Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm Going Pro-Joy

Almost everyone I know has a cause of some kind -- Save the Planet, Pro-Choice, Rally for Democracy, Evangelize America, Tax the Wealthy, Go All-Organic, Buy American, Conceal and Carry, Grow Your Own ______, Weight Lift, Save Your Money -- you get the drift.

What has been bothering me, though, is that most of the time the passionate cause-people come off totally pissed that you aren't for their cause, or angry that the rest of the world can't see whole grain truth. When pro-lifers start protesting and shouting outside Planned Parenthood clinics, it makes me cringe and wish I didn't have to associate myself with pro-lifers. But I am pro-life. I just don't like to scream.

So what I propose is that people adopt joy as their number one cause. It's impossible to have joy and be pissed about how your neighbor won't give up eating a cow. Because joy radiates out from love, joy doesn't need to get all red in the face every time a sports star humiliates his hometown. I'd like to see some people who are certain about what they believe, who can give a reason for the hope they have, to simply believe those things, talk about their beliefs with humility and compassion, and embrace their passion in joy, rather than frustration.

I have never been swayed by someone screaming in my face. But in a casual conversation, a good friend and colleague of mine mentioned that his wife was the only person he knew who was both pro-life and anti-death penalty. It was said with admiration for his wife, who embodies this joy-passion formula, not with angst that the rest of the world hasn't embraced this same belief. And it made me think about the connection between these two causes, something I'd never given much thought to before.

The fact of the matter is the whole world is never going to be on the same page with me, and the whole world is never going to agree with you whole-heartedly about everything you believe. I have some really firm beliefs about humanity and faith, but I am learning more about myself, humanity, nature, faith, relationships, etc., to know that these beliefs need to be malleable. I need to be able to have an open ear and an open heart, to be able to speak AND listen, to be humble, consider, test, and evaluate what is going on in the world around me. And respond appropriately.

It isn't good to lock my beliefs in a box. Especially without any breathing holes or access to water and food. My philosophy of life should be permitted to grow and develop, and I should be allowed to retract a few of those beliefs I stood so firmly on several years ago.

But if we do not have "ears to hear," we might as well slip away into our causes so we can stand around nodding and agreeing with our like-minded peers all day long, content to remain just as we are-- ticked off that the rest of the world doesn't get it. Whatever "it" is.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lifestyle Changes

This fall, I am doing this crazy thing: I am taking off every Friday. That's right people, four-day work week until 2011. There are two huge payoffs to this schedule. First, the work week is packed, and I mean PACKED, with stuff to do. I'm not really one to sit around waiting for someone to tell me what to do anyway, but knowing that I have one less day a week to get everything done that typically needs to be done is a fabulous motivator to get in gear. Second, my weekends are almost as long as my work weeks. Obviously, right? But think about the difference between 5/2 and 4/3. It's significant. The amount of reading/family/resting/traveling/visiting/occasionally cleaning time I have just increased by 33%.

The original motivation for this schedule was financial. In the fall, my husband travels for work every weekend, and rather than have the kids in daycare every Friday while he flies or drives away, we figured we could save several thousand dimes by taking Fridays off. But I think if I have my way, I'll keep this up every fall, regardless of what my husband's schedule is.

The other new thing happening this fall is DATE NIGHT. Do you know the magic of these two words? I'd like to post a banner across every doorway in every home with DATE NIGHT on it. Since BW is gone from Thursday through Sunday most weeks and I work Monday through Thursday, the chance the two of us would be alert and engaged together at any point during the week was slim. So one weekday night each week, we have our faithful babysitter over, kiss the kids goodnight and wish them happy mac and cheese meals, and dash out the door for any destination other than our house.

So far, we've enjoyed golfing, going to an Indians game, a movie, and dinner together. Next Tuesday the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra is coming to Ashland, so we're going to go to that. DATE NIGHT was the best idea anyone ever gave to us, I think. I might be overly enthusiastic about this whole thing, but this is one more new change that, if I have my way, will never disappear from our budget. We might have to be more frugal in our DATE NIGHT selections, but I do not want to lose this time with my husband. It's like we're married and not just the parents of our joint children!

I just finished the book, Outliers: The Story of Success, which was quite good and quite interesting. As I was talking to someone about it, he asked me whether it changed my definition of success. Not really, I said, it just shed some light on one kind of success. He asked whether a plumber can be considered to have led a successful life. Of course! That wasn't the kind of success Outliers studied - Outliers looks at the people we deem as extremely talented stars, geniuses, millionaires, etc., and how they got to be where they are. The success that Michael was talking about was what I think is better tagged "fulfillment." Can the plumber lead a fulfilling life? Absolutely. Fulfillment has less to do with monetary success and fame than it has to do with attitude.

I feel like my life is more fulfilling with these new changes - extra time with my kids, and extra time with my husband - because these are the relationships that make my life fulfilling. I would rather sacrifice 8% of my salary and $50 a week to spend this time with my family. It is a worthy investment whose return is priceless.