Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Seashells, sea glass, and skimming stones. How's that for alliteration?

I was recently asked the following. What had I learned from past relationships, or about myself over the years, that has made me a better person to be in a relationship with?

It's a good question, isn't it?

After briefly dipping into my bucket of lessons, much as one might gently sort through shells collected on the shore, I chose two. I hastily dusted the sand off, but as I held them in my hand, I realized they were more like those pieces of green sea glass - pounded smooth but cloudy.

It was a face-to-face conversation, and I had not much time to ponder, so these were offered in haste.

One was this: I have learned to bite my tongue. That you cannot take anything back, and you cannot undo it. That sorry doesn't erase anything. So you should choose your words very carefully in anger and in hurt.

And the other, which just finally, finally sunk in, is that not everything is about me. I don't mean this as it might sound - that the relationship should revolve around me and my needs and my wants. But rather, sometimes things that I take personally have nothing to do with me.

For example, sometimes the other person's bad mood is just a bad mood that he wants to be left alone to deal with. I didn't cause it and I can't fix it. And sometimes, if someone backs away or rejects you, it's because of the place he's in - not that I'm an inadequate person.

That's the one it's taken me so damn long to get. Sometimes it's about what's going on with him, and not what's wrong with me. And you have to just let it go.

He asked how these lessons learned have been working out for me.

And I said honestly, I don't know yet. They're brand new. I'm just trying them out.

Truthfully, though, upon further reflection, I realized that the most important thing I've learned is this. You should never, ever take love for granted. And you should not be profligate with one drop of it.

Don't play the prove you love me game. Sometimes that's tempting, either because love has become hard to trust, or because you don't feel like you're worth it. But just don't. Don't toss a heart away to see how many times it will come back. Because at some point, the ebb tide will pull it out far enough, and you won't be able to retrieve it.

Even if you can't reciprocate, for whatever reason, you should treat the offerer nicely and with respect. And if you're letting them go, you should allow them to slip gently into the waves, rather than leaving them beached or crushed or so tangled in seaweed or nets that the effort of untangling is tantamount to drowning.

This, I'd say, is the biggest thing I've learned. Be kind and be gentle with love, even if you do not want to keep it.

I've pushed and I've pulled. I've skimmed hearts like smooth grey rocks out into the distance, and I've had mine slammed with the swirly grinding sand into the bottom. I hope to avoid the latter, and I'm damn sure never going to do the former to anyone ever again.


  1. Nice post and good use of the word profligate.

  2. Speaking of the sea, you wield metaphors like a matador wields his cape to distract before the killing blow. Okay, technically thats a simile and it's got nothing to do with the sea, but you get my meaning, right?

  3. Sean - Thanks! It's a word I don't get to use all that often.

    HIN - I think so, and I think it's a compliment, right?

  4. What I've learned... I've learned that while it's good and all to forgive, it is far better to never get to the point where you have to forgive someone.

    When a situation reaches the point where someone is in a position to forgive someone else, the level of negative emotion in the system has passed some critical point. The act of forgiving is like stepping back from the brink. It is important. It is a good thing... but really, you never want to get to the brink in the first place. That you have to forgive means you've seen the chasm beyond... not something you want to see very often.

    How? It's not very easy because it requires us to change how we look at people... how we judge them and their actions. You have to adjust the relative weight you give to (1) the action, (2) the results of the action, (3) the actor, and their intent. Usually we tend to focus on one of those three in any given situation. In doing so, we tend not to give as much weight to the other two as they deserve. This skews our reactions, and takes us to the brink.

  5. I had to look up the meaning of profligate.

    I agree with VVK, not reaching the point of saying you're sorry is so important. It's been my experience guys don't apologize even when they should and feelings have been hurt and me, on the other hand, I apologize too much and the meaning is lessened.

    A pastor once stressed to me the importance of fighting fair, no name calling, remain calm, think of the other person (like LG said - it's not about me). Becauase relationships? The love, cuddles and companionship is easy - it's the arguments where the complexity comes in. And where all the hurt lies.

  6. Ditto. Exactly. I concur. Your point resonates with me. Boy, have I been there. Indubitably. It is decidedly so.

    I'm still very much working on the second lesson, and could stand to polish up on the other two from time to time. Thanks for the post. :o)

  7. Excellent post. Well said and well written. I agree with both points, although I am still working on perfecting, err, polishing them.

  8. That's the thing with lessons, even after you can identify them, they're hard to work into your everyday life and actually live by.

    Not everything is about me. I know this, and yet it doesn't change how I freak out about his bad moods and how I let the crazy take control sometimes. Thanks for putting into words what so many people (myself included) need to hear.

  9. VVK - I am in complete agreement with you. It takes a lot of self-control not to get to the brink. You're wise, my friend.

    HKW - I think it's such a common thing for women to apologize too much. And I think sometimes it makes men respect us less, when really they should respect that ability more.

    Dagny - I think all of it takes constant effort, honestly. Thank you!

    YIHA - Thank you. I'm glad to hear that.

    nicoleantoinette - Yes, they're hard to work in and hard to live by. Especially when the crazy takes over. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

  10. Don't play the prove you love me game. Sometimes that's tempting, either because love has become hard to trust, or because you don't feel like you're worth it. But just don't. Don't toss a heart away to see how many times it will come back. Because at some point, the ebb tide will pull it out far enough, and you won't be able to retrieve it.

    There is a wisdom there on so many levels whether it's romantic love, familial love or friend love.

    Great post, Lisa!

  11. Well written, my dear. Well thought out. Accurate on so many levels. Love is absolutely something never to be taken for granted. It must be tended with dedication and selflessness in order to blossom. Truly a wise post.

  12. Holy Lord, man. That's terrific.

    Although I had to look up "profligate."

    On my wedding invitations, on the back, in little tiny type, I had the typographer set the words "Love rules."

    I have been trying to convince Maggie to let me get the phrase "Be Love" tattooed on one forearm, and "Even you" on the other. Still in progress.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    I found your blog a bit ago, and have been wandering around your archives, getting to "know" you. I truly enjoy your writing, and am so glad you are able to share it.
    This entry reminded me of something my mom wrote for me, shortly before my wedding. My husband & I got married in Jamaica, so it was just the two of us. My husband brought these words from my mom, and read them to me during the ceremony. I am not a crier, but I cried when I first read them, I cried when he read them to me, and I cried again reading them just now.

    Thought I would share:
    I'm not wishing you luck because it takes anything but luck to have a successful marriage. I wish you light. I wish for you both that the bright light of your new love
    and commitment shines through to the end of your days. Never forget to cherish each other, and may your light shine on all the positive and wonderful things that you both have to offer each other.

    Keep the darkness in the dark and live in the light. My love will be with you on your wedding day even though I can't. I hope you have a beautiful life. If there is anything I can offer about marriage it would be that it is like the ocean. It is not always high tide. When it is low tide, keep your eyes on the horizon, and don't look for another beach because when the tide comes in again, it is beautiful and so


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