secrets to successful relationships

A yoga class.

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I teach yoga two evenings a week at the local community center. Class size varies from one session to the next but there is a small core who sign up every time. One of them is an older lady who lives down the street and for 76, having never done any yoga prior to starting classes with me a year ago, she is incredible spry and limber. It’s amazing to see her progress and to know how much she enjoys and values the instruction. Introducing people to yoga and watching them find themselves in the practice is even more joyful than teaching grammar was back in my public school teacher days of yore.

During the winter months, Rob usually walks me over to the hall where classes are held. It’s not even a two-minute jaunt. Just out the back door, down the drive, up the alley and across the street. But it’s dark, icy and made more precarious by the bags I schlep with me. He carries my equipment and I point the flashlight, and the process repeats in reverse an hour later when class in complete.

Last night, Rob ran into our sweet elderly neighbor as he was hustling up the alley to walk me home from class. Greetings were exchanged, but Rob stopped to chat because she had halted in her tracks and he had a feeling she wanted to tell him something.

“Your wife is so lucky,” she said.

He didn’t reply and she continued,

“You carry her things and walk her to class and then come back to help her get home. That’s just so nice.”

“Just doing my part,” he replied.

He told me the story later and I concurred,

“I am lucky and I know it,” I said. “I read so much about men who have no idea that it’s the little things day in and out that matter the most, and here I have you. I never have to ask you to pay attention, help out, or for much of anything really. You just do.”

Kind of reminds me of the lyrics to a song I shared not long ago,

There’s no way to describe what you do to me
You just do to me, what you do

Except it’s more than what’s done to me but what is done for me.

He would argue, correctly, that this is a mutual thing, which is as it should be.

But, I am very lucky. I don’t take that lightly or for granted.

We suffer from the need to skip the work and let someone else tell us how. But that never works. It’s a patch at best. Books, gurus, groups, ideologies, philosophies. They are starting places. It eventually all comes back around and down to you. Are you willing to push through?

Last night it was vegetable barley stew with tuna sandwiches. Tonight it will be minestrone, romaine salad and fresh bread. Did I mention the soup will be homemade? Like last night’s stew? No, well it will be. How did this happen? Me cooking.

When I was young and my mother wanted to teach my sister and I to cook, she meant baking. The kinds of things that my father liked to have around that were time consuming to prepare, and she didn’t feel like doing herself. While I don’t think my parents had children with the intention of fobbing off their least favorite chores on us, over the years that is what happened. I am sure that I was never taught to cook a meal though my mother claims otherwise. I am sure for the simple fact that my father wasn’t someone who wanted his meal ready and on the table when he arrived home from work in the evening. He wanted to read the paper. Have a few beers. And then a few more. Smoke the cigarettes that had been burning a hole in his pocket during his ten hour shift at the meat packing plant. While our friends were having dinner, we were playing outside,waiting for them to be done, but by the time they were finished, it was dinner time for us. After enduring family meal, a ritual that became more and more arduous as the years rolled by, my father’s drinking got steadily heavier, and my parent’s relationship more strained; my sister and I would hurry through the clean-up the hope that would still be enough daylight left for play or homework or whatever. As a result, I never learned to cook a meal.

When I went out on my own, meals were haphazard affairs. I am the kind of person who can eat the same thing for weeks and months on end without thinking much about it. Variety never had much to do with food for me. Even now, I have certain preferences and if not for Katy and Rob, I would rarely spice up my routine beyond my few favorites.

My late husband liked to cook, and he was easily bored with routine. He did most of the evening meal prep when we ate in, but because we were childless for the first while, we ate out a lot too. Later on his illness effected his appetite to the point where he didn’t eat much, and Katy was still a baby, so there was no need to prepare meals in the traditional sense. I got into the habit of feeding the two of them and then eating breakfast foodmyself, if I ate at all.

Rob had limited rotation of meals when I first met him. When it became too tedious for his daughter to bear, I think, then Jordan would cook to change things up a bit. So, when he and I blended our lives nightly meals became something that I to truly deal with for the first time in my life. At first, I left it to Rob, who was pretty good about it despite the fact that he had to work all day and come home to the additional work of preparing the family meal. He would give me jobs to do like vegetable prep or salad making. From there I progressed to making lunch for everyone, as Rob came home most days, and it was a bit like making supper but with a less demanding menu. After a time the occasional meal became my responsibility. And now, I am making soup from scratch.

I know that many women would find my pride in this accomplishment laughable especially because in my peer group, many married young and have been juggling husband and children and jobs and cooking for decades now. But for me, I am still quite impressed with myself. First I am writing regularly, and now I cook. On par as far as creative endeavors go? Perhaps not, but both are outlets in my quest for personal growth and discovery.