May 14, 2021

Take Love for Granted

by Jack Ridl

Assume it’s in the kitchen,

under the couch, high

in the pine tree out back,

behind the paint cans

in the garage. Don’t try

proving your love

is bigger than the Grand

Canyon, the Milky Way,

the urban sprawl of L.A.

Take it for granted. Take it

out with the garbage. Bring

it in with the takeout. Take

it for a walk with the dog.

Wake it every day, say,

“Good morning.” Then

make the coffee. Warm

the cups. Don’t expect much

of the day. Be glad when

you make it back to bed.

Be glad he threw out that

box of old hats. Be glad

she leaves her shoes

in the hall. Snow will

come. Spring will show up.

Summer will be humid.

The leaves will fall

in the fall. That’s more

than you need. We can

love anybody, even

everybody. But you

can love the silence,

sighing and saying to

yourself, “That’ s her.”

“That’s him.” Then to

each other, “I know!

Let’s go out for breakfast!”

Quite a few years ago, my bride, Nicole, heard Jack Ridl’s poem on NPR. Upon arriving at work she looked it up, and promptly sent it over to me, asking that I include in their wedding ceremony. She said, “I heard it and immediately thought ‘I need to read that to Justin!’” I had a similar reaction. Upon reading it, I wanted to share it with my spouse. I found the idea novel and so beautiful. I found the concept unique, and also realistic. I found myself saying, “Well, of course!”. . . a sort of “Eureka!” moment. 

Because we hear it all the time in a myriad of ways: “Don’t take [insert whoever and whatever you wish here] for granted!” We hear it used by parents, teachers, religious leaders, friends, family, perhaps even strangers. The phrase is meant to instill a particular value in us, right? Appreciation. Gratitude. Awareness. To a certain extent, I agree. There is truth and value in noticing and treasuring the goodness around you. I mean, with over a year of confinement due to a global pandemic under our belts, yes, I have learned to appreciate much of what I took for granted: toilet paper, bleach wipes (Lord, I love a bleach wipe), a quick run to the grocery store, lunch with a friend, face-to-face meetings with my clients. I have a greater appreciation for vacations with my family, technology (even as it fatigues me), and my general health. So, yes, we should all attempt to be more deliberate in our choices, aware of the world around us, and cultivate gratitude for both the simple and the complex beauties we have in our lives. 

But honestly, such a sentiment is an impossibility. I don’t think it is actually sustainable to walk around in a heightened state of appreciation. Call me lazy. Call me pessimistic. But given that life is busy, complicated, messy, and even challenging, taking my spouse for granted is an inevitability. I need it to be an inevitability. I need to take him for granted. (And by the way, this is true, too, of our deep and abiding friendships). In fact, this very sentiment is embedded in my vows: to love for better or worse. I promise you, and my husband can attest to this, there have been times where my love was for worse. I assure you, I have taken my partner for granted. And he has taken me for granted. And instead of being disappointed in us or in that admission, I find myself deeply moved by it. I find it really beautiful. I find it comforting. We have each other’s backs without asking. We’ve allowed each other the space to attend to other needs – our children, our parents and family members, our friends, the world – with the assumption that when we paused or came up for air again, the other would be there.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When we were younger, I think I’d have found this sentiment completely backwards. I think maybe I would have thought it too practical, ordinary, even downright unromantic. I would have been the one to wax on about “Of course I will never take you for granted, Joey!” So perhaps such an appreciation is born out of the wisdom of living life and doing marriage, whether you stumble into this realization or, if you’re really smart, deliberately choose it when the choice presents itself. (For me? I stumbled into it.) 

And of course, as with all of life, there is a give and take here. To consistently take each other for granted is not healthy. To abuse the privilege is selfish. To suggest that one partner owes another partner anything is presumptuous. And to never take the other for granted undermines a relationship, as well, filling it with paranoia and resentment. I’ve witnessed what it looks like when partners abuse such a privilege. It’s sad. It’s disappointing. It’s destructive. So, yes, there is a balance. And balance is the key (isn’t it always, Jedi Knights?)

For now, though, I am happy to take Joe for granted. Even as the pandemic lets up, we find ourselves in a difficult stretch of unfortunate events. So, I am grateful for Joe’s shoes tossed askew on the living room floor, his shirt on the chair, and his suit coat on the floor of the closet. He knows his cup of water or plate half-eaten will be scooped up and deposited in the dishwasher because I’ve decided it’s time to clean the kitchen. He’ll roll his eyes at me, and get another glass of water, “That’s her.” I’ll hang up his clothes and mutter under my breath,“That’s him.”  And then, “It’s been a long day. Let’s just order take out.”