Laura and I talk a lot about marriage, fidelity, and love. Sometimes I am scared of what I don’t know I don’t know. So we talk, put it all on the table. Are we crazy? What are we feeling, thinking? Should we be flipping out because we’re in our forties?
I have said it before, but it is distressing to us that many within our various circles have decided to call it quits with their spouses. It’s like magic – hit your forties and bam, people start to think. I don’t know what they think, but I know what thoughts consume us. And we talk about it.
We constantly ask ourselves if even the questions we are asking are right? What should we be thinking about as our lives near a midpoint (statistically speaking)? Are we worried that we didn’t get to do the things we wanted? We don’t have all the things we wanted or needed? Is our house sufficiently comfortable? Do we have lots of friends, nice cars, well paying meaningful employment? Should we have dated more? Did we miss out not having sexual conquests, sowing our wild oats? Girlfriends? Boyfriends? Enough travel? Who did we become? Did we become what we dreamed? I My, we, our, mine?
We do ask those questions. I can imagine so many couples ask themselves, is this all? I want more, I dreamed of more, but right now it’s too much work. I want to start over. You’re not doing it for me. Laura and I do conclude that most of the things we thought we wanted when we younger have not happened. Life is not ideal, we are not particularly successful by objective standards, I guess. We have four beautiful kids whom we adore, but our lives are not champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Money is tight, old friends are scattered over the globe, new ones are hard to come by. Professionally we struggle for relevance.
I work in technology. If you want to know what that means, consider the downfall of Myspace? That happens to people too, to anyone who stops swimming for even a second. The current will wash you away and no one will care. The river don’t care, man, not one bit.
Laura struggles with being a woman working in a Latin culture, one in which women are secretaries, little girls to fetch the coffee, not capable of making important decisions. A smart competent woman is paired with a rising male star only so that she will assist him and he may shine. It happens over and over and over. Most of them haven’t the drive, smarts, and wisdom she holds in her little finger – but because she is a woman, she gets a pat on the head. Oh, isn’t it cute, the little girl has an opinion.
We are no strangers to difficulties, marital and otherwise.
Couples counselors will say that you have to work for what you want, that you have to put in effort. That a good marriage takes work, sweat, and you will reap the rewards. You will get what you want, but you have to work for it. Sure, so people go to counseling and work on the externals; communicating wants and needs better. Go on dates, and try to rekindle the new relationship energy. There are lots of things, but all too often the problems in our families and in our relationships reflect our values in society. Life is to be experienced. Life is about what I get out of it.
I’d like to turn that on its head. Life isn’t about me, it’s about you. It’s not about filling your cup, but emptying it, pouring it out to those in need. When we think of life as things to experience, things to consume, things to smell, things to imbibe, things to sex, things to use, we are pouring them down a bottomless chute. All things that I collect for myself are transient, fleeting, will corrode, have no lasting effect, and will be forgotten along with our worm ridden carcasses.
When we choose to take from this world and stuff it in our maw, we will never be satisfied and the world will be poorer for it.
If, however, you choose to pour yourself out, to empty your cup, to leave it all in the ring, when the end comes you will have enriched the world, touched those around you, left a legacy to your life here among the living. The saying, you can’t take it with you is true for everything, even experiences.
The best and most lasting thing you can leave behind is love.