2014 has been marked for me by an endeavor which I must admit has been far more fun than the actual practice of family law, blogging on Huffington Post. This putting people back together thing (four couples this year) is certainly not the world's greatest business model, that's for sure. I make a living when it all falls apart. The messier it is, the more money I make. The older I get though, I have found there needs to be some balance, some joy along with the sadness. Among my favorite articles are the ones about marriage and trying to find that often-elusive recipe for a successful relationship. These are gleaned from observations of 21 years of failed marriages, my own fairly tragic choices (although, in hindsight, perhaps blessings), and finally, a relationship that makes me believe there is actually someone (with a keen sense of humor) watching over me. I have enjoyed writing the 10 Ways to Stay the Hell out of My Office; The 12 Wedding Vows Your Divorce Attorney Would Write for You; and A Divorce Lawyer's Advice Before You Say 'I Do', the most. Those articles are for the most part comprised of the small changes in perspective that can make your relationship look valuable again. Sometimes it is the really big, hard, unfixable problems that lead you into my office; but most of the time, it is a culmination of the little stuff that eats slowly away at the integrity of our relationships, including mine. So this year, I will continue the effort to save a few marriages, (including my own), and if they don't work out, help people move on with peace. So here's hoping I can make it past February with the following resolutions. You might notice none of these involve the gym or swearing off cookies.
1. I will love out loud.
I have an Uncle who just passed away this holiday season from a long illness. He was married to my Aunt so long I remember standing on my tiptoes to see them walk down the aisle. I thought they were a real prince and princess. Upon diagnosis, his wife, children, grandchildren and extended family and friends gathered together and spent time together. They traveled while he could. He was "loved out loud" every minute of every day until he passed. There is a blessing in being given the gift to say goodbye. In reality, no one guarantees us time on this earth. So this year I will "love out loud" to honor him and set an example for my children. I will not await tragedy or diagnosis. I will love out loud because my husband should know that even on our worst days, I love him more than he will ever know. I will let my parents know I am grateful for all they have sacrificed, and how they have shown me love. There are no words to express how much I love my friends and family, but I will seek with purpose to find them. When I can't find the words, I will show it with my actions. I will say thank you, often, for big things and small ones. I will try not to ever assume that someone knows I love them as deeply as I do and realize that everyone needs to be "loved out loud"
Although this one was not number one in my informal "poll", it is the one resolution that I am going to work on with a valiant effort. So look out, it is going to be a mushy year for some of you.
2. I will value time as precious.
I asked a few close friends what their New Year's resolutions would be for their relationships in 2015, and the unequivocal winner was "more time". So, make time, find time, do what you need to do, but if you want to stay the hell out of my office in 2015, time together is crucial. Where do we find it, I wondered? There is never enough of it to get it all done. What takes it from us? Reality TV, mindless searching on the Internet, work, laundry? Perhaps the best answer is simply saying yes to everyone but our partner. Always saying yes to clients, to carpools, to volunteering, leaves us less time for those we love.
When I was a younger lawyer, my boss had a client who demanded something be done for him immediately, and while my boss was out of the office on vacation with his children. His reply to this client's phone call was simply "this time is not for sale," and although in the moment, I did not fully understand the largeness of this statement, today, I try to remember it whenever the time begins to slip away from my children's childhood into billable hours. I will try to remember to value Time above all else as the real gift to my husband and children. I will let the laundry pile up, a bit, and realize it will all get done... eventually.
3. I will be more present.
People used to leave work on Friday and go home to enjoy the weekend; now work is with us wherever we go. Set boundaries, no email checking after a certain hour, enjoy a lovely dinner without checking in on Facebook. Spend less time on the Internet (after catching up on all you need on Huffington Post, of course). Make time to be still with each other, listen to music that reminds you of summertime, hold hands, talk about your future. Listen, really listen with your heart to what people are saying. Respond to let them know they are heard. Enjoy the sound of little footsteps in your house; breathe in the smell of flowers, cut grass and babies. Realize this moment will never come again, and be in it, all in.
4. I will spend less money and save more.
Stuff will not make you happier, this I know for certain, as I have seen it play out many, many times over the past 21 years of being a lawyer. I know this, and yet I am as susceptible as the next person in falling into the trap of buying what I just don't need. I spoil my kids. I buy them stuff they don't need, and take from them the opportunity to learn and grow each time I just hand over something they could save and work for. I have had a job since I was 15 years old and everything good that I have, I have had to work for. I will stop trying to connect my success as a parent to providing more crap to my kids, thereby robbing them of the chance to learn life is hard -- so you need to work hard to get what you need. I will not attempt to assuage my working mom guilt with stuff.
I will try to spend less, because it will make our lives easier, give us more time and make my husband less stressed. I will show him that I really mean it when I say as long as we have each other the rest of it is just stuff. I will save because I have children's colleges, rainy days, and because someday soon I will be old; it happens to us all, if we are lucky.
5. I will give up the martyr act.
It is just not that attractive, and eventually leads to a meltdown or resentment. I will try to ask for what I need before I get completely overwhelmed. I love Christmas, I always have, it was always full of those perfect holidays' memories. Even when my parents divorced, my mom always made sure it was special, and once a year I felt joy like no other time in my childhood. I admit I am Christmas season obsessed, and yes, I admit, I have left the tree up until it became a fire hazard in February. Over the holidays I realized two things: first, that I was running around unnecessarily like a crazy person, having a complete meltdown from the stress of it all because Christmas was not going to "be perfect" if I did not get the cards done, the cookies done, the house perfectly cleaned (which was just something short of utter failure as a wife and mother), and second, that I am married to someone I really don't deserve, who is actually willing to help me carry on this particular Christmas obsession; I simply needed to ask. Doing it all myself and then complaining about it was not the Christmas present anyone wanted. So for 2015, less martyr, more mess.
6. I will be accountable for my own happiness.
I will try in 2015, to be accountable for my own happiness by remembering to be grateful for the amazing blessings I have and not focusing on what is missing. I will try not to complain about becoming older by remembering it is a privilege denied to too many others. I will try not to complain about work and recognize I am lucky to have a job. I will do what I can to choose happiness, even when it is not the easy choice. I will remember this life is full of more laughter than tears, unlimited beauty to behold and opportunity to love and be loved every day. Perspective is reality, and I will try to make 2015 the year I keep mine squarely in check.
The list could go on, but having never made it past February on any gym membership I have ever purchased, I am sticking to the ones essential to my soul, and off the record, I will try to drink a little less wine and a drink a few more green smoothies. May 2015 be the year you find love, keep love or let it go with grace and dignity.
ￂﾩ Krista Barth 2014