Thursday, June 5, 2014

Old love

San Juan River 1991 -- two years into our 25 years of experiencing together
My wife, Sarah, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this week. "That sure went fast," my mom commented
about this momentous event when I visited her last weekend. "Maybe to you," I replied, laughing. "It seems like a lifetime to me."

I didn't mean that sarcastically. Nor negatively. It just feels like ... Sarah and I have been together at this being-together thing for a full and ongoing lifetime already. Because while our time together has not always been harmonious, or easy, or perfect, it has always been deep, and varied, and ever-evolving -- experiences as rich as a lifetime.

And that is, I believe, because we have always experienced our experiences -- being present, observing what's going on, discussing meanings, learning from them -- together. For better or worse. Whether we agreed or disagreed on our stances on what was transpiring, we have always at least ... experienced together.

Because, I think, experiencing is what we do both do best -- both together and individually. It's what brought us together -- enjoying seeking experiences, sharing experiences, sharing our belief in the power of seeking experiences. And I think sometimes it is this shared way of seeing things -- more than our more vulnerable, volatile, ever-in-flux feelings toward each other at any given time -- that has kept us rooted together. Or at least tethered to each other when the marital storms have raged. As they inevitably do at times.

Experiencing as a family -- Bodo, Norway, 2007
On our anniversary night, we went out to dinner with our daughter, Anna, to our favorite Durango eatery, Ken & Sue's. After our waitress learned why we were there, she asked us, "So, what's the secret to staying together so long?"

We deferred to answer at first, because neither of us really felt we had an answer to offer. So our waitress went off, querying a few other of her customer couples on the same topic.

We sipped our martinis and dined on the delicious appetizer and delightful dinner. Then, later, over our creme brule dessert, Anna prompted us again: So ... what is our answer? What is the secret, for us?

Sarah and I looked at each, and said at the same time, "Have fun."

I realize, of course, it's a fine line between simple and simplistic (and simpleton, for that matter). But, really, upon further review, I think that simple/simplistic/simpleton answer has something to offer.

Because when I say "fun" in this case, I don't necessarily mean to imply "fun" always means "pleasure." What I do mean to imply is "fun" as a deliberate effort at ... experiencing. At perceiving and engaging whatever situation unfolds and presents with a sense of bemused bewilderment and appreciative presence. And "fun" is also sharing that sense of this form of "fun" with this person I'm sharing these unpredictable and varied life experiences with. And with whom I'm trying to navigate -- sometimes dancing, sometimes wrestling -- this weird, wondrous, beautiful life journey.

But this version of "fun" has another meaning, as well, one that adds a deeper dimension to the term. Because one thing that happens over a lifetime (and even at a mere 25 years) is that what each defines as "fun" in the traditional sense -- pleasurable activities -- changes for each over time. You still do things together, but each finds other things that also engage them -- as is natural and healthy for any evolving, growing being.

That can be a challenge for the other person (who is also changing, growing, evolving ...). And it can be a major shift in life -- especially after the gravitational force of children has left orbit -- for the couple. And sometimes that imbalance can topple the delicate structure of a relationship.

But there is something that can balance that shifting weight: Have fun.

And in this case, I mean the individual, the person in the relationship facing the changes in the other person in the relationship, is the one who needs to find the "fun" in that experience. (Doesn't matter which person in the relationship you choose, because each is confronting the changes in the other.) At this point in life, each person is challenged to see the other's changing and growing with that sense of bewildered bemusement and appreciative presence that the two first shared and built upon so long ago. But this time it has to be directed toward that other person.

And toward yourself, and your own individual on-going changing, evolving, growing experience ...

Still experiencing together
And toward the whole crazy endeavor of spending a lifetime -- or even a mere 25 years -- with one person ...

And if you can find the "fun" in experiencing that -- using that skill you've been practicing for your whole life (and I do believe it's a practicable skill) -- and if you can work to help the other person find the fun in the experiences you're both going through -- rather than resisting that changing, evolving, and growing -- then that experience, you'll discover, can be the most fun you can have in this life.

Even after 25 years. Or a lifetime.

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