Baltimore, Maryland circa 1998.
I was a brand spanking new, newlywed who said, “I do” and commenced changing nearly every possible aspect of my 28-year-old life. I became a wife, switched career paths and moved up the East Coast from the sweet tea and sun of Columbus, Georgia to the hustle and bustle of Baltimore, Maryland. And, for a little added effect, I chopped off my hair in the best Bridget Fonda (in “Single White Female”) impression I could muster. Change is good, but I overdid it just a tad.
I exchanged my middle school classroom for a rolling business office; a green Ford Taurus with a matching green interior compliments of the McGraw-Hill Companies. I was a college textbook sales representative and spent countless hours in my roving green machine driving between campuses in my territory. Being on the road gave me ample time to think, think a little more and then think about what I was thinking about. My metamorphosis from single, Southern middle school teacher to married, Northern textbook sales representative was taking more tolls than I paid on the Beltway.
In between my thinking spells, and occasional pity party I flipped through radio stations. During one afternoon commute, I found a talk radio show that caught my ear. A relationship expert was interviewing a couple who were able to turn their divorce court bound marriage around by acting in a loving way even when they were not feeling love towards their spouse. Those purposeful actions reignited their love. My takeaway? They were sweet even when they felt shitty.
That interview stuck with me. I couldn’t tell you who the relationship guru was or what the couple’s names were, but I knew reaching for my husband’s hand, taking a walk together or leaving sweet notes even when I was not feeling the love were powerful tools. I wasn’t on the verge of divorce, but I was navigating the not so calm seas of newlywed bliss. From that day I’ve tried to incorporate simple, loving acts into my interactions with those around me. I am not perfect, and it is not always easy, but I have found giving love even when I do not feel the love has improved my relationships. Trust me, nothing defuses wanting to choke someone out like a deliberate act of love. Now, fast forward. . .
Hohenfels, Germany circa 2015.
I have been married for almost 17 years, and have a tween and a teen daughter. Giving love without feeling the love has been in full effect for years. There is a shiny new 2015 calendar screaming with possibilities hanging in my kitchen. My New Year’s resolutions are laughing as I type, but I know there is good I can do in 2015. I tried changing me in 1998, and it wasn’t ideal. If you saw my haircut you would say it wasn’t pretty. So, instead of making a change in 2015 I am making a promise. I am going to flip through my calendar, pick random days throughout the year and draw a smiley face. On those days I promise to do something for someone else. Giving without receiving is indescribably fulfilling, especially if the giving is done in an undeserving or unexpected situation.
The gifts I give on smiley face days won’t be elaborate or expensive; instead, they will be simple, loving acts done whether I am feeling the love or not.
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” ~ Oprah Winfrey