Happy today, doing the nothings of life,
Chores and errands feed me.
Who would have guessed that the simplest work
or the mundane round of the grocery store
could light up my face and warm my soul?
It is not the task that holds the magic,
but the companion.
And with you, boring is transformed to joy,
and simple becomes interesting.
With you, I am part of us,
And that is enough adventure
Wherever I am,
Whatever I am doing.
I feel the whisper of your kiss on my shoulder.
The early morning light creeps in
And finds we two,
Curled in summer sheets,
Warm and secure.
How long did it take us to get here?
Through decades of life and living,
we struggled to find
the slow unhurried pace
of this moment.
We face each other and smile.
This was worth the wait,
and all the days of busy.
Kids and work, hustle-bustle,
life in the fast lane.
But now we have time.
And we have each other
in the morning light
Curled warm in summer sheets.
I wake up slow
And remember fast.
That instant when I know
I’m alone in the bed, in the room, in the house.
But worse than that,
I’m alone in heart.
This is not the absence of a trip away
Or a few days’ separation.
This is forever.
And I don’t know how to think of that.
I don’t know how to imagine forever
Without you, without us.
We were a matched set,
And I don’t think I come as a single item.
I see myself sitting on the store shelf,
Someone wandering by
and looking at me curiously,
Only to put me back when it’s apparent:
Half of me is missing.
I recently came across this YouTube video that was so stunning I had to share it. I notice it was posted three years ago, so maybe I’m the last person on the planet to see this. The piece is from the “slam poetry” genre, a type of spoken word poetry that often focuses on current issues and injustices of politics, gender, economics, etc., and can be very controversial in nature.
I am not often drawn to this type of thing, but I felt this was very powerful. The poet, Katie Makkai, doing a piece called “Pretty,” speaks about the fixation that our society, and particularly women, have with appearance. She talks of her own struggle with image and then broadens her point to include women who look for fulfillment in their latest shopping excursion, and to men who are looking for love by seeking attractiveness first. She concludes by promising her future daughter that she will never be simply “pretty” or defined by that word. It is well worth a couple of minutes to view.
I am not any ardent feminist, and I am realistic enough to know that despite humanity’s best effort and intention, people who possess personal beauty will always be counted favored and fortunate. It is certainly no crime to want to be attractive or to want to present one’s best self to the world. But the poet’s point is that for many people, beauty, attractiveness, appearance become so important that the real worth of the individual is diminished, and a false value is established: the value of how beautiful one’s face and body is, rather than the worth of the person behind the appearance.
Let me know what you think. I’m interested to know if this resonates.
A few weeks ago I came across a simple but intriguing question: “How can I love you better?” Catherine Newman, writing in the October 2010 issue of the magazine Whole Living, describes her experiment with asking that question of her family and the surprising results. She anticipated that their responses would require some difficult sacrifice or change on her part, but found that the reality was much simpler. The requests weren’t big ones after all, and yet simply asking the question had a profound impact on her spouse, her children, and the author.
Isn’t it an unspoken expectation in relationships that you are always trying to love others better? Does asking the question remind those in the family, the marriage, the friendship of that goal? Do relationships deteriorate because people quit trying? Who can consciously try to love the others in their lives better every day?
Maybe that’s where the simple act of asking the question comes into play. None of us is perfect. None of us can love the others in our lives more each day, every day. We have more capacity to love, to give of ourselves, to be unselfish, some days. Less ability other days. But when we ask the question, “How can I love you better?” we remind the people in our lives that we are paying attention, we care, we are noticing our behavior. We are trying. The times we are successful at loving better carries us through the moments when we fail. And isn’t that what relationships are about anyway? We try, sometimes we fail, we forgive each other, we try again. Loving better is a never-ending quest, a reach for perfection that none of us can ever fulfill. But we can ask the question, we can consciously try.
I asked my own children, grown now and living on their on, how I can love them better. My son tells me if I understand more of his interests, I can be a better friend to him. Fair enough, I can do that. My daughter’s first response, which she self-edits even as she speaks it, is that we live closer to her. But at the moment that’s not feasible. So I am waiting for her answer still. But she knows I want to love her better. My husband knows. I like the self-challenge to be more engaged, to be consciously and actively looking for ways to demonstrate what is truly and deeply in my heart: that I want to love them all better, more deeply, with intention and ferocity.