people a couple and KEEPS them together is the choice they make to remain so.  Argue all you want if you like about shared assets, expenses of splitting up, housing affordability issues, who will take the pets, distribution of retirement funds…whatever, the fact to me is that we decide daily we are going to share our life with this person, we choose, and that is the only thing that makes a couple, a couple.

I am the daughter of a man and woman who have loved each other for almost 52 years and the older I get, the more I understand, it is a choice they made, over and over, to continue to be together.  I have some girlfriends from high school who now love men they first loved as boys, and have grown up and grown in love with the same person for thirty years.  I love that I know these women, and I sometimes envy what they found when they found it.  When you fall in love late in life, as I have, you miss most, if not all, of the magical moments of firsts…picking out our first sofa, announcing our engagement, planning a honeymoon, deciding where to buy a house, watching with fear and joy, as a recently peed upon plastic stick turns from clear to blue…all of those firsts, this man I love right now, my person, he shared all of those magical moments with somebody else.  It’s sometimes very hard to handle, if I find myself thinking about it, so I try not to think about it too much, but it’s a loss of sorts; meeting somebody who seems so perfect for you, but you met them too late to share any of those magical moments and experience any of those firsts.  The loss does not diminish the present joy, it’s just an observation that sometimes makes me long for what was not and never could be now…

I’ve learned over time and lessons in living, that being content in your present is another choice, and for me, trying not to dwell too much, if at all, on what could have been or wasn’t, is very important to my level of happiness.  I try to accept all of my life as a culmination of the choices I’ve made and accept my present tense without much regret, and that too is a choice.  It’s EASY to focus on the negative, it is EASY to fall into the shoulda-woulda-coulda, and the wishing for other things, but I think, in the big picture, ALL aspects of relationships are essentially boiled down to this; what we choose to think about and how we choose to think about it…as she said, the effort with the ease…

I find that my life is more beautiful when I focus on the positives and the pluses and try to let the negatives go in one ear and out the other.  I like what my teacher read, to balance the effort with the ease…We can find ourselves consumed with how we’ve been hurt, what went wrong, why so-and-so made such a terrible decision, why so-and-so failed us, and that ends up taking a lot of effort on our part to accept, forgive, move on, but when we zoom in on the good, the fun, the joyful times, it is so easy…so easy to choose love and be positive.  I think the more happy thoughts you have, the more you find you can be happy about, and at least for me, in this later phase of my life, it seems to be the way things are going.

I’ve found over these chapters in this love story that I’m in, when I focus on the times we laughed together, ate great meals together, remembering his face, and oh that smile, the first time I ever saw it, my brain immediately brings me back to the overjoy.  When I think about the simplest things, like the first time he made coffee for me, or the not so simple things, like when he nursed me in unimaginable ways after unexpected complications after surgery, my brain immediately brings me back to the overjoy.  There are, if we try, far more beautiful things to think about and dwell on that are happy and loving, but we, each of us who choose to be part of a couple,  have to choose to think that way.  We have to balance the effort with the ease, because you see, I know this much is true; if you focus over and over on the negative, the annoying, the frustrating, the angry, the times that were not good the times that were sad or hurtful or painful in any way, those negative thoughts are so powerful, for some reason often so much more powerful than the lighter and happier thoughts, that they take over your gray matter so fast and the relationship disintegrates, a bit more day by day, until the sound of them chewing or the way they squeeze the toothpaste becomes the final straw.

The stores were filled these last weeks with mushy romantic cards with bad illustrations and corny wording, and none of the cards said what my teacher made me think about; I choose you, I will continue to try every day to do what I can to show love and be love, and balance the effort with the ease.



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