I ran across this chapter I copied from Running From Safety: and other adventures of the spirit, by Richard Bach.
Do any of you have that odd pile of papers, things you don’t want to get rid of, but don’t quite know what to do with them? So they pile up and eventually make their way into a box or a drawer. And then every three or four (or six) years you go through them?
That’s the box I was going through one afternoon and ran across my copy of Chapter Thirty-Four. It made an impact on me then (probably late 1990’s when I was reading the book) and obviously wanted to keep. When I sat down to reread these words so many years later, it was like finding new wisdom. I thought it would be a good ‘romance’ post, dealing with an aspect of marriage that I forget about. I fail to remember that we’re different. And when my better half behaves differently than I expect, because after all, it’s not how I do it, then I get annoyed. I’ve forgotten this lesson already.
So for today, in tribute to romance, marriage and relationships, I share these words from Richard Bach. In his book, the adult Richard is fictionally speaking to his younger self.
From Running from Safety
When dinner was finished and the dishes put away, I threw my paraglider into the car and drove toward the mountain. On the way, I reached out in my mind, looking for my little friend.
He sat on the same hilltop, but now there were trees on the slopes, young ones, and a meadow that overlooked a green horizon.
He turned to me the instant I saw him. “Tell me about marriage.”
“Of course. Why?”
“I never believed it will happen to me but now I know it will. I’m unprepared.”
I suppressed my smile. “Unprepared is all right.”
He frowned, impatient. “What do I need to know?”
“One word,” I said. “Remember one word and you’ll be fine. Remember different. You are different from everyone else in the world and you are different from the woman that you will marry.”
“I bet you’re telling me something simple because you thought it was simple, too, and it turned out it wasn’t.”
“Simple isn’t obvious, Captain. We’re different is a revelation that a lot of marriages never reach, a realization that doesn’t show up for a lot of smart people till years after the dust of divorce has settled.”
“Different but equal?”
“Not at all,” I said. “Marriage is not an area of equality. Leslie is better than I am in music, for instance. I will never catch up with what she knew when she was twelve, let alone what she’s learned by now. I could study for the rest of my life and never know music as well as she does, or make mine as lovely as hers. On the other hand, she’ll probably never fly airplanes better than I do. She started twenty years after I did and she can’t catch up.”
“Everything else in unequal, too?”
“Everything. I’m not as organized as she is, she’s not as patient as I am. She’s the fighter for issues that matter to her, I’m the detached observer. I’m selfish, which to me means acting in my own long-term best interests; she hates selfish, which to her means instant gratifying in spite of consequences. She expects me sometimes to sacrifice my sense of right for hers and she’s surprised when I don’t.”
“So you’re different,” he said. “Isn’t every husband and wife?”
“And nearly every wife and husbands forgets. When I forget and expect Leslie too be selfish, when she forgets and expects me to be organized, we assume the other’s as good as we are at skills we’ve already mastered. That’s not going to happen. Marriage isn’t a competition to top each other’s strengths, it’s a cooperation that needs our differences.”
“But sometimes being different drives you crazy, I bet,” he said.
“No. Sometimes forgetting that we’re different drives us crazy. When I assumed that Leslie was me in another body, that she knew what I was thinking every second and that my values and priorities were hers exactly, I was asking for a barrel-ride over some monster waterfalls. I kept assuming, and I kept wondering the next minute why I’m suddenly down the river and what are these smashed hoops and staves dangling around my neck while I pick myself like a ragged sponge, dripping, off the rocks? I felt guilt, of all things, till I faced it, remembered we’re different, and let it go.”