A little over a year ago, a friend who stopped over at our house for a visit, made a comment that has stuck with me. He took a look around and said "You're livin' the dream". I either didn't really hear him or wasn't quite sure what he meant and said "what?". He repeated, "You're living the American dream". At the time, I just smiled. I was flattered. I assumed that he looked at our new home on a beautiful chunk of farmland complete with one dog and one cat, our happy marraige complete with a healthy baby on the way, etc. and thought we were living high on the hog. I was flattered. We were living the American Dream. We were "Happy." And if we weren't, it probably didn't matter - we appeared happy. We had what every American wants, right? From a distance, we looked very happy. Lots of families look happy and aren't.
The truth is, we were happy. The real truth is that we are still happy. I am married to my best friend... to a man who can still give me butterflies when he whispers in my ear or lightly kisses the back of my neck... a man to whom I give jeans for Christmas because I love the way his butt looks in them... a man who makes me cry when I see him with his little boy... our little boy. This man runs me a bubble bath when he knows I've had a hard day, complete with candle-light and a glass of wine. He respects me and encourages me and we learn and live and grow together. It isn't all roses and heart-shaped fireworks though, either. We've had rough patches. We've had more than rough patches, we've had potholes! In fact, we've had entire chunks of missing pavement on our journey.
We met when we were 17 years old. We were giddy and foolish and couldn't wait to get a few minutes alone together, but I knew the night of our first date that I would marry him. I didn't realize that it wouldn't be for another 8 years, but I knew it would happen. We went through a lot in those 8 years... graduating high school, starting college, dropping out of college, graduating college, breaking-up, dating other people, getting back together, thinking we'd never get back together, getting my first apartment, remodeling his first home, losing pets, losing grandparents, losing sight of what we want, and then finding it again, over and over. We finally learned a few things that we haven't forgotten and I believe this knowledge is the reason we are still happy sixteen years after we first met.
1. Loving someone is a decision you make every day - not something that just happens. You can fall in love by accident, but staying in love is very much on purpose. It's an action, not just a feeling.
2. No one else can make you happy. Only you can do that. You need to realize that you are in control of your life. If you're not in control, you need to decide what it is that you want your life to be and take control.
3. You aren't owed anything. God gives you gifts, and almost everything else is a combination of a gift and what you have earned for yourself. Thank God for each day that you wake up, for your health, for your family, for your friends, and for all the good things in your life. If you have good things in life it is likely because you work for them and because you give good things to others.
These are my rules of thumb. Love my husband, do what I can to make myself (and those around me) happy, be thankful for what I have and thoughtful about how I can keep giving.
I am thankful that I have a good job, a comfortable home, a nice yard, a reliable car, a sweet dog and a fat cat. Yep, the American Dream. But what I am really thankful to have are my friends who change their plans to be here when I need them, who pull my little boy up on their laps and read him stories as if he were their own, who come for dinner even when it's just pizza or leftovers. My family, who show up when a project needs completing, who take care of my son when I have somewhere I need to be, who bring over pans of brownies and snowpants their kids have outgrown. My husband, who loves me the way that I love him, on purpose, shown by our actions and not just our feelings, who wants for me whatever is best for me and I want for him whatever is best for him.
That... is my dream, and thankfully also my reality. Yes - I'm livin' the dream and am so thankful each day, for what God has given me, what you have given me, and what life I have created. It's a good one.