If we’re lucky, we mostly feel blessed in our lives with an embarrassment of riches. Even if we have less money than we need, or bodies that are ailing in one way or another, we are wealthy when it comes to the people who love us and grace us with their gifts. But sometimes we don’t see those gifts right away and, occasionally, it takes a bit to understand the power of what someone is offering us.
I know this feeling because it’s what happened when I first met the woman with whom I have been happily bonded for the last 14 years. When we met, I could see clearly that she was bright and funny and beautiful and deep and open and present. And really, how many times do you get to see that all in one person? But the thing I didn’t see, or didn’t fully appreciate, was the fact that she says “yes” to practically everything set before her. Not only did I not fully grasp the power of her positive attitude, but Jodi’s overwhelming willingness in the world actually scared me. It’s hard to believe now, but when she told me she was interested in a relationship with me, it was this openness about everything that scared me most, and almost made me run.
As it turns out, there aren’t that many people like her, at least not that many I know. And I’m never quite sure if she has something many of us lack or she’s free of something the rest of us are stuck with. Whatever it is, when I first saw her move forward confidently when most people would have shrunk into the corner, I didn’t quite know how to handle it. For all of my own reasons, in the face of something new or different or challenging, my default response is fear. My dukes go up, my head goes down, and though I may barrel through, I am not happy about having to do it. Which is not to say that Jodi welcomes being tested. It means, simply, that something inside of her is strong enough and open enough to be able to muster an authentic smile and almost a sense of adventure.
I am learning slowly that not everything daunting is a catastrophe or a drama or something to avoid.
And here’s where I come in. Because something stronger than my own innate cynicism took over in the early days of knowing her, I eventually said my own version of “yes”—with only a little biting and kicking and screaming. And the result was a life with a woman who legitimately sees the glass as completely full all the time—and not in a sappy, unrealistic, naïve way. She loves with every ounce of her being, she laughs readily, dances when the rest of us might want to weep, and offers that kind energy to everyone she encounters, regardless of what’s going on.
It is she to whom I truly owe gratitude for getting to enjoy the slowing down in this new phase of my life, to appreciate everything from a stray leaf to a silly dog trick to a baby’s laugh. If it’s possible to learn new tricks at this end of life—and I can’t tell you how much hope it is—every day I glean a bit more of Jodi in this regard. There aren’t nearly enough days left in life to actually get to be like her, but I am learning slowly that not everything daunting is a catastrophe or a drama or something to avoid. It’s no surprise to me that stepping into life with a warm smile and a supportive word is more magnetic than the “we’re-all-going-to-die” approach I’ve so often taken. And without even knowing she's doing it, Jodi teaches me every day that saying yes is a little like finding a lovely gift inside another one.