The Gift of Self

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As I was practicing yoga today, I thought, “You don’t need to compare yourself to others, they’re already doing it for you.”

And then I came home with my head all full of thoughts to find my spouse.

In the past when I have reflected on some of my less stellar moments as a a wife, I have brought those to an even more polarizing place of criticism by assigning harsh judgments after having drawn understandable, though completely unhelpful comparisons to the marriages of others.

Naturally, I tried to recall how my parents dealt with marital issues. This inquiry was often fruitless as I don’t have many memories of them in conflict-charged situations. Maybe their generation was more private.

Knowing that my generation is really the first one to be initiated into the world of socializing via screens after having had real life experiences having to socialize in person or over the phone, I figured it probably made better sense to see how my peers managed their domestic matters.

So instead I asked: How do my close friends manage these struggles? How to they deal with it all? Without fail, I ended up employing pessimistic conjecture and concluded, by asking rhetorically: Do they even have to mire themselves with these matters or are they so much more “further along” in the evolution of their marriage that they don’t face these issues any more?

And of course, there are their pictures: They seem so happy. They make it appear so effortless.

But I have come to a point where I fully comprehend the utter worthlessness of even spending a moment in the exercise of comparison. These self-defeating sentiments line the walls of the bottomless well of comparative despair. No benefit comes from my holding up my marriage to contrast against Marriage B. As a nonmember of Marriage B, I cannot truly know what comprises their relationship. While there have been times that I have thought “I’m so glad I’m not married to that person,” I bet if asked, there would be a substantial collection of people who would attribute the same grateful thought to me.

The only way to get to a place of satisfaction is through the gift of self.

(Side note: Although this axiom might be applicable to any worthwhile human relationship, I limit my discussion to the “big one.”)

When I offer my kindness or attention to my spouse, I believe that I must do this with no agenda or hope for a welcoming response. For if my offering is conditioned upon acceptance, it is not really a gift; instead, it is an action to spurn a particular reaction.

When a spouse acts with openheartness and generosity with the underlying hope that this will score points or inspire a reflexive or mirrored reply, then the action was neither openhearted nor generous. It was selfish and calculated. Success cannot ride on the reliance or exploitation of another. Those lead to emptiness as those sorts of gifts are not “of self” but rather “of result.”

Thinking of the dynamics of challenges within a marriage bring me right back to my yoga practice. Yoga is not about being able to do a challenging pose; it is about being present and fully engaged for the sake of giving oneself over to the practice. Once an attachment manifests, the practice becomes nothing more than an exercise in side-glancing the person to the left or right of my mat and drawing a comparison.

And in the same was that I am not a member of Marriage B, I am not an inhabitant of my neighboring yogi’s body. To draw the contrast is little more than a nuisance of a distraction from doing the real work on my own mat.

Therefore, in our split culture between our real selves and our public selves, I’m no longer going to believe that all is well just because it looks that way–nor will I believe that all is not well when it looks that way. How it looks (i.e., what people choose to show as evidence of their lives) matters little to how I offer myself openheartedly and generously to those in my life whom I love.

Will I ever get to the point of being fully understood and totally embraced? That’s hard to know in the same way it is hard to know whether I’ll ever be able to put both feet behind my head.

Tell you what though, I’m not going to stop trying because there is always something to be gained through the attempts at getting “further along.”

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5 thoughts on “The Gift of Self

  1. Very insightful. Living through comparison to others is non-productive and worrying about what they think of you is a waste of time. It wasn’t until I was far older than you that I found happiness just being myself….worts and all. As for those many years ago….yes, we were quite private with our disagreements, but they certainly occurred. Aging has some benefits, and perspective is one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had time to read this today on our 21st wedding anniversary on the way to a weekend away in Chicago. Thanks for a reflective piece about giving selflessly without expectations to those we love.
    I shared it with Rob on our drive to the airport.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m finding that as I get older, I’m a very different person than I was when I married my husband. We’ve both changed, and we’ve had to do a lot of adjusting. Marriage is one of the hardest relationships to maintain over the long haul, I think, simply because of that. You love your children unconditionally, but your spouse? Tends to be very conditional, and the conditions seem to get more particular over time. Anyway, every marriage has its challenges, and you’re right in that giving yourself openly and generously goes a long way in making it a little bit smoother.

    Liked by 1 person

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