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January 18, 2014

My Intention for the New Year is to Appreciate my Husband. ~ Michele Bickley

This was not about my husband. It almost never is.

My intention for the New Year is to appreciate my husband. I would like to find ways to love him more, express my gratitude more often; acknowledge his thoughtfulness, his creativity and his loving nature.

I have been with this man for 20 years. That’s a damn good bit of time. I can easily take him for granted after all these years and even be overly critical. It seems so counterintuitive that the person I love and chose to spend my life with is the person whom I can treat worse than any other person on the planet.

Yesterday was a stressful day. I had to deal with a couple of situations that are fairly toxic. When I arrived home I found myself finding flaw after flaw with my husband.

Why can’t he wipe the hair off the sink after he shaves?

Why are there three pairs of his shoes in the hall?  

Why is the baby not napping yet?

Why can’t he make the bed if he is the last person out?

And, did he seriously just buy a case of wine because the shipping was only ten dollars?!

I cut my shower short to do a quick cleaning of the bathroom because we had people coming over that night, and I wondered if he had any idea how the bathrooms get clean. Then, when I asked a question and he didn’t answer because he was checking his iPhone, I let out a loud passive aggressive sigh.

And, why was our daughter watching TV when toys were all over the room?

My day started to go from stressful to miserable. I realized I was choosing this path of misery. I had gotten on the train of negativity and there were no stops in sight.

As I rushed angrily around trying to clean our house before guests arrived, I realized that I needed to be cleaning my mind, not my kitchen. I left the house a mess to go upstairs and tend to my lousy attitude.

I walked up the steps and felt how my neck had gotten tight (surprise, surprise). My breathing was short and uncomfortable. I shut myself in my room and sat down on the floor. My thoughts were swimming in chaos. In my head, I was in a full-blown battle with my husband and I was taking him down.

I sat up a little taller and closed my eyes. I imagined what I might look like to someone from the outside. My face and hands were scrunched up. A deep crease of uncertainty had formed between my eyebrows. My jaw was clenched.

On the inside it felt as if my negative thoughts were closing around me like a prison. Like a thousand little spiders were crawling around in my head and springing to bite me one by one. I just observed. Felt the discomfort. Noticed the reactions.

Deep breath.

I had a flash of a memory from 20 years ago. The first time we brushed our teeth together. We watched each other in the mirror and cracked up laughing as we made silly faces and drooled toothpaste down our chins.

Flash: Days later, sitting on top of a parking garage overlooking our college campus and holding each other in the blowing wind while we talked about the meaning of life.

Flash: Time after time, we would stop whatever we were doing when a good song came on the radio to dance and sing with each other.

Moments strung together, one after another, where we discovered each other and ourselves within our connection and relationship.

I opened my eyes and took another deep breath, filling my chest, letting out a long exhale. Downstairs, I could hear my husband putting the little one down for a nap. The rocking chair creaking back and forth, back and forth. I imagined my dear husband holding our son and singing softly to him. My shoulders melted a bit.

How many days had I now spent with this man? I leaned forward and curled my legs under me into child’s pose. I deepened my breath and listened intently to the oceanic sound my breath made in my throat.

I listened as close as I could, breath after breath. Soon, I started to feel a warm calm spread from my throat to my shoulders, between my shoulder blades, into my back.

The cobwebs in my mind started to clear. I focused every bit of my attention on the quiet pauses between my breath. The quiet that was beginning to fill my head-space. Ah, sweet, sweet peace.

I thought about how I had done child’s pose a thousand times. But, this was the first time I really noticed how the weight between my eyebrows sent lightness towards the crown of my head; my third eye (the energetic center for perspective) shifting upwards to the crown chakra (enlightenment). I thought about how part of my yoga practice is to discover and rediscover something new in each pose every time I get on the mat. I felt an immense gratitude for a practice that, even after all these years, still felt fresh and new.  It still feeds me, brings connection, understanding.

It was an “ah-ha” moment.

I had never thought of trying to discover something new about my husband each day, the same way I work my poses. To shift my perspective and look at him anew. To create new ways to be with him and see him. To focus on the positive and allow that goodness to be illuminated.

This man is still the same boy I fell in love with, only better. In the beginning, his positive qualities were all I could see. It was like looking into the sun. There was room for nothing else. Years later with two young kids and full schedules, I find myself sometimes focusing on the little things that drive me crazy.

I once heard someone say, “If you don’t want someone to push your buttons, get rid of your buttons.”

I want to be one of those old couples with grey hair who sit and watch the ocean and still giggle together. I want to touch my husband more. When we are in the car, I want to reach over and rest my hand on his. I want to feel his heart beating because my head is resting on his chest. I want to make space to hear him share more, just like I make space for our kids.

Intellectually, I know that our relationship is more important than the small stuff that I sometimes sweat. But, when it feels like the world has unloaded every stress possible, my husband is the safe place where I decompress and sometimes not so gracefully. The small things that I can focus on then become an amplified negative experience of our connection.

Where attention goes, energy flows.

This works both ways, with positive and negative.

When I went downstairs, I thanked my hubby for putting our little one down for a nap. He smiled and I saw a look of relief in his eyes. He felt my attitude shift. I looked around. He did the dishes. I walked over to him, put my arms around him, and rested my head in his neck—that space that feels like home to me. We just held each other for a minute.

Drawing closer to the positive does not mean I ignore things that are wrong. Yoga is not about putting my head in the sand. It is however, about looking through eyes that are loving, and choosing a perspective that is elevated. Not getting stuck in the muck. Communicating necessary things in a constructive way and then letting them go.

“May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world,
Spreading upward to the skies,
And downward to the depths;
Outward and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.”
~ From the Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness

Our capacity to love is infinite. So, this year, this yoga teacher, this mom, this community activist, this woman is going to—one breath at a time—be a more loving partner. A more grateful partner. A partner that seeks out goodness and chooses affection in as many moments as possible.

That night, when our friends came over, our house was not the cleanest. However, the windows of my mind, from where I perceive the world, were clean. And, because of that, our friends walked into a home full of loving goodness.

My husband, as always, cooked the most amazing meal. Everyone savored each bite and enjoyed each other’s company. Kids ran around laughing and made more mess. I drew closer to my love and thanked him for creating art that melted in my mouth. I rested my hand on his leg and felt the gratitude in my heart expand into the room.

My gratitude expanded into my husband. Into the world.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Assistant Editor: Alicia Wozniak/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant journal archives

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Michele Bickley