When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.
Tao te Ching
When it comes to romance, tightie whities and a toothbrush outweigh flowers and candy every time.
When my husband and I first entered into cohabitational bliss he traveled a lot. One thursday night I came home from work to find a message from him on the machine.
“You may not get it, but this is a very romantic message. Can you remember to take the trash to the curb tomorrow morning?”
Had we already been together for a number of years, I might have puzzled over why the hell he thought trash was remotely romantic. But fortunately, these were the early, chemistry days. The time in the relationship where the sound of his voice still makes your heart flutter and all the smarmy songs on AM radio finally make sense. My endorphin-addled mind understood the inherent romance immediately.
I swooned. And in an instant, my life changed forever. This was the secret to true love.
Taking out the trash. Putting away dishes. Folding laundry. Feeding the cats. These are the moments of a life shared. When you brush your teeth and look in the mirror and there are two faces instead of one. Breathing in rhythm as you sleep. Chuckling together along with the canned laughter on TV. Things that you used to do alone, and now do in harmony (or counterpoint, or even beautiful dissonance) with someone else.
I think many of us keep wanting to recreate those feelings by repeating the “romantic” experiences of those early twitterpation days. We want moonlit dinners and walks on the beach and flowers delivered. And when Barbara Streisand wails “you don’t bring me flowers any mooooore,” we cry along with her at our failure to make love last. We put pressure on ourselves and our partners to invent creative and elaborate romantic moments. And along the way, we set ourselves and them up for failure and disappointment.
Of course we fail. We’re trying to create a fiction. We want to run across the heather-covered moors into the arms of the Lord of the Manor. Bah. What insipid nonsense! I prefer gazing through my half-lidded eyes at my lover as he pulls on his ridiculous old man underwear in the morning. If you haven’t seen that, you don’t know romance.
In the days after my beloved asked me to take out the garbage, I meditated on the meaning of romance. I made a firm resolution to remember the wonder I felt seeing all the potential vistas for lasting love opening up before me. And I decided to hold fast to that concept.
As I meditated, I realized that this newfound joy in the mundanity of every day life wasn’t limited to my partnership. What if I could take each of the tasks that seemed trivial and repetitive and find in them the moments of a life LIVED? Why spend more than half my life waiting for the weekend when every Tuesday morning brought with it the potential to exist in joy? So much life wasted trying to slog through the practical and get to the fun, when the fun was with me each time I drew breath. It is only a matter of redefining “fun.”
These days I do my best to notice the taste of coffee in the morning. I find music in the sounds of the gardeners keeping the neighborhood manicured and blooming. I appreciate the feel of the hot water on my hands as I rinse the dishes, grateful that I can feel and stand and work. I drive my daughter to school and welcome time spent with her in silence (or more likely the pounding sounds of her music coming from the radio), knowing that these moments will soon pass and relishing that they are still here. I create schedules and project plans and follow up on endless details for my work, enjoying the gift of a mind that can concentrate and organize and plan. Pulling a tomato from the vine, gathering basil leaves, and using the food I’ve grown to prepare a meal for my family takes on a spiritual significance so profound that I am sometimes overcome to the point of tears.
But best of all are the moments in the day when my hand brushes against my husband’s as we work in the kitchen, or I hear him laugh, or I can sit beside him and share a meal. My heart leaps at the romance of it all. The moments of a life shared.