My husband, Chris, will be the first to tell you that taking a trip with me is agonizing and pushes his patience to the boiling point. I do not enjoy traveling, particularly in a car. Chris loves to travel and he loves driving. I have yet to hear him convey dread about his one-hour drive to the office through rush hour traffic each morning. Chris views travel with a sense of anticipation and finds great joy in the adventure of new sites and scenery. He savors each moment of the journey and is never in any rush to get to his destination.
I, on the other hand, just want to arrive and dread every minute of the journey. I vividly remember our honeymoon trip to California. As newlyweds, we were still in the discovery stage of our marriage, and my dislike for traveling in a car was yet to be revealed. Chris had planned an overnight trip to the quaint oceanfront town of Mendocino. He had mapped our course and determined that we would take the scenic route along the ocean. It was a choice he lived to regret and still remembers to this day.
The route Chris had chosen was a two-lane highway with hairpin curves that virtually hugged the edge of the mountain cliffs offering a breathtaking view of the ocean. Electing to take this route presented one problem. Once you are on this road, there are no alternative routes to your destination. Initially, it wasn’t too bad. However, 30 minutes into our drive, the elevation had more than doubled. For the next three hours my eyes remained affixed to the front windshield while my white knuckles clung to the dashboard and my heart raced with a beat of impending doom. It was dread in its purest form…terror. My husband tells me it was one of the most spectacular drives he has ever taken. I couldn’t tell you. I never enjoyed one minute of the trip. I just wanted to arrive at our destination. Unfortunately, I had forced Chris to drive so slow (about 15-20 mph…isn’t that ridiculous) that by the time we did reach Mendocino it was dark and the shops were closed. My fear of heights and dread of the journey had not only crippled my ability to enjoy the beauty of the drive, it had also robbed me (and my husband) of the joy of exploring our destination.
Life is very much the same way. It is a journey with no one point of arrival. Just when we think we’ve arrived, new challenges, obstacles and goals force us to change our course and put us on the road again. My husband sees this journey of life as a joyful and fragrant experience. He lives each day of the journey with what I call ‘calm satisfaction’. I tell him it’s a gift that few people have. He doesn’t see it that way at all. He believes that it is a choice to change how we view our circumstances coupled with a decision to appreciate the present by living one day at a time. To observe this man in action is incredible. He is truly happy and finds life enjoyable EVERY DAY!
I can certainly tell you that I have never viewed life’s journey with joy, and my happiness is nearly always dependent upon my circumstances. I truly coveted the fragrant aroma of his joy but I didn’t even know where to begin. What did he know that I didn’t? I began to observe my husband and started to note how differently we responded to the same circumstances and challenges of life. My observation revealed five key principles by which he chooses to live.
Recognize that faith in your self comes from the spirit (inner being) and that feelings about yourself come from the mind.
It is important to understand that the two (faith and feelings) are always in conflict. You have to have faith in yourself in order to step forward and DO something. I have come to realize that much of the delay (procrastination) in leaving my job at the hospital centered around self-doubt. When we begin to doubt our purpose and self, we begin a process of negative reasoning that is based on feelings. The tentacles of these feelings begin to wrap themselves around us and negate the faith we have in ourselves. Self-doubt begins to play over and over in our mind (the very place that feelings originate). To have faith in self requires believing that there is a plan for our life. Joy is always present where there is belief.
Believe in yourself and there will be joy, where there is joy, there is enjoyment. Living a life based on feeling is shallow living and immobilizes us. It is difficult to take action when self-doubt is present. Action requires faith. Believe in yourself, your abilities and your purpose and your feelings will follow. Recognize feelings for what they are-ever changing, often deceiving and possessing the ability to impair the way in which we perceive our self. When we live our life based on feelings we complicate our life.
We complicate our life by trying to “do” rather than to “be”.
One of my most favorite quotes is from Coco Chanel. “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but to be someone.” The first time I read this quote it nearly jumped off the page. It screamed at me and echoed, stop trying to ‘do’ (control the plan for your life) and instead ‘be’ (allow the plan to unfold in due season). Most of us are familiar with the scripture from Ecclesiastics that was made into a popular song during the 1960’s.
