Tuesday, January 27, 2009

True Love: Fruit of Eden

The title of chapter 14 in the book, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart", is True Love Is the Apple of Eden.

That title fascinates me. First, we don't know that the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve was an apple, just a point to clarify.

As I read the chapter I laughingly agreed with what the author, Dr. Gordon Livingston, was saying.

In a nutshell, I interpret what he's saying is that we as human beings have such a desire and longing for true love that we will sacrifice everything in order to get it, even the anger of God by disobeying Him.

The author then proceeds to show how foolish we are. He doesn't say this, but he does ask in a way, "Is there such a thing?"

One of the paragraphs says: When I listen to comments from elderly people who have been married fifty, sixty, or more years answering the inevitable question about "the secret to a successful marriage," it seems to me that a high tolerance for boredom often heads the list. Such bromides as "We never went to bed angry" or "Moderation in all things" convey a philosophy more geared to survival than to pleasure. Where, one wonders, is the idea of endless, renewable love?

I've laughed and laughed at that paragraph. We will celebrate our fifty years of marriage in May. If we were asked that question, we could definitely not say we never went to bed angry or that we have been moderate in all things. We've been very angry many times with each other and sometimes it took days to resolve. These days it takes much less time. Progress. And moderation has rarely been our motto. We tend to go from one extreme to another, but we have fun. Eventually we sometimes come to a moderation type of thinking. Sometimes.

I think I would answer that "inevitable" question if asked on our fiftieth, that it was very, very hard work. We both decided to grow in healthy emotional ways on our own, and from that we hoped to grow healthy in our partnership.

I think either one of us could have probably made a good relationship with someone else. It so happens we chose each other and it's been an adventure. I look back at my early thoughts about finding the "right" person and finding "true love" that would last a lifetime, and chuckle at how silly that type of thinking is. I do think I have the "right" person and that we do have good, true love. However, I do believe that is the result of sticking with it, working hard, and always growing individually without blaming or depending on the other one.

The result of the hard work and staying with it has rewards and benefits too long to list. I highly recommend it. Enjoying a relationship is the result of staying with it and putting some work into it.

Bottomline: As long as one thinks that true love is some elusive thing to hunt for and if you're lucky, found and enjoyed and you'll live happily ever after, it will be to that one the fruit of Eden. Would that we could all learn this lesson early and well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Relationship Control

No. 5 in the book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, is "Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least."

Isn't that an interesting thought to think about. The author's comments on this concept are pretty negative. He brings out that when a couple marries, they have a fifty-fifty chance of making it. And his perspective is one of a counselor who sees people who are desperate and need help. He brings out that the one wanting the relationship to work is pushing the other less interested party. Thus the control issue.

After I read this, I've been ruminating on it. And I've decided I really agree with this. I don't think I would have ever phrased it this way, but it is so true. I mentioned in the comments section of the last post that usually when we hear something said or taught, it strikes us as real truth because we've already experienced it in our lives, but just haven't put it into a thought or expression. And our response in those situations is YES! And that's my response to this truth. Yes!

I've done some talks on the giver-taker relationship. And I end up saying that a true relationship is one where each person is giving at times and able to take at times. And it should be about equal with each person in the relationship.

My personal experience in this area has been one of usually giving and very uncomfortable with saying I needed help and taking help, advice, or comfort from others. My awakening experience in that area was a time in my life when I was hurting, more than I ever had. I needed someone.

But those I turned to ran from me because they weren't comfortable with a needy me. That was quite a learning experience. I changed gradually over time and took myself out of the always-advising role and made myself vulnerable in areas where I needed help.

Another relational area where I learned this is when my children became adults. I continued in the parental advising role even though they, especially my girls, had established their own families. I remember well the day I said to my oldest daughter that I had no words of advice, that I had confidence in her and her decisions, and I would be waiting to hear how she had resolved the situation. Her response to me was that she didn't like this new way of functioning. I held to my stance and we "untangled" an unhealthy way of relating that we had established. It wasn't easy, but I'm here to say, it's the very best and it works very well.

I guess that's why I knew intuitively that this concept that Dr. Livingston presents is true. I have already experienced it in different areas. I would have said it this way: work on your relationships so that you are a giver only fifty percent of the time and that you are a taker equally as long. Of course, someone who's a taker all the time needs to work on being a giver.

Hope you see how all of this relates. Makes sense to me. : )

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Courage of Laughter

Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh is the most profoundly therapeutic.

This quote is Number 28 of 30 in the book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.

Here are some of the ideas presented in this chapter:

People find it hard to entertain two emotions simultaneously.

What is important about laughter in our lives? If you ask people, even when they are depressed, if they have a good sense of humor, the answer is nearly uniformly "yes." ...even though ample evidence to the contrary.

What gives humor its power in our lives is that a capacity for laughter is one of the two characteristics that separate us from other animals. The other, as far as we know, is the ability to contemplate our own death. There is a connection between these two uniquely human attributes that cuts to the heart of the great paradox of life: It is possible to be happy in the face of our mortality.

To be able to experience fully the sadness and absurdity that life so often presents and still find reasons to go on is an act of courage abetted by our ability to both love and laugh.

Humor also is a form of sharing, an interpersonal exercise. To share laughter is a way of affirming that we are all in this lifeboat together. The sea surrounds us; rescue is uncertain; control is illusory. Still, we sail on--together.

Those are some of the high points in this chapter.

A personal word: We are finding in these our later years that as long as we can find humor in a situation, we are able to enjoy life. Interestingly, we laugh a lot. Everything seems funny, and it's mostly at ourselves. We often say, "As long as we can keep laughing, we will be okay."

Of course there are sad times and occasions, but we don't dwell there too long. We move on.

The other day we were watching TV and Paul made a comment of observation. We looked at each other and then started laughing and we couldn't stop. I couldn't catch my breath. It wasn't the words, it was the interaction and we both interpreted the same funny way. Quite enjoyable. And we missed a few minutes of the TV program until we could quit laughing.

I've often heard that growing old is only for the courageous. I agree with Dr. Livingston, this author, that the most profoundly therapeutic form of courage is laughter.