No lack of harmony in the garden.

No lack of harmony in the garden.

I’m thinking about relationships today, and love, and harmony. It may not be my best choice of subject matter with this killer headache, but I needed a break from learning Baldur’s Gate , which is what gave me the headache!  Video games in any format tend to be really tough for me to learn, and I don’t get pleasure out of pushing my frustration level higher, so until pretty recently I did not bother with video games; too hard for me to learn, no fun.

The TBI changes my perspective on a number of things, and learning games, or building any skills that are impaired to the point of pushing me to the point of real frustration when I try to do things I’m not good at, seems really important now…  Changes in perspective, choices, and mindfulness (even in games), make a huge difference for my enjoyment of difficult things.  Relationships, though, are not games… still plenty of skill building potential, but even when delightful and harmonious, game-playing is not to be encouraged. lol.  The tutorial got me thinking, though, about the basic building blocks to learn a game, the prerequisite skills and concepts that are a necessity before I could even attempt game play… I know people who game ‘straight out of the box’, never bothering with the tutorials, never risking plot spoilers by reading the back stories, or doing any research.  Some of them are amazing gamers.  I also know gamers who carefully read the reviews before buying a game, read the ‘rules’ and back stories, watch some video walk-throughs of tougher sections of game play, maybe even watch someone else play before they take it on (and many of them play the game on ‘easy’ the first time). (Damn, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an ‘easy setting’ we could use for’ our first relationships?) Some of those gamers are also quite amazing.  Is there a right way?

Well, hoping to avoid taking a metaphor too far, but with relationships, I don’t think there are short cuts that are worth taking…but I’m only talking about my own experience, realistically.  I do need to hone my basic skills, and knowing that, it seems  important to figure out just what I think those basics are… not the fancy stuff; I mean the absolute ground level must-have approach, skill, or method for me, as an individual – the one I actually am – to succeed in my relationships.  It meshes nicely, as thinking goes, with approaching my relationships mindfully, as well as the general requirement to ‘take care of me’.  (Ah, adulthood…complex, exciting, frustrating, rewarding, and… ongoing.   Still, ‘ongoing’ certainly tends to imply there’s time to work on this stuff…although I’ve already muddled through 49 years without a clear ‘success story’.)  Most of my relationships are… challenging.  For me, for sure… for people daring to love me…I can barely imagine the sort of committment that requires, or how difficult that must be.

Building blocks… basics… it isn’t likely to be the same for other people, but I know what my own ‘big 5’ are… qualities, characteristics, or skills that I think are an absolute must for a healthy long-term relationship:

That’s it.  I think mastering these makes it a pretty good bet that a relationship based on those fundamentals will do well.   Sure there are other things that are important – communication, an essential, is the first thing that comes to mind – but I am finding, lately, that mutual respect,  reciprocity, consideration, compassion and openness generally result in good communication (or require learning good communication skills to achieve in the first place).  I could also note that having basically compatible values is pretty critical, but I think the ‘big 5’ I listed would likely prevent me investing heavily in a relationship with someone with seriously incompatible values, and the process of finding that out would be less painful than some other tried and true methods I’ve explored (like wishing, guessing, assuming, or playing make-believe about someone else’s values).

My current partners, and our exciting, wonderful, rich, affectionate, complicated, sometimes challenging, nurturing, mysterious, entangled, sweet, inviting, and evolving relationship(s) are certainly one of my most important sources of ‘life curriculum’! I could perhaps call it ‘my home room class in the school of life and love’ – no hyperbole required.  😀

No matter who the teacher is, we have to do our own homework.

No matter who the teacher is, we have to do our own homework.

…in spite of my headache, and occasional subtly unharmonious moments that quickly become part of the past, it’s a lovely spring day.  I’m not making a big deal about either the headache, or the sometime momentary lack of harmony.   I’m studiously maintaining my personal balance by practicing mindfulness, enjoying the sunny garden, and taking care of me by honing my skills on my ‘big 5’.   No matter what life throws my way, those are 5 qualities I value, personally, and cultivating them is worth my time and focus.