In a recent Rewilders' Community webinar, we were asked to speak on death. We had a poignant conversation with many sharing their experiences related to death, grief, near-death experiences, and the lessons learned. It made me think of the Latin phrase Memento Mori, which means to "remember that you must die." This phrase is not meant to be depressing but intended to illuminate and inspire one to live life fully in this moment.
Memento Mori might seem like a depressing theme to use as inspiration for a relationship post, but I find it refreshing and practical.
Recently when Angus and I returned from a trip, I offered to drive home. Angus usually drives when we are together, but I knew he was tired, and I felt relatively fresh despite flying for five hours. I needed to adjust the wing mirrors when I got in the car. It had been a while since I needed to do this, and I had forgotten what switch to push to move from adjusting the left mirror to the right mirror. I asked Angus for help while I was fiddling with the switches. I thought I had switched to the right mirror but was still adjusting the left mirror. While he tried to explain how to do it, I figured it out. He thought I was still struggling when I had figured out what I was doing wrong, and he continued to explain the procedure to me. I was trying to tell him I had it figured out and wanted to adjust the left mirror first and then go to the right mirror.
In this process, I raised my voice and talked over him. He got upset that I raised my voice. And then there was an atmosphere in the car. Both of us were feeling hurt. I felt hurt that he took me raising my voice so personally and judged me harshly for doing so. And he felt hurt that I had lost my temper with him when he was trying to help me. It was a minor fracas, but neither of us felt good, and we started the drive home with a stony silence between us.
After a few minutes of driving, my nervous system settled down. I realized that I was caught up in historical conditioning of feeling like I wasn't allowed to express anger and hurt and that I was judged as bad because I did. I realized that all this was happening inside of me. As I returned to the present moment, I recognized I wasn't a terrible human because I raised my voice at my husband. I am imperfect, and I would have hoped I could behave better in a situation like that, but I didn't. Rather than simply adjusting the controls and not saying anything, I felt compelled to speak over Angus. And that he felt hurt in the process.
As my anger dissipated, I felt compassion for Angus and myself for finding us in this situation on a Saturday night on our way home from a lovely trip. I realized that life is short, and I didn't want to spend any unnecessary time without a feeling of goodwill between us. So I took the simple step of apologizing for my behavior. I couldn't take it back. It didn't make it okay, but I could acknowledge that I hadn't behaved well and hope that Angus would be open to accepting my apology. I think there might have been a hint of resentment at first, but it shifted pretty quickly, and we were able to move on.
The Latin phrase Memento Mori didn't come to mind at that moment. But the spirit of it did occur to me. And I think it will continue to be a helpful reminder for me not to unnecessarily waste time suffering when love is such an easy choice.
I will be honest, love isn't always such an easy choice for me, but at that moment, it was. I could see the choice point. I recognized how I could choose to stew longer and prolong my suffering, or I could choose to do what was needed to return love, first and foremost, within myself.
Remembering the shortness of life and the unpredictability of how long I have in this world is an inspiration to live and love to my fullest capacity.
And as Richard Carlson's books remind us, don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilders Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.