Last summer, P and I started a conversation as he was about to leave for work that obviously couldn’t be resolved quickly. Instead of leaving mid-discussion, he made the snap decision to take the day off work so we could finish our conversation. It ended up being just the right thing to do.
We got in the car and drove, mostly because it became clear that we both wanted to escape for a while. We ended up getting ice cream over an hour away.
I can’t remember too many details of what we ended up talking about, but one thing I do remember is, midway through the conversation, P blurted out that he was not happy. It shouldn’t have been a surprise–work had been tough, we were new parents, and we were (and still are) sorting through the emotions of leaving TZ and moving to the US–but hearing the words “I’m not happy,” put so simply, was startling.
It scared me. But hearing that also felt like getting a shot of adrenaline. My husband is not happy?! If that is true, what could we do to change that? What followed after that admission was an extremely productive couple of weeks of conversation, attitude changes, and planning.
Just last week,almost exactly a year later, this conversation came up again. A friend e-mailed me a link to a study that showed the majority of couples are less happy after four years of marriage (especially after having a child) than they were when they were first married. My friend wrote to ask if this was true. Her e-mail came at a bad time, as P and I were having difficulties communicating (we blame it partially on the haboob!), and it triggered another bout of introspection. ARE we unhappy again? ARE we equally content to be where we are? HAVE we given up on our dreams (for example, to live overseas)?
This afternoon, I read a post that, essentially, summarized Donald Miller’s latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I like Miller and his previous books but this one, in particular, resonated with me. Basically, the main idea is that our lives are stories, and we should live our lives in a way that makes them GOOD stories (one that involves a sympathetic character, conflict, and a happy ending). So many people live unhappy or aimless lives because they aren’t intentionally living good stories. One of the challenges that is posed by the person who wrote the post (I can’t remember if this is also “borrowed” directly from Miller) is to ask five “what if” questions as a way of challenging ourselves, determining whether we ARE in fact living a good story, and (perhaps) getting us off our butts and actually making us help the plot out a bit . Good idea. Here are my five:
- What if we moved overseas BEFORE finishing our degrees?
- What if P started looking for other jobs?
- What if we started the adoption process?
- What if I found a way to work more hours?
- What if we bought a house?
Interestingly, this exercise has brought me full circle to the very purpose of starting this blog. Sure, these five “What ifs” are compelling because they signify potential change and excitement. But really, writing those down makes me MORE aware that our CURRENT position, while not necessarily “sexy,” is where we need to be. It is certainly tempting to daydream about uprooting yet again. We like change so much that it is easy to think that making drastic decisions is the only (or at least easiest) way to make our lives exciting again. The bigger challenge for people like us, though, is to find ways to make our story count now, to LIKE our life just as it is.
And that reminds me of what bothered me about Miller’s book. He did lots of dramatic things that did, in fact, make his life interesting reading. But if we’re really going to go with the idea that our lives should be like a good book, maybe it’s okay that this particular chapter serves to lay the foundation for the greater OVERALL story. After all, a story full of car chases (Chapter 3 in my book) and deadly illnesses (Chapter 6) wouldn’t be interesting unless there are portions devoted to character development, and maybe that is exactly what this particular chapter is about.