Category Archives: Living life to the fullest
As a child, when I heard that a couple had been married 20 or 25 years, it seemed a lifetime.
Now that I’m there myself, it seems more like a first chapter. Now that I’m there myself, it feels like we’re just getting to the good stuff.
I pre-scheduled this post to run while my husband and I are away on an anniversary trip to London, England. That’s some of the good stuff: Freedom to travel.
When we planned our trip, we found it easy to choose destinations, knowing that some would be enjoyable to both of us, and others would be more fun for one of us than the other, and that would be okay. That’s some of the good stuff: Learning that, when we accommodate each other’s needs, there’s joy in that for both of us.
While we’re away, our teenagers are taking care of the house and living their independent lives. That’s some of the good stuff: Appreciating the fruits of our parental labour.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I wasn’t too sure about this whole marriage thing. I assumed that someday someone would wear me down. They’d propose and I’d resist until finally one day, reluctantly, I would say, “Oh, all right. I’ll marry you.” It didn’t quite work that way.
When I got engaged, some people asked me why I decided to get married. My answer was, “Because it’s as natural as breathing.”
(I still recommend that as a marriage foundation. If you’re thinking of getting married, and it feels like it’s as natural as breathing, it bodes well for the long-term potential of the relationship. If you’re thinking of getting married, and it feels like choking, you might want to reconsider.)
Over 25 years there have been plenty of times when we have irritated each other. Over 25 years there have been stressful times. But over 25 years, even during those irritating times and stressful times, I have always known, at the root of it all, that the best choice I ever made was marrying my husband.
Boy, am I lucky. Or smart. I’m not sure which, but I’ll take it.
In the coming week I will be celebrating (and blogging about) two events—a birthday and an anniversary.
These two events mark the passage of time and the coming and going of milestones. It puts me in mind of a quote I keep posted on my office bulletin board:
Regard this fleeting world like this:
Like stars fading and vanishing at dawn,
like bubbles on a fast-moving stream,
like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass,
like a candle flickering in a strong wind,
echoes, mirages, and phantoms, hallucinations,
and like a dream.
Do you find that quote depressing? Some people do.
I find it inspiring. It makes me sit up and pay attention. It makes me appreciate whatever is fleeting by me.
I will celebrate my milestones knowing they are mirages I can’t hold on to, so all the more to be enjoyed in the moment.
This past week I had the privilege of writing an article about a woman from my church. Jean volunteers for a long list of organizations, giving to others in different ways. As she bakes, delivers meals to seniors, quilts, and tackles her many other labours of love, she glows with energy and good spirit. When I asked her why she does all she does, she said, “It makes me feel good. I get back so much more than I give.”
Another friend of mine volunteers for Canadian Red Cross. He supports people in need in his own community, and he travels to countries in crisis around the globe. When he speaks of this work, he glows. “I get back so much more than I give,” he says.
I have heard that refrain over and over in my life, from people aglow with the joy of hands-on giving.
After my conversation with Jean, I thought about other people I know who have stable jobs and who probably give to charity, but who don’t give of themselves in a close contact way. They golf every Saturday, or they enjoy fine dining, or they spend most weekends at their cottage.
I would never say these people aren’t happy. If I were to ask them if they are happy, they would say yes. What is the difference then?
The difference is the glow: The merely happy people pass through life content; the others glow with a giving contact high.
The question then: Do I want to be merely happy, or do I want to glow?
On Sunday, my friend, Ellie, made me think about something in a different way.
During her church reflection entitled “When Forgiving Takes Three,” she spoke about how we sometimes need assistance from a third party to help us through conflict situations. What really made me think, though, was the idea of listening as a gift to others. Usually we think of listening as receiving. We sit back, someone tells us their thoughts or feelings, and we receive that from them. But the act of listening—really listening—is more about giving than receiving.
How many times have you felt tuned-out by someone when you are speaking with them? Frustrating, isn’t it? How many times have you shared thoughts or ideas with another but felt your concerns weren’t received in the way you intended?
We have the power to dissipate conflict early on simply by allowing another person to vent their frustrations and by giving that person the gift of really hearing them and working hard to understand.
I’ve got my ears on. Ready to listen.
Rev. Ellie Barrington: “When Forgiving Takes Three” http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/reflections/when-forgiving-takes-three/