Life slowed down a bit for me this week, like when my kids were little and someone woule get a fever and you had to stay home. I remember secretly enjoying the excuse to stay in and cuddle whoever was sick, as long as I didn’t have other healthy toddlers that had to be kept alive at the same time. At this point I don’t have that problem, I just had to recruit my own mom to move in and do the driving for the ones I left behind when I went to Texas. This time, it was my college freshman, Lauren, who, after being diagnosed with mono almost two weeks ago, called on Sunday and needed some extra care to get this nasty virus turned around...so off I went. Regardless of circumstances, good things and experiences always come out of the time we spend together and once some of the meds they gave her started to give her some relief, this time was no different. Besides a great Monday night game between the Seahawks and 49ers (Lauren has been able to talk football with any group of dad’s since she was 12), we binged on a little Modern Love, Gray’s Anatomy, and Big Little Lies. I’m still way behind the rest of the world on these shows, but TV drama, like a good novel, always illustrates some human truths that make for good conversation for us and keep me thinking afterward.
One of these thoughts came when we were watching Big Little Lies and Lauren, observing the relationship between Ed (Adam Scott) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) said
“There is a low maintenance person out there for for every high maintenance one.”
I knew what she meant, she was talking about “opposites attract” or the “yin and yang” theories where partners balance each other and create a harmonious relationship. In Big Little Lies, Ed is such a chill guy to have chosen Madeline to be “the one”, it’s hard to imagine the relationship could actually be a fit, but I see the romantic beauty in her thought. The couple of decades of life experience I have on her had me answering back quick though.
“It doesn’t necessarily work that way. I don’t want to be the low maintenance one, chasing high maintenance or the high maintenance one expecting to be balanced out by the low maintenance, I want to be one of two low maintenance people who support each other.”
She got what I was saying, her comment wasn’t meant to be a deep one, just some banter back as forth as we watched this overly dramatic show. But of course, my mind kept breaking it down further as I thought about the nature of my experience with human relationships and the life that surrounds them.
These days, I’m thankful for my low maintenance ways even more because of life’s often high maintenance circumstances, because although life is full of simple pleasures, a lot of days it doesn’t feel so simple and the people that we choose to spend our days with need to add more connection and less complication to the flow.
Despite what Jerry McGuire had to say back in 1996, connection, not completion, is what the best relationships are about. Connection isn’t either complicated or simple, it’s just conscious. Consciousness allows us to think of the other person without obsessing, and helps us understand that expecting all of our needs to be met by someone else is bound to create some drama, and robs us of our own freedom. Interdependence over codependence.. Expecting someone else to make us happy or fulfilled, or having them try and fail to create that place for us is not how trust, longevity, and stability is built. Healthy relationships are only available to us when we first have a strong sense of our own worth and the ability to soothe ourselves. From this place, we can build and have fun together, knowing that we always have our own autonomy as the source of our strength. This keeps us from falling into controlling patterns and allowing us, and our partner, to move freely through the world. Love is a choice, when we learn to love ourselves, we give others the choice to love us without strings attached.
With the right person, mundane and calm feel like a gift in this crazy life. But if we have been used to too much chaos in our life, or are trying to numb some unresolved feelings or trauma, calm doesn’t feel right to our system. We have to be able to sit quietly with ourselves and sort out our feelings and thoughts, or we will always look for the big events to sweep those uncomfortable feelings under the mat. Don’t get me wrong, trips and tickets to great events are fun, but the best relationships enjoy the simple things, anywhere, anytime, because simple is never boring together.
The best writing, even fictional, like Liane Moriarty’s, who wrote the book Big Little Lies, which I loved long before it was turned into a TV series (although good for her), is grounded in universal human truth. I’m realizing the reason I don’t watch much TV is because life’s drama is enough for me on most days, so a lot of the time I am just seeking quiet. Today, I aim to be the low maintenance to life’s high maintenance, and although that partnership is working out pretty well, it’s a partnership that I’m not looking to replicate.
P.S. - I’m happy to report that Lauren is doing so much better. Thank you to all of the people who reached out with good vibes and prayers for her. She’s hit the not so miserable stage of mono where she just needs to sleep it off:)