Sunday, May 15, 2016

The most important question to ask and answer in a relationship - often.

A picture of heart talk.
I'm not going to be annoying and bury it five paragraphs down. And it's not "I love you," or "Do you love me?" because that is too sprawling and massive and hard to answer in a single convincing way, even when it's completely true.

In my opinion, the most important question to ask and answer in a relationship is: 

What do I mean to you? 

I think so for two reasons.

It is important because when it is unasked or unanswered, the person whose heart needs to know this feels like they're walking around underdressed for the weather. Some days are colder than others. 

And, it is important because it is the easiest one to answer. Examples of what someone means to you are everywhere, all the time. 

Words are best. But if you're awkward with heart talk, deeds are acceptable as long as they say:

Here's what you mean to me.

My husband is a consultant whose travel takes him away every week.  Because it clears his head, and because we aren't living in a maintenance free place, he spends some part of  the weekend staying on top of yard work. 
I help with "selected" projects, mostly ones that involve turning things on or off. 
Eventually we'll be working from home again, using our "I" statements when we get annoyed with each other. But for now, to be apart all week, and then engage in separate projects for any amount of time on the weekend makes things, as my mother used to say, "skew-gee" (unbalanced).  
It was my birthday recently. 
I'd asked for a new laptop bag but I really didn't need one. Between all of us in this family who have used them and then upgraded to others, we have laptop bags lying around all over the place. We keep them for the same reason people keep other things that have been replaced by much nicer things. You don't want them anymore but you never know. (What is the rest of that, I always wonder. You never know what?)
My husband handed me a wrapped box which was big enough for a couple of pairs of shoes and told me to guess what it was.
"I don't know."
I felt the box.
"A helmet."
"What kind of helmet?" 
I was still kind of wondering why it wasn't a laptop bag.  Gifts are hard to come up with after you've been with someone for many years and I'd handed him that idea. 
I opened it. It was a bike helmet. 
This made no sense. Years earlier, I'd surrendered my bike to one of the kids or gave it away because I didn't ride anymore, even though you never know. 
So, I said "Wow, this is really nice, the colors are great." 
He said, "It goes with that," and he pointed to the corner of the kitchen behind me where he'd leaned a brand new bicycle against the wall. 
I immediately got on it and rode it around the kitchen table.
Inside the house.
For about ten seconds, I had that feeling one gets when one races to the end of a dock knowing they will fling themselves into the air in only seconds. 
"Oh my God, I love it," I said.   
"I got it because I thought we could start doing this together," he said, "when I'm home."
He handed me a second gift, a book describing where in our state we'd ride. He shared thoughts he'd had of mapping rides around other things – places to stop and shop, gentle landscapes to take in. 
"I thought we'd start over by the Tech, and ride to that restaurant near Mountain Road, and then stop and have some lunch and then head over to..." 
He was as excited as I was.
When I was small, and felt bored or lonely from time to time, nothing was better than finding someone I wanted to be around and asking, "Wanna ride bikes?" You could spend hours in motion, feeling the rush of downhill speed, soaking in sun, or leisurely peddling while you talked elementary school politics. You loved so much about that freedom, but mostly, you loved doing stuff with someone you really liked, and who liked you back.

"I got it because I thought we could start doing this together," is what he said to me. But what I heard was:

"Here is what we mean to me."

It is the most important question to ask and answer for another reason and it is this:  the most important things we know, as sure as our own voice, are also the things we need to know again and again. 

It can get cold outside. Make sure your loved one has their coat before they leave.

And their helmet.


  1. I love this! Thanks for the good thoughts.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Joan. And you're welcome!

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