Upon being married for 10 years

Ten years. That’s how long my husband and I have been married.

We’re even more grateful now to have chosen each other than we were on our wedding day. I’ve been thinking about what has carried us this far, to this place, ten years later.

Commitment. Love. Trust. Forgiveness. Fun. Obviously—these are givens.

Looking beyond those, I keep seeing evidence that the key (at least for us, in our particular marriage) is honesty.

By honesty, I don’t mean just fidelity or the absence of lies. I mean a priority for finding the truth, about each other, about ourselves. What kind of person am I really when my guard is down? Which fears do I still carry around with me? Which shining gifts have each of us not recognized in ourselves? When we’re arguing, what’s the truth about what’s going on? How well will we help each other achieve what we care about?

We reflect the answers back to each other like mirrors. When we see answers we don’t like, we only make progress if we don’t look away.

Honesty has been present in every gain we’ve made in building this marriage.

I think honesty might be necessary to create anything good or lasting, whether it’s an organization or a book or a class or something new. 

In my experience, I can’t breathe in an organization where everyone wears a façade, I write junk when I try to be clever instead of honest, I make dumb mistakes when I avoid being honest with myself.

To honesty. And to ten more years even better than the last.

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Destruction is fast and brainless

Destruction is fast, brainless, unimaginative.

If we want to live in a better world, we can’t destroy our way to it. We have to build—and building requires care, creativity, patience, and time. Building is quieter, slower, and less dramatic than shouting or violence, but it’s required if we want any kind of peace or light that lasts.

At the end of 70 summer days

Heading into my family’s first full week back to school feels like summer officially ends tonight.

So I’m checking in.

What did I make this summer?

Memories, stories, jokes, crafts, healthier food choices.

Progress through stacks of unread books. Headway on ukulele chords.

A new weekly family tradition called Ice Cream Sunday.

But what I’m most hopeful about is making space. I’m practiced in taking on too much, in crowding out the fun in my own life—and this summer has made clear that I can’t (and shouldn’t) keep that up.

Today, making space meant making ice cream with my daughter. Tomorrow, I’ll see.

***

I want know what you’ve created these past summer weeks, if you’re willing to share. Comments open. I’d love to hear.

Complete these 2 sentences without stopping to think:

The rules: When you complete the two sentences below, write the first response that comes to mind. Just go. No extra thinking. Whatever comes to mind.

You may also write the second or third thought, but only if they come quickly. Do NOT give yourself more than a second to start writing. If you do, your brain will find a way to explain away your true answer.

Ready? The first response that comes to mind:

  • Even though I want to, I can’t _____________.
  • What I actually want to do is _____________.

I used this exercise to open a class I taught recently. My objective was to open people up to the idea that they may have more choices available than they thought.

Sometimes, if you just say what you think you can’t do, you realize how silly you sound and then you just go do it. Other times, the word “actually” can help you find something you didn’t know was there.

Those questions also brought up two particular roadblocks for us:

But-I-really-can’t answers

Even though I want to, I can’t stop changing poopy diapers.

Sometimes, we really do feel barred from a certain choice. I have a baby. I can’t just stop changing her poopy diapers. Whether or not I want to change her, I have to.

Hold up. I could actually stop changing diapers. Some parents do. Their children live in squalor and neglect. If I recoil from that option, then I’ve actually made another choice a step before the diaper ever gets dirtied: I choose to raise a child that’s healthy and cared for.

The choice you feel you “have” to make (the diaper) is often a result of a higher-level choice one step before (a cared-for child). Back up and find out what that choice is and the thing you “have” to do takes on new meaning.

Impossible wants

What I actually want to do is run / fly / cure cancer.

The word “actually” can help dredge up the thing you didn’t realize you wanted and then you can go and do it. Easy peasy.

Or that word can present you with an impossible desire. Maybe you want to run, but you’re not physically capable of running. Maybe you want to fly, but you literally don’t have wings.

This is not a dead end. Your impossible answer still holds information. What would you get out of your desired action? Freedom? Greater independence? Respect? Take the “to do” out of the sentence and write your answer again.

What I actually want is ____________.

You may have a wider range of choices available to you than you think.

The dream you already have

I have a picture of my dream house in mind: Craftsman style, blue siding or red brick, steps leading up to a wide front porch, built-in bookshelves, and my writing desk positioned near a bay window. This kind of house does not exist in the neighborhood where I currently choose to live.

But we rearranged our furniture this summer and I realized that my current home already has a bay window. It’s not the most obvious room for a writing desk, but now I can’t imagine the desk anywhere else.

Sometimes you already have a version of a future dream. You just have to notice it.

Hesitating in the littoral zone

The shore: the place that is not fully ocean and not fully land, where the edges of each splash and crash into each other. The shore is a place of constant newness, a departure point from the familiar world of air into a deep and different world beneath the water.

If you are standing on the shore of a new experience, the edge of a new creative endeavor, a world that feels different from the ground you stand on, you can wade in slowly and uncomfortably, inch by chilly inch. Or you can hold your breath, toss yourself in all at once, and start swimming.

Instead of saying, “I’m going to…”

Summer party at the home of a new acquaintance.

My husband and I sat in the backyard, and the host told us about the Jeep he’d bought in order to take his family on summer adventures. Before this conversation, I didn’t want to drive a Jeep around in the Arizona desert. I still don’t. But he described the Jeep with such delight that he almost made me want to.

Everything about this guy exuded enthusiasm. Not just because of his off-road vehicle. A current of optimism ran through his stories about work, observations about his kids, the electrical wiring project that he was doing himself. And here’s the thing: it didn’t seem like effort and it didn’t seem like an act.

When it was time to leave, we walked past the Jeep on the way out.

My husband said, “Looks like you’re going to have a lot of fun.”

With the biggest smile, our new friend said, “We ARE having a lot of fun!”

Present tense.

You can hear this advice from a hundred places: Live in the present. It’s said so often that it sounds both cliche and abstract. But it wasn’t difficult for this neighbor of ours to just say, out loud, the experience he’s choosing as if it were right there before him.

I’m thinking about that. When I pay attention, I catch myself either longing for or worrying about the future. Or I alternately regret or wish for yesterday.

Instead of “I’m going to…” I’m trying out the simpler, happier, “I am.”