How Do You Catch Bees?
Honey Or Vinegar
“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
Louis de Bernières
“Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”
I remember my mother telling me that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, a fact that was reinforced once by a friend who told me about his approach in facing the hard things and the even harder people that come knocking on his door, every day. He referred to it as “The Feather Hammer” approach. You approach things from the good perspective, all the while slipping in the hard-core truth! And of course, his words reminded me of how much I, myself, hated being on the receiving end of the hellfire and brimstone approach! So I think the time is at hand where I must pay my penance for some of my more bombastic posts and share with you all a story that has been circling the globe for years now. It is a softer and gentler story that I share today! The origins of the tale are not clear, although it may have come from the East, as the reference to chopsticks alludes. However it is a reminder that sometimes the soft and gentle way is also the right way to compel someone to wake up, “smell the coffee”, and realize just what it is they risk by not appreciating and caring for and about the things that already exist in their life, but which have, over time, become but a shadow of what once was!
When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, “I’ve got something to tell you.” She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes. Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. “I want a divorce.” I raised the topic calmly.
She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, “Why?”
I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, “You are not a man!” That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!
With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company.
She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.
The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane.
When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.
In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.
This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into our bridal room on our wedding day.
She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door every morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.
I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. “No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce”, she said scornfully.
My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, and cried out, “Daddy is holding Mommy in his arms”. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly, “Don’t tell our son about the divorce.” I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.
On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.
On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me.
On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.
She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, “All my dresses have grown bigger.” I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, and that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.
Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.
Our son came in at the moment and said, “Dad, it’s time to carry mom out.” To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.
But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, “I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy.”
I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind… I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, “Sorry, Jane. I do not want the divorce anymore.”
She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. “Do you have a fever?” She said. I moved her hand off my head. “Sorry, Jane. I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart.”
Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away.
At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The sales girl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.
That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed – dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from whatever negative reaction would come from our son, in case we followed through with the divorce. At least, in the eyes of our son, I’m a loving husband….
I am reminded that it is usually those who are closest to us who are the first victims of our selfish behaviors. We don’t just wake up one day no longer in love with our partner. It is neglect that happens day after day that erodes the very foundation of a relationship. When we view the world through eyes that only look rather than really seeing, suddenly it is those who should be the most important to us that somehow become invisible. Consequently, our relationship becomes but a shadow of what was once, the promise of a lifetime together. Indeed, if there is any absolute worth remembering always, it must be that we should always hold those we love above even ourselves!
Life’s good times do not just happen. We MAKE them happen. We are the creators of the events in our life and therefore, it is we who are responsible for creating our own happiness. When we focus on the things that we think matter, such as money, power and possessions, we may believe we have the key to happiness. But things do no give us happiness. Only people and relationships can do that. And it is usually the little things….the small but sweet details, that are the most powerful force for binding hearts together! As part of the story above, I read the comment of someone who had also shared it, and this person’s comment was one I will never forget. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” So don’t!
You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
Malachi 2:14-15 NIV
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