The notion of hard work is well matched with the achievement of career goals, scholastic efforts, even fitness or health pursuits. When we think about the work it takes to attain or maintain good relationships, many of us stumble or even resent thinking about intimate relationships in terms of aquisition and excellence. Do we think human relations should be organic and free, natural and wild? Or that real love just happens and is some kind of magical force strong enough to chart its own course? Certainly real love is wiser than us, and doesn’t require our feeble tinkering.

My mythos of romance, the charm and seduction of blind enchantment doesn’t really pair well with my ideas of structure, hard work, list-checking and regimented discipline, and I kind of see them as operating in very different rooms in my mind. Moving toward the application of the idea of being business in the front AND back seems so rigid and efficient, or at least controlling and robotic and not sexy. The application of techniques, strategies and tactics feels calculated and not disingenuous but somehow distanced from open-hearted presence.

When we consider our most important relationships, do we think it’s a crassification, or a commodification to attach a work ethic to their maintenance and care? In what may be our last bastion of personal freedom, allowing for the seemingly random chaos of love deeply satisfies a need we have for wild places. How are we served by believing that these important relationships will somehow take care of themselves and be there for us when we need them the most?

I like the analogy of a garden. Permaculture has been a fascinating obsession of mine for a long time and I marvel at the balance struck between intervention and an accepting appreciation for what is. Whether in habitats or between loved ones, applying an intentional and curious attitude toward cultivating healthful and supportive relationships seems the epitome of my idea of what is beautiful and truly natural: that is, we are always affected by what’s going on around us; changed by it, inspired, motivated, or discouraged by our environment. As we bounce off all that surrounds us, we change the world as well. Our lives make a difference.