Okay, so by now you all know that I love Captain Awkward’s advice. I’m slowly making my way through the archives, and the other day I came across the best relationship quote ever.
You know how we always talk about how relationships (friendships, family relationships, love relationships) take work? That we have to expend effort to get something back, and so forth? Well, I always thought of the “work” in this equation as something unpleasant. As in: the effort expended when things are going well isn’t actually work, but the stuff you have to do to repair or maintain a crappy relationship / friendship is what we mean by “work.”
But “User Rinna2412” gave a reply to the original letter writer that contained the following:
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Relationships (with anyone) aren’t all gumdrops and candy canes. However. It should feel like work the way that gardening feels like work to a gardener, or the way that writing feels like work to a writer. There should be effort expended, but the pleasure received should more than exceed the effort put in.
Like gardening feels like work to a gardener. Like writing feels like work to a writer. Like brushing or walking your dog feels like work. Like threading the loom feels like work.
I think this has changed my life. Honestly, I have an association dating back to childhood and reinforced by decades of low-paying, low-status service jobs that “work” is something grinding and faceless and basically a necessary evil.
Something I’ve always liked about Marge Piercy’s books is how she positions good and satisfying work as such an important part of a person’s life. I’ve always been drawn to that theme in her books but I never really “got it.”
But in terms of working at relationships, I feel like suddenly I’ve discovered a whole new colour in the world. I garden, I weave, I write, I walk my dogs, I call my friends, I hug my mom, I paint. All this time I have been going this joyful and satisfying work, spending time and energy and effort and thought and feelings in all these areas of my life. Working at relationships. Working at art. I call the art work “work” but I always meant it differently. I meant it like a garden. Why did I not make the leap to working on relationships?
Gardens need weeding. I didn’t even realise this was work. I didn’t realise work could be joyful.