The Conversation

Despite a ruthless purging this past spring, the garage still has many things we love and things we ignore – some of which are one and the same. Despite a series of decluttering sessions, the laundry room has a shelf full of all-but-ignored board games, the office is full of expensive, underused drawing materials, we have shelves full of unread books, three cameras that spend far more time sitting than shooting, and more blank or partially used notebooks than I’m willing to admit. You get the idea.

What do we spend our free time actually doing? Well, it depends on the person but for Jeff it’s mostly TV, sports and movies, scrolling timelines, and eating out. I tend to read, go online, take a hot bath, and clean. I also tend to travel for pleasure more than most (a long story), which is expensive, involves a lot of in-between time sitting alone in airports, on public transport and in strange rented rooms. It can be more mundane and disappointing than I ever planned for. There’s nothing like traveling to a far-away place, having an experience you’ve been building up in your brain, and falling asleep in tears feeling pistol-whipped by your shattered expectations or someone else’s bad day.

About a month ago, I asked Jeff to consider a radical change to how we’re living our day-to-day lives. Now radical and change are probably two of Jeff’s least favorite words so I knew I was facing a tough sell but after laying my idea out, I asked him to consider it for a while before deciding. And he did. In the end he agreed, he thought it was a good idea both for us as individuals and for us as a couple. I asked him to give up going out to eat for the next year – his most favorite, comforting and social activity – with the agreement that I wouldn’t travel except for an already planned out trip to help a friend move. Not exactly a pleasure trip, although it is always a pleasure to see her. I asked him to set aside the bulk of his TV time and I promised to set aside the bulk of my evening internet time so that we can spend it together and with friends, to cook delicious meals, to photograph the city and nature areas around us, to cycle and improve our overall fitness, to read more excellent books and to curtail our spending.

If we hold to our plan, we’ll dramatically reduce our carbon footprint (air travel is an environmental disaster), save a large amount of cash (allowing us to make a big dent in our mortgage), and be a stronger, more intentional couple. We have both recognized that we’ve drifted away from each other in some ways, that our formerly rock-solid bond needs a bit of patching, like all relationships do from time to time. We’ve watched several friends’ decades-long marriages split and allowed the myth of others’ perfect lives to wedge itself between our all-too-real, and all-too-imperfect, selves.

In a way, this year will also be a sort of relationship tune-up. Change the filters, put in some fresh oil, and give all the mechanical parts a good going-over to ensure everything’s safe, sound and ready for the coming decades.

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