Like many of you, I am the President and CEO of my household. It’s not a role I was particularly interested in and not one I formally applied for, but I am certainly the most qualified one to hold the title. With me in the corner office, there is always toilet paper on the roll, I know the pediatrician’s name and number by heart, the calendar is synced and people get where they need to be in a timely fashion, the bills get paid, the checkbooks are balanced, and the house is maintained. The dog gets his yearly rabies vaccinations on time and Christmas and birthday gifts for both families are purchased with love. I am the interior decorator, the landscape architect, the auto mechanic liaison, and so much more. I’m not saying I do it all all of the time, but if being an adult were similar to being a computer, I am the key operating system and there are always countless tabs open in my browser. When my operating system fails or hits a glitch, the whole system gets infected. As such, I am also the Reminder-in-Chief, the Asker-in-Chief, and sometimes the Nag-in-Chief. It’s an unpleasant, yet necessary, side-effect of a role designed for efficiency and efficacy.
You may remember that my Word of the Year for 2017 is ALCHEMY. It’s about making magic and turning the ordinary into something extraordinary in the coming months; making something out of nothing and turning trash into treasure, if you will. To support this word’s presence in my life this year, I ordered my intention feather, got my recycled words printed up, dedicated the first page in my Bullet Journal to the word alchemy, and decided to take Ali Edwards’ One Little Word online course. One of my sub-goals for 2017 is more art and creativity for ME (not just for class prep) and taking this course helps support that goal. Ali posted a challenge for February in which we were tasked with committing to a daily practice that related to our word. For example, Ali’s word is “connect” and she is committing to 15 minutes of daily yoga to connect with her body and mind and disconnect from stress. Other people have words like “reduce” and they are committing to clearing out a bit of clutter each day. I thought and thought about how I could turn ALCHEMY into a daily practice and I came up with something that I believe to be very powerful. Something that is starting to have positive repercussions already and has the potential to blossom into something really magnificent.
When thinking about my monthly practice for February, I decided to focus on an area that hasn’t received a lot of dedicated focus lately…my marriage. It seems like we are coexisting more than we are connecting these days. Our interactions of late are predominantly perfunctory and mostly revolve around logistics: who is driving the kids home after practice, what is a good day to bring the car to the shop, anything important on the calendar for the week, make sure that sweater doesn’t go in the dryer, etc, etc, etc. There has been very little deep, meaningful conversation and interaction and we BOTH own a part in that. As my husband has gotten busier at work, I have had to amp up my efforts as Home CEO because his operating system doesn’t respond very well to overload and system upgrades. It has become this weird dichotomy of him working more outside of the home (and also working much more from home), me working much more outside of the home, and consequently a higher need to make sure nothing slips through the cracks—a duty that falls to the CEO. My efforts to dot i’s, cross t’s, and “fix” things often include pointing out what is wrong, what needs to be immediately addressed, and what can be done better. Honestly, it sucks for me to be the operating system and it sucks for him to be the program that has to respond to the demands of this particular hard drive. I wanted to try something different.
I remember reading something a long time ago (I think in The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy) about a couple who was on the brink of divorce (*my husband and I are NOT on the brink of divorce) and one spouse was caught in a loop of only being able to point out what was “wrong” with the other spouse. This spouse thought that life would be better alone or with someone else. Each day was a litany of “not enough”. The spouse was challenged by their therapist/coach to take one month to identify something they LOVED about their spouse each and every day. They were told that they may have to dig deep, but there were obviously at least 30 things to cherish in a person they once identified they wanted to spend their whole life with. So, this spouse did that. By the end of the month, there was a renewed appreciation for the joy and magic that their partner brought to their life. They were no longer struggling maritally. I think the spouse even make a book or something out of this documented, and oft forgotten, love and gave it to their partner. It was a total mindset shift that helped save their marriage.
Where we are not on the verge of marital collapse and we love each other deeply and profoundly, I miss the connection and the spontaneity that seems to vanish every school year as we are pulled in multiple and competing directions. I decided I wanted to be the catalyst for change right now. I wanted to focus more on togetherness and less on to-do lists.
My commitment for this month is to SHOWER MY HUSBAND IN GRATITUDE. My practice includes identifying (at least) one way I am grateful for him each day. That’s 28 consecutive days of gratitude. It could be something he does, says, or simply the way he loves. The goal is less nitpicking and more loving. All of this has been and will be documented in my One Little Word album. I record which days I was successful in my practice and what things I was grateful for. The goal is not perfection, but steady progress.
As of right now, he is not aware of my participation this practice (that may change if he sees this blog post). I have not discussed it in depth with him and he may or may not notice anything different in our relationship and the depth of our connection. I wanted to start this on my own and see how it went. I wanted to see how MY participation and MY attitude directly affected our relationship as opposed to making this a partner practice. I wanted to see if I noticed any shifts, whether minuscule or seismic. In the midst of day #13, I can say with great certainty that it is working! My small change in the midst of this wee little practice is having profound positive effects on the both of us.
We are talking TO each other as opposed to talking AT each other.
Thanking him and showing appreciation seems to make him want to proactively do more (so I am “reminding” less).
Sarcasm is being replaced with affection.
The electronic devices are being put away a wee bit more.
We are asking for each other’s opinions/input instead of offering it up all unsolicited and willy-nilly like.
I feel a lot less annoyed a lot of the time (he probably does, too).
It feels more like a partnership than a pyramid.
There is more laughter and things feel lighter somehow.
It makes sense that when there is a problem or challenge, you need to address your part in the problem first—I am relearning that as part of this practice. It just goes to show you that every action really does have an equal and opposite reaction. Cause and effect. Yin and yang. The little things ARE the big things! We’ll see where the next two weeks brings us, but I am loving this so much I think I want to consciously carry this practice into the rest of the year. There is no downside and my husband and I can only be better and stronger for it.
With love and renewed gratitude,
P.S. Supplies used were One Little Word album, Love You stamp, and digital printouts; transparency, patterned paper, heart and checkmark stamps from my stash. One of my favorite photos of us in D.C. last summer.