Thursday, January 07, 2010

Reflections: Notes to Each Other

As imperfect, fallible people, our attempts at interacting and coexisting with other less-than-perfect mortals are bound to be challenging. With the recent trend that has been bursting ample spotlight onto the nuances of relationships, exploring the institution of marriage and divorce, almost everyone around seems to know the theoretical implications of getting into a relationship and the toil it takes to make it work. Yet, despite all the cloying tiredness about the glory and pitfalls, the numerous songs, movies and dramas, the idea of love always gets misplaced. There is disillusionment, dissatisfaction, tragic revelations, torturous self-inflicted misery... all due to the denial to practically accept that no relationship is made in heaven, and the notion of romance or love is often too visceral and transient, and something that has to be uniquely established in its own way in every relationship.

Hugh and Gayle Prather married on a whim, the night of their third date. They had no signs, celestial or earthy, to encourage their matrimony. The smoke soon cleared to reveal two mismatched people desperately trying to put together a relationship. Since then, the two of them have made a steadfast commitment to stick through anything that life decided to throw at them. While writing the book, they had spent 25 years together. The relationship was no easy sail, especially with serious episodes of infidelity rocking their foundation. This book is a collection of the authors' personal scribes and notes, venting out their pain, their joy, and their insights after some of their stormy fights, arguments, discussions and revelations.

The wisdom and the insights are probably what each of us intuitively realize and have heard a million times before, but in the throes of an argument, they sneak out of our minds. Contrary to most self-help books, this book presents an informal and personal touch, with mere snippets of thoughts spilled across the pages. The words articulate thoughtful rumination... they are those precious words and serene thoughts we often wish to verbalize and implement, but fail to. We can see ourselves, our words, our thoughts, our mistakes, our lives, in the nuggets of insights. And the "secret" to make things work is as simple as being devoted and committed to a friend and companion, gently reminding ourselves to express kindness and consideration at every step along the way. But how much of an ordeal that simple sentence encompasses...

Lofty ideals of intellectual compatibility fly out of the window when the skills for basic cohabitation reduce to how we handle life and its mundane chores on an everyday basis. Quite an anticlimax for people like me. Innocuous absent-mindedness that was at one point deemed merely as funny, has the potential to brew capricious storms; all because of forgetfulness to turn-off lights and retrieve keys. While many, including me, have scoffed at the importance laid on superficial compatibility in food preferences and colors, it presents a surprisingly tough pickle when one person wants to furnish the house in mere monochromes and the other yearns for a splash of color. Trivial and materialistic, I know. But it's horrifying that despite all rational efforts, little things add up to dictate what we can live with, and what we cannot live without. Like withered and useless bits of dried leaves, these petty issues are nonchalantly cast away, only for them to lay piled up in our subconscious. And a little spark, a heedless word, a gesture, a look, is all that is needed to set the whole pile of leaves aflame. At the end of the fire, the ruins and the ashes leave scars and damages, irreparable for a long time. And a guilt-ridden epiphany comes floating to our minds, painfully pointing out that the outburst was a mere tempest in a teapot. If not for a bond of commitment that stipulates each other to wait for the dust to settle, one is prone to flee from the tempests and the fires.

Patience, kindness, forgiveness, compromise, living the present, working only on the current issues at hand, arguing in order to understand each other better and not to attack each other, expressing honest emotions, and working everyday to close the gaps between each other, and letting no other external forces dominate the bond between the two, are the basic lines of sagacity offered by the book. It gives hope and a sense of reality, and is written in lyrical and concise prose.

It pays to focus on the positives and make the best of what we can, rather than dwell on what we lack. And a committed devotion to make things work needs to be reciprocated; it should be part of a team effort. To quote my favorite lines:
Devotion is an act of heart. Devotion is the decision to look upon whoever is before me, or whatever is within my hands, with perfect thoughtfulness.

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