Shortly before my marriage tanked, my pretty fabulous husband and I engaged in a heart-to-heart. I remember this well. We were hiding in our bedroom whilst our pals and kids mingled in the living room of our Quebec rental chalet. Yes, we were on a group holiday and I wasn’t having very much fun. Wasn’t quite sure why. The skiing was fine. I just knew I was running on empty and needed something to keep our union from imploding.
So we had the “heart talk”. We didn’t do this often. Probably because my heart was always one big ball of mixed-up-mush and his heart was typically resigned and quiet. But on this auspicious occasion he uttered something so beautifully profound it has stuck with me these ten years since. Those words? “I only want to do three things in this life. I want to take care of you and our son, I want to build machinery and I want to make music. Whatever else it is that you need, I’m not sure I can do.”
Turns out he was right. Mostly because I had no clue what I needed. I knew I just needed more.
So here we are ten years hence and I now know exactly what I need. Probably because those words resonated so loudly I had no choice but to sit up and think. I mean seriously, how did he get to be so damn smart? How did he know what he needed when I was completely devoid of any intelligent thought on the matter? And yet is just seemed so flipping simple. Figure out what you need, then do it. And I would like to emphasize that “do” is the operative word. Yes kids, it behoves you to figure out what you should do. Verb. Activity.
I had spent my entire life so completely enthralled with my navel I had never given any thought to what I needed to do to attain some sense of fulfillment. I waited endlessly for a man to provide me with joy, I experimented with numerous careers hoping that something would fit and I even gave motherhood a stab, thinking optimistically that making another human being my priority would vanquish all of my long-simmering demons.
Some things certainly helped; professional success brought pride and motherhood brought even more but I was never content. Happiness eluded me like the beach bartender at an all-inclusive.
Post divorce I fumbled through several relationships, always wondering – what are my three things? Then of course I would pose the question to my hapless suitor. Recounting the tale of hubby dearest I would ask with full sincerity: what three things do you want to do in this life?
One of my recent beaus was none too happy with this query, probably because it compelled him to think really really hard. He finally muttered through frustrated lips “I just want to be happy.”
Oh. Golly. Never thought of that.
I mean WTF? We all just wanna be happy. The question is – what are you going to do to get happy? He seemed to think that serene happiness was his God-given right, thank you very much, and that it would just magically float down from heaven and land on his head. Even when I persisted and offered once more – “I understand that honey, but what do you want to do to create that happiness?” – he had no answers. Reminded me of someone I used to know.
Yeah, yeah … me. Ten years ago.
I just kept wondering how anyone could find happiness if they were not willing to “do” what it takes to reach that lofty goal.
And so we return to little old me and the list that has only taken ten years to write. What are my three things … the three things I want to do?
1) I want to nurture. Turns out for all the gypsy in me (and there is plenty) I also like to nest. I like to make a beautiful home and care for those who reside in it, cook inspired meals, keep the joint clean and tidy, do laundry and dishes, entertain and, most importantly, create a vibe that those I love will love to share.
2) I want to do music, on any number of levels. Whether it’s singing, songwriting, radio, mentoring, producing or just helping every last musician I know achieve their goals, I want to do music.
3) I want to do relationships. I want to do whatever it takes to be the best mother, partner, daughter, friend, sister, ex-wife, colleague I can be. As I often to say (to anyone who will listen), the three most important things in life are relationships, relationships and relationships. And I sincerely do want to walk that talk.
So at this point maybe you’re thinking – What’s the big deal? Couldn’t you do that stuff with fab ex-hubby?
Probably. If I’d had a clue and had we enjoyed the one thing that supersedes my list. You see, in order for me to do what I want to do, I have to be in a relationship that stems from emotional availability. I need to know that my partner is emotionally available and ready to kick up some dust. If there is work to be done then damnit let’s have it. And if every now and then I need to do a heart-to-heart then please come along for the ride. Work does not have to be frightening. Work can actually be … exhilarating.
So this morning I asked my current love what his three things were. It’s taken me awhile, having learned that this is perhaps not first-date conversation fodder. We are now nine months into this thing and we have worked very, very hard. You know what? It’s been worth it. Because we are very, very happy. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t speak for him. I am very, very happy. I hope he is.
1) I want to be recognized in my field. Do great work and have it acknowledged by my peers.
2) There are a few more mountains I’d like to climb. Just in case you think he’s being poetic I can assure you he means this quite literally. He is a mountaineer and has even threatened to drag my old ass up a slope or two.
3) I’d like to have someone to share it all with.
I love those three things. I love that he has ambition and drive (and the intelligence to back it up), I love that he is athletic and physical and dare-I-say daring, and I love that for him, being in a relationship makes the former two even better. It’s not that I’m going to suddenly become a scientist or bag Everest. But I’ll be there with champagne and hugs when he wins the Nobel and returns from the climb with a grin on his face all in one piece thank you very much.
I’ll be there because he wants to do sharing. And I want to do relationship. And that is more than enough to put us on the same page.
Maybe even the same (reasonably gentle yet still challenging) mountain.
That is of course, after he sings me a song.