“There is a time and season for every purpose under heaven.”
When we get into the ‘do’ mode, it is generally for other people. We begin to compare our self to others. We start comparing our abilities and achievements with other people’s talents and accomplishments. The minute we start this process of thinking, we lose sight of our own personality and individuality. We need to recognize that our value and worth is not the by-product of achievement. Who you are is more important than what you have done.
We live in a society where worth is measured by our level of education, level of achievement and the number of trophies that attest to our accomplishments. When I first met my husband, his family was very intimidating to me. He comes from a large Irish-Catholic family of eight children. Of the eight children, all have college degrees. His father is a retired civil engineer who had operated a thriving engineering firm and his mother held her Masters in Nursing and had since retired as a professor from a well-known university. His siblings include a physician, a dentist, a pharmacist, an aeronautical engineer, and a psychologist… I think you get my point. I had just come out of a failed marriage, hated my job and was struggling just to keep my head above water while putting my daughter through college. In my mind, everyone else had arrived while I was still in the waiting room of life.
The waiting room of life is rarely an enjoyable place to be but an absolute necessity to get to your next destination. We live in a society that demands “the now”. We want instant gratification and results and we want them in our time frame. We try to prod things along by ‘doing’ something. What we fail to realize is that we haven’t reached the destination where that part of our life’s plan unfolds. Does that stop us? Not usually. Instead, we continue to try and “do” things in our own timing and we end up in a war zone. The end result is a joyless life because we are trying to “do” something that can’t be done. We are out of season. We have lost sight of the fact that there is a perfect timing for the evolution and phases of the plan and purpose of our life.
I came to realize that it wasn’t my husband’s family that intimidated me; it was my inability to believe in my own self worth. His family was the first to applaud and praise my many talents and abilities. They never once viewed my self worth on the basis of accomplishments. What was even more baffling to me was that my husband’s family actually envied my creative talents. They viewed my willingness to venture into and explore unfound territories as a wonderful opportunity to discover ‘myself’. But what if they hadn’t given me this acknowledgement? Did it devalue my self worth? Absolutely not! My self worth is based on the knowledge that there is a plan for my life that sometimes requires me to step out in faith and ….
Move out of my comfort zone.
It is no profound truth when I say that the familiar feels safe. Yet, it is life’s diversity and variety that truly taps into our creative potential. It is what keeps the ordinary fresh. One only needs to look at creation to acknowledge that we were designed for variety. The change of seasons, the diversity of cultures, the vast array of botanical plant life bears witness, “variety is the spice of life”. Human life in itself is full of variety. No two fingerprints are the same; no two faces or personalities are the same. We are designed with a need to incorporate variety into our daily living.
However, with variety and diversity comes balance and moderation. We can’t sleep with a new partner just because we become bored with our wife or husband. Balance and moderation becomes a part of our life when come to the realization that our life holds purpose and that we are working toward a goal. As a married couple, one of our goals would be to sustain the longevity of our marriage so that we can reap the benefits of growing old together. Infidelity could certainly alter the course of that goal. Life can be rather mundane for the most part and learning to incorporate variety and diversity can be a challenge in itself. However, without it, we will wither, dry up and blow away with the first wind.
So, how do we incorporate variety and diversity in our life with balance and moderation? First, I would suggest doing everyday things with a different routine. If you always do laundry on Sunday, do it on Tuesday instead. If you have been wearing white cotton underwear for the last 5 years, try wearing French-cut panties for a while (I guarantee your husband will notice). Remember, what we view as insignificant changes are often the very things that add ‘spice and joy’ to our journey in life. Don’t live in the bondage of routine. Nothing will squelch your enjoyment of life quicker than falling prey to the “…but this is how I have always done it” attitude. I can tell you from experience that nothing will end a marriage quicker than the failure to realize that “variety” is a key ingredient to a healthy relationship.
This brings me to my final key principle of a joyful journey…
Don’t criticize others for something God did not choose to bestow upon them.
