Making features from our mistakes

One of my all time favorite films is the animation “Up” – it is sensitive, poignant, funny and communicates so much about relationships in general and marriage in particular. One of the scenes I love is the opening one in which Carl (who has recently married Ellie) accidentally puts his paint covered hand on their newly decorated mail box. There is a moment when this could have morphed into the first marital dispute and then in a moment of decision fueled by the desire to connect, Ellie places her own painted hand on the mail box to leave an imprint of her hand next to his. And there it is – a mistake that could have resulted in disconnection is transformed in an act of generosity and grace and becomes the signature of their connection.

Why do I love this scene so much?  Perhaps because I am deeply aware of my own flaws, my own inadequacies, my own human frailty.  There are so many times that I often inadvertently ( and sometimes more intentionally)  place my metaphorically painted hand all over something pristine in our relationship.  Like the time I neglect to realize that my nearest and dearest needs to spend the first hour or so of the morning in quiet contemplation, and I barge in demanding attention or an answer to a question that needs answering NOW (in my humble opinion).  Or the many times that I offer advice even though I know that it is often thinly veiled criticism which leaves my spouse feeling somewhat disempowered.  And then there are the times that his painted hand leaves unwanted imprints like the time he sent a birthday card with the words “Happy Anniversary” and I reacted rather badly!!

The truth is we all leave imprints on one another with our painted hands – so how can we better respond like Ellie – and pursue connection?  Here are three ideas to contemplate.

Perhaps the first universal truth to acknowledge is that we will all mess up from time to time. We will get it wrong, mis-read the signs, annoy, cajole and irritate one another.  When we cease to view our spouse through a lens of our own imagined perfection, it becomes easier to be gracious.

Secondly, most couples we know (including ourselves) actually crave connection, and when this becomes our conscious intention, our minds and hearts naturally seek alignment.  What does intentional connection look like?  Perhaps the refusal to let the stuff of life clog up our communication, the commitment to seek resolution when it does, and the willingness to forgive when it all goes hopelessly wrong!

Thirdly, a sense of humor is well worth pursing in all our relationships and perhaps especially in marriage.  Catching sight of our own ridiculousness is a marvelous antidote to offense and irritation.  Having the humility to realize that at times I sound like my mother or a two year old having a tantrum helps me to stay grounded and yes laugh at myself.

I know I am bound to put my painted hands on the postbox of life and I am certain that my beloved will do the same, our aim is to leave an imprint that makes our mistakes into features, that makes us and others marvel and laugh and that leaves us more connected than if we had never erred in the first place!

 

 

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