Hamster Wheels

Image courtesy of James Barker/freedigitalphotos.net

“I wish I was a hamster.”

We were at Petsmart getting some dog food and we had just walked past the aisle with the hamster cages. E saw the little wheels inside those cages and wished he could be a hamster so he could run on one of them.

While I’m sure there is some element of fun to running in place and not going anywhere, I can’t imagine that the fun would last for very long.

How do I know this?

Well, sometimes I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel. I wake up, make breakfast, do the dishes, entertain C, prepare lunch, pick up E from school, eat lunch, entertain both kids, get them ready for a nap, prepare a snack for them, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up, get the kids ready for bed, go to bed … and start the whole process over again the next day. It’s kind of like being in the movie “Groundhog Day“, where the main character wakes up on the same day over and over again. Hmm, there seems to be a trend going on here with small rodents.

Thinking about rodents has made me a little philosophical. I was wondering today, What is the meaning of life? (I might be on the brink of a mid-life crisis, so bear with me!) Is the whole point of life to just run on this hamster wheel and keep it moving? Because sometimes I would like to get off and rest. But if I can’t get off, I would like to at least feel like I’m going somewhere.

The reality though is that the sun rises and sets each day and there isn’t a pause button to press to make it stop. And a lot of what makes up one’s life is the routine and seemingly mundane stuff that happens on a daily basis.

I realized that’s why I like distractions – whether it’s in the form of eating good food, shopping for new clothes, watching my favorite TV show or going on vacations – because they bring some excitement to the ordinary. Distractions make my time running on the hamster wheel more enjoyable. I considered for a brief moment how hedonism could be an attractive philosophy to live by.

But then my sense of reality (and frugality – cause pleasure usually equals big bucks!) woke me up from this daydream. Sure, God wants me to enjoy all the things He’s given me, but hopefully there’s more to life than making myself happy. I spent many years as an only child, so I know all about focusing on myself (there can be too much of a good thing)!

I started thinking that as a parent, I totally want my kids to be happy and to enjoy life. I want them to find pleasure in running on their hamster wheels. But I also want them to look outside themselves and spend their time and energy on what is meaningful and long lasting in life.

So, what is the meaning of life? I finally came to the conclusion that it is to love. To love God and to love our neighbor (other people). To value people over things. To make someone’s day with a smile or listening ear or helping hand. To know you had a positive impact on someone’s life. It doesn’t get better or more meaningful than this!

I may be like a hamster running on my little wheel, feeling stuck in my cage, but I can move my furry feet with purpose. And that purpose, for the time being, is to care for my family the best I can. So, here I go, taking it one day at a time, all with the hope that each step will bring me closer to what I was made for … to love.

Here’s a great song by Mat Kearney, “Closer To Love“.

What do you do to make your time running on the hamster wheel more meaningful?

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo… margaritas!

That’s probably what most people think of in relation to the 5th of May. For me, however, I think of a white gown, spring allergies and 90 degree weather with no A/C!

Cinco de Mayo is my and hubby’s wedding anniversary and this year we celebrated eleven years. Yes, eleven years.  That seems like a very long time, long enough where I no longer just think about growing old with hubby, I am growing old with him.  Sure, time flies when you’re having fun, but marriage, unfortunately, isn’t all fun and games.  Having a happy, fulfilling relationship takes a lot of work. I repeat, a lot of work.

As an almost only child (aka. someone who is selfish and used to getting my way) and non-communicator (verbally that is!), I’ve had to learn some tough lessons about a marriage relationship. Here are 3 of those lessons that have helped me tremendously in becoming a better (though not perfect!) and happier life partner.

1. Be positive. There was a time right after the honeymoon period ended when I started working on my math skills. More specifically, I got really good at keeping score.  I would have conversations like this in my head:

50 points for me for doing the dishes
100 points for me for cooking
50 points for me for doing laundry
– 30 points for hubby for not taking out the garbage
– 20 points for hubby’s “lost socks”

I may have gotten really good at addition and subtraction, but keeping track of all the things hubby wasn’t doing right (in my perspective) turned me into an unhappy, critical person.  I lost sight (and track) of all the things he was doing well, like surprising me with a milk tea at work or taking the time to listen to me vent about my job.

So I did the “Men in Black” trick – I tried to erase my (negative) thoughts and memories about hubby and focus on the good ones.  I didn’t have a fancy neuralyzer to help me do this, but just relied on good old fashioned technology, namely an attitude adjustment.  It’s amazing how having a positive outlook of hubby helps me to be a happier spouse, too.  🙂

2. Never assume.  You know how there are some people who speak their minds all the time so you know exactly what they are thinking about?  Well, unfortunately I’m not one of those people.  I’m all for the idea that silence speaks louder than words.  🙂  So, in the early years of our marriage, I admit I subjected hubby to many experiments to see whether or not he was a mind reader.

It took me a while to realize that I should never assume hubby would know when I was upset about something or, even more importantly, why I was upset.  How could he know I’d been waiting two days for him to take the garbage out if I didn’t let him know?  Sure, I could hope he would see the garbage piling up and the flies buzzing around it (I’m kidding!), but it would be a lot easier to just bring it up.  Expecting hubby to know exactly what I am thinking about without telling him is like having a body full of hives and not wanting to do anything about the intense itching – it’s unrealistic and frustrating!

As I began to open up and speak up (and stop relying on my Jedi mind tricks), communication became a lot easier and simpler for both hubby and me.  Once again, learning this lesson made me a happier person to live with.

3. Row together.  On our honeymoon in Kauai, we spent a morning learning about kayaking and marriage from a tour guide.  He told us that tandem kayaking is a great way of seeing how well couples, especially newlyweds, work together.  He couldn’t have been more right!

Image courtesy of wiangya/freedigitalphotos.net

I learned on that day, and the 4,015 days that followed(!), that rowing together takes lots of humility and patience – humility to listen and take directions from each other and patience to keep rowing until you get the right rhythm.  Marriage is like kayaking; it’s all about cooperation, doing what’s best for the team and making sure you have your partner’s back.

The hardest lesson I’ve had to swallow is that all is not fair in love and war.  There are times when one person needs to do more than 50% (or whatever they think is their share in the relationship).  If one person can’t row for a while, the other teammate will need to do more to keep the kayak going.  It won’t be fun or easy, but this is definitely the “for better and for worse” part of love.

Hubby and I took turns “rowing more” so we could both finish our degrees.  He took on all the financial burdens of our family when I quit working full-time to go to school.  Later on, I took on much of the responsibilities at home (with a toddler and newborn) when he took night classes.  There were some crazy days (and I’m so glad I had family around to help), but we did our best to support each other.  We really made it a joint effort of earning those diplomas!  Now, if only I could claim his degree on my resume.  😛

In reality, I guess eleven years isn’t that long of a time period.  It’s barely like a teenager in terms of people years (it’s a completely different story though in dog years!).  I’m sure there is still much to learn about marriage.  So, I’ll just keep on rowing with hubby and see what the next eleven years (and more) may bring.

Here’s Colbie Caillat’s song for the one I said, “I Do” to on Cinco de Mayo… 🙂

What lessons have you learned about marriage (either your own or someone else’s)?