There have been reams written about love, but between love and respect, respect is what keeps the home fires burning long after the first rasping spark on the tinder box of attraction has burnt itself out. People focus so much on love that they forget to handle the humble aspect of respect. Without respect, love doesn’t seem to last. Intimacy does sometimes develop a dozen left feet.
Many people seem to confuse respect with awe and so it seems very ‘un-cool’ somehow. I guess it would be very uncomfortable to be with a person you are in awe of, but wouldn’t it be even more terrible to belong to someone who doesn’t seem capable of standing up for the things that matter to you. Little things maybe, like being there for a friend in a crux or being able to be honest in a sticky situation?
As usual, it’s the little things that matter – the ones that most people disregard – the mucky, irritating things like changing a tyre in the rain or running out to the store for a loved one in the middle of a movie. The ordinary sweat, blood and tears routine that would not sell if you were to use footage about it in a movie. Get that part right and the rest seems to look after itself. Love is fine – it’s wonderful – way beyond our wildest dreams, but we can still see it the way it really is and build upon it to make it last.
In the first flush of love, the flames burn high – maybe because the kindling is catching fire – the small sticks, the dry leaves, the dazzling smiles and the come hither looks, the ‘pilated’ figures and the unlined brow – mostly inconsequential stuff that burns out in the long run. A leaping flame is nice to watch while it kindles, but its main purpose is to set some bigger logs on fire. Logs like understanding, tenderness, sharing, caring, getting to know and love each other’s families, anticipating what each one would do under different circumstances and so on. In the middle of a well-built fire there is almost always a huge log that is the heart of the fire. The other logs are piled upon it. It keeps the entire pile of logs from falling apart. I think about that one as the log of respect – for each other and the things you hold sacred.
When the flames start catching on that one, it burns without smoke and you could have a fantastic, lasting relationship. The embers will last the night and keep you warm and comforted – spread warmth around you and for every one who visits your fire on a cold night. In the morning you can look for some kindling, spread it on the embers, blow gently a few times and it will start blazing again. The big log has huge embers. With some care, it will last beyond a lifetime, maybe many lifetimes. Keep the big log smoldering.
One thing that seems to really help is the awareness that you do not own anything. You are just passing through, traveling light. You don’t need to own anything either, especially people. Since you don’t own them, you don’t need to change them. That’s easier said than done, I know. I guess you need to define success before that really seeps in.
Don’t you believe you would be really successful if you have a home where you have lots and lots of people you care about who come in and have a wonderful time, where you have enough to put food on the table for all these people, a heart large enough to find space for everyone who comes to you with a problem, warmth and strength enough to comfort the people whom you can’t help, a vision that keeps you loving whatever you are doing for a living, a mind that is forever searching for new things to understand and learn and a soul that soars up free as an eagle unfettered by the opinions of the chickens on the ground.
It takes courage to be an eagle and it’s a lot more fun than scratching around for worms on the ground and finally ending up on someone’s plate.
It’s great to be individuals in your own right. If you also happen to be wonderful together and if you’ve got a good fire going, you are on velvet. Eagles do pair up for life and it doesn’t take away from either of the two. While it is brave to fly alone, it takes even more courage to completely belong to someone you love, to be inter-dependent and part of a team, to keep adding new logs and stoking up the fire after every storm that passes – to stay and rebuild from the embers, when you could so easily walk away. Whenever you are at your lowest ebb, I hope you stay!