In my own personal life, the first thing that comes to mind is romance. Try as he may, my husband has no earthly concept of romance. If you want flowers on Valentine’s Day, tell him. If you want to celebrate your anniversary with a quiet dinner at your favorite restaurant, tell him. Don’t assume that he is going to initiate something romantic and innovative on his own. It took me some time to realize this truth. My previous husband had a flair for romance. He would send flowers to my workplace, book romantic weekend getaways, hire limousines to pick me up at lunch…and was unfaithful! At the time, every woman I worked with viewed me with envy and thought I was married to the man of their dreams.
In my current marriage, I made it very clear. If you send me flowers to work I will only assume you have been cheating on me. My husband took it to heart and has never sent flowers to my work place. The truth is, my husband has no idea what I mean when I say “I need more romance”. Mowing the lawn, doing home maintenance, car repairs, and remembering my birthday is his idea of romance. I will never forget the time I tried to express to him my need for romance. ” Teach me” was his response. “I am willing to learn, but I need you to teach me.” My first response was, “How do you teach someone to be romantic?”
With maturity and time, I began to realize that he was dead serious. He truthfully had no idea how to begin to implement my idea of romance. If I genuinely wanted romance, I would have to show him and tell him how to do it. The key point here was his willingness to learn, his willingness to detour in life’s journey with the hope that the time invested would reap long-term benefits. So often, we women, expect men to behave and react in the same manner as we do. What we fail to realize is that the vast majority of men have never been bestowed with the same feminine gifts that we so freely enjoy. Our expectations become unrealistic. When our hopes are dashed, we become embittered and we start comparing our spouses to men we see on primetime soap operas. In reality, it is but a fantasy. The average man has no concept; I mean no clue, what we women mean when we speak about romance in a relationship.
Learning to appreciate our differences goes beyond the bounds of marriage. It is just as critical in brief encounters with people as it in long-term relationships. Too often, we try to clone our self and fail to give people the liberty they need to be themselves. Each of us has different personalities. Some of us see things with shades of gray while others see things in black and white. Some of us are night owls while others get up with the chickens. Our Creator has bestowed different gifts, talents and abilities on each of us. It is the culmination of all these diversities that make life interesting, entertaining and bearable. Rather than criticizing people for what they are not, learn to appreciate, value and respect their uniqueness. Each of us is striving to reach our next destination in this journey through life. Allow people the liberty to be themselves and learn to enjoy them while they are en route. Doing so will increase your own enjoyment of life. I must tell you that observing my husband’s responses and behavior to life’s circumstances was not something that I did overnight. It has occurred over the course of several years. I would like to say that I have mastered these principles and have become a ‘certified joyful person’. Not so. I have to apply these principles to my life daily. The more I practice, the easier it has become but each day is still a deliberate choice to make my journey through life a joyful and fragrant experience. What I can tell you is that I enjoy life more than I have in the past. I take more time to stop and smell the roses, I have become more enlighten to the plan for my life and I have gleaned a greater appreciation of the scenery on the way to where I’m going. Have I arrived yet? No. But when I do, it will be with no regrets, with much laughter and with the ability to say it was a joyful journey. In conclusion, I would like to reemphasize the five key principles that I believe can lead to a joyful journey through life.
1; Refuse to live with regrets of the past and dread of the future.
2. Have faith in yourself and recognize feelings for what they are.
3. Strive to “be” rather than to “do
4. Move out of your comfort zone
5. Don’t criticize, instead appreciate differences
Author: Denise Marks
Paul Harvey Writes… We try so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I’d like better. I’d really like for them to know about hand-me-down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meatloaf sandwiches. I really would. I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen. It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your old dog put to sleep. I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in. I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it’s all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he’s scared, I hope you let him. When you want to see a movie and your little brother wants to tag along, I hope you’ll let him. I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely. On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don’t ask your ‘driver’ to drop you two blocks away so you won’t be seen riding with someone as uncool as your mom. If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one. I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books. When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head. I hope you are teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what Ivory soap tastes like. May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole. I don’t care if you try beer once, but I hope you don’t like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend. I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle. May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays. I hope your Mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through a neighbor’s window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand. These things I wish for you–tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness. To me, it’s the only way to appreciate life.
Written with a pen. Sealed with a kiss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X