I started reading Linda Dillow's What's it like to be married to me? because I had a hunch that re-reading and really thinking through this book would be a good idea.
And already from the first chapter I picked up at least one gold nugget I had forgotten: the distinction that Dillow makes between a goal and a desire:
A goal is something I want that I can also control.A desire is something I want that I cannot control.
One of Dillow's examples is making "an intimate, sharing relationship with my husband" a goal. A relationship takes two people, and I cannot control my husband's part of it. Maybe he's not a talkative type? Maybe talking about his intimate feelings doesn't come easy to him? I can't make it my goal to make him talk to me. The more I strive to do that, the more he'll clam up. My "goal" needs to be all about my own part, for example to be such a listener that my husband can feel it's safe to talk, whenever he's ready to do that.
The distinction of goals and desires works out also in holiday planning.
I have lots of desires for the summer holiday. I want us all to have fun. I want us to share good times. I want us to connect better as family members. I want us all to grow in our relationships with God, too. And I certainly want to experience and enjoy the places and activities on our itinerary.
What I can make my goal is the part I'm responsible for. Myself.
So, my summer goals could look like this:
- I choose a good attitude. I choose to enjoy the adventure, relax, have fun, let go, smile a lot.
- I try to find ways to encourage others and choose to serve their needs with love.
- I seek God in my life, consistently.
- I avoid complaining and griping, whatever circumstances we encounter.
- I tell others honestly about my needs, so they get a fair chance to take those into account. (My husband is a great guy, but he cannot read my mind - and shouldn't be expected to!)
I know from previous years that when we travel together, one person's mood affects all the others. We're in a small car together, stay in a tent or other small lodgings together, do activities together. As three introverts, each one of us also needs some 'alone time' to recharge, and in previous years, I have sometimes felt I didn't get enough. And when I get into a bad mood, everyone suffers.
I'm reading Dillow's book in preparation for our trip. And for the sake of the rest of our lives, too.
It's not going to be perfect, ever. I'll stumble and fall. Ask for forgiveness. Start again.
But I pray God that when the tough moments come, He'll remind me of what I have set as my goal, my responsibility. The strength to choose better comes from Him.
And I'm going to enjoy the process.