Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Three L's: Learning

My husband Jacob and I have been married for nearly two years. For us this past year, happily ever after has looked a lot like what I like to call the three L's. Learning, Law School, and Love.

I'll start with Learning. Marriage has taught me more about myself and my husband than 17 years of education ever could. I have learned simple things, like how my husband takes his coffee (black), how to fold his pants the way he likes, that I am hopeless in the kitchen without a dishwasher, and that he is the only person in the world who can make me laugh when I'm angry or upset.

I have learned hard lessons as well. It is not fun to live on Law School loans and have zero disposable income. Forgiveness is both the easiest and the hardest thing to give another person and to receive and accept for yourself. It is all too easy to be consumed in one another and neglect everything and everyone else. It is easy to be selfish. Communication isn't merely about words.

But the biggest lesson I have learned this year is about Discipline - capital D. It was seemingly effortless in my school years to schedule my time, complete my assignments, and meet parent and teacher expectations. It was easy to be dedicated in a system that I felt rewarded for adhering to. When I accomplished the tasks set before me, I got an A, or into a good college, or the esteem of a favorite professor. In my marriage and personal life, however, discipline is a much trickier matter.

As an idealist, I have certain expectations for myself and for what I want my life to be like. I am a wife because I got married. But I want to be a good wife. The best wife to my husband that I can be. And that takes Discipline.

I recently came across a little book from the 70's called "How to be Your Own Best Friend." It sounds hokey, I know. But it changed the way I make choices in my life and gave me a new perspective on discipline and how it works. I could only get so far being the "best wife" because I willed to do it. I only have so much pure will power on my own, and that's usually used up with the dedication it takes to get out of bed in the morning. The authors of this little book urge us to ask ourselves one question - how will you feel if you do or don't do ______. It seems so simple, and yet I had never thought about it before. The book says:

"We can all help ourselves… First, you have to make a very basic decision: Do you want to lift yourself up or put yourself down? Are you for yourself or against yourself? That may seem like a strange question, but many people are literally their own worst enemy. If you decide you want to help yourself, you can choose to do the things that make you feel good about yourself instead of the things that make you feel terrible."

Now, granted, this can only go so far, because we all make mistakes, are sinful, and need Jesus to redeem and forgive us. But it works so well in situations like this:

Faith: I don't feel like doing the dishes. I'd rather watch Desperate Housewives.
Faith's Inner Dialogue: If you don't do the dishes now, you won't feel very great tomorrow when you wake up and have a kitchen full of grossness. And then they will just pile up and never go away. Then how will you feel?
Faith: I think I'll do the dishes.

And with that, I have dishes to do! More on the three L's later.