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Girl Happy?

My brother-in-law is Dr. Alan Robins, a counselor here in Ashland whom I've known for 43 years. For the past few decades he has often given me one piece of very simple advice: "Keep it simple."

For what seems like forever, I've been prone to making everything in life entirely too complicated, particularly relationships. But since around 2003, Al's advice finally began to sink in. I thank God for that advice quite often, too, because Al was entirely correct.

Since then, my personal growth has been huge, culminating with my greatest treasure, the love of the wonderful woman who agreed to be my wife. Her name is Barb. She and I have been incredibly in love nearly from the day we met.

What is the secret to that love? For me it came from keeping it simple, and then from acting on an extremely valuable discovery. It goes something like this: I ask her, "girl happy?" If Barb answers "yes," I give a joyful cheer, "Girl come back!" If Barb says "no, not happy," I try to be there for Barb in any way I can.

I realize that might sound entirely too simplistic for some — it sure took me forever and a half to figure it out — but that's truly the "keep it simple" answer I found for our deep, passionate, never-ending love. I mean, just for example, we don't fight. Maybe I'm forgetting, but I don't remember us ever having an argument. Oh, we've had fearful or painful times which we've shared, where one or both of us was going through tough stuff, but we were always on the same side, shoulder to shoulder, and never toe to toe. I think I finally managed to learn that in its deepest essence, love, true love, always wants the loved one's happiness. From time to time I still call that "loving with an open hand." But with Barb, right from the very beginning, it finally became "keep it simple," "Girl happy? Hurray! Girl come back!"

All relationships take work, be it between me and Barb, between me and someone else, or between me, myself and I. There is no escaping work.

Life and relationships are all about learning and growing, and no matter how much we would rather not have to do the work, and no matter how hard, painful or scary that work might be, work is the only way to learn and grow. Work is the only way to learn how to love.

The good news is this. Just as in a garden, the more you work, the more you will harvest, and the more you will keep harvesting. The bumps along the way are no more important or notable than a twenty-second Tuesday.

What is a twenty-second Tuesday? That's when the bumps fade into the past and become as unimportant as whatever happened on the twenty-second Tuesday of last year. Do you remember what happened on the twenty-second Tuesday of 2011? I sure don't.

So there is my most precious jewel of wisdom for all you wonderful readers of the Inner Peace column in newspaper land. It goes both ways, too. Barb took "keep it simple" to heart as well, and often asks, "Boy happy?" I hope you will find "keep it simple" helpful in your lives and love with an open hand. If it helps, and I hope it will help you as much as it's helped me, try the simplest question of all: Girl happy?

Bruce Harrell is a very happy husband living with his wife, Barb, in peace, joy and love in Ashland.

The Ashland Daily Tidings invites residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on all aspects of inner peace: intuition, guidance, courage, fearlessness, forgiving, tolerance, acts of kindness, gratitude, life challenges of grief, pain, addictions and more. When we share lives are touched in ways seen and unseen and the collective community spirit is enhanced. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan innerpeaceforyou@live.com. See past articles at www.dailytidings.com.