Our culture constantly pushes the idea that things need to be exciting. An ad for a credit card features a man whose girlfriend breaks up with him for being “boring,” which he cures by spending money on taking world-wide trips, buying backstage passes at concerts, taking cooking courses, and more – all in an effort to prove to himself (and perhaps the ex-girlfriend) that he’s not really boring.
Our theme parks are constantly pushing the envelope on excitement, making roller coasters go faster, turn harder, and be more extreme. Rides are more frightening than they used to be, and they must be to keep up with the thrill-a-minute movies they are based on. Who wants to ride a carousel when you can ride a roller coaster that does this?
And if that’s not exciting enough, why not be the car on a roller coaster?
Skydiving is so passe, when you can pretend to be a flying squirrel.
All of this is a part of our culture’s addition to excitement.
But to have real excitement, you don’t need to jump off planes, dive off cliffs, ride a roller coaster that puts enough strain on your body to injure your back, or even buy backstage passes to an Alicia Keyes concert. The real adventure is in the exact thing our current society tells you to put off as long as possible, and then, if you dip your toe in, don’t go full-on and get carried away with it.
Real excitement, real fun, and definitely-not-boring life is to be found within a family.
I heard Philip Rivers in an interview on EWTN Radio last month, in which he commented on his home life, where he and his wife Tiffany are raising their six children, “It’s never dull!” I read Simcha Fisher’s columns at National Catholic Register or on her blog and laugh out loud at her family’s hilarities and doings. I look at pictures of my friends’ families – I know a lot of large, Catholic families – and see people who bring excitement with them everywhere you go!
Granted, not all the excitement is happy; spending time in the ER with your child because of some awful injury is exciting in the wrong kind of way. However, just being together is fun and exciting, and someone can always come up with an idea of something to do when you put enough people together.
Our culture has this idea that you have to put off marriage and a family until you’ve done what you want to do in life. Take care of what you want first! (And those of us who see matrimony as the top thing we want to do are looked at as a bit odd.) Do for yourself! Cross off that bucket list! Travel! Experience! Find excitement!!
Basically, our culture is telling young people to be selfish first, then try to stop being selfish – maybe – and get married. Then, when you and your spouse are done doing your couple-things and doing what you want together, then it’s okay to maybe have your 2 kids. (If there’s time. Biological clocks are a pain that way, not really changing how they work to fit this new model of life we’ve come up with.)
I remember reading a post by Jennifer Fulweiler recently about her anniversary and the discovery that she and her husband are expecting again. It was so full of awesome that I printed it out and carried it to my daughter’s dance class to re-read it. (I left my copy there – oopsie – where someone else might see it.) This is the part that made my just full-out cry:
It didn’t take long to see that there was nothing to fear. Immediately upon our conversions, our marriage experienced an explosion of life: we became open to life, which led us to see children completely differently than we did before. Not only did we start having more kids, but we were surrounded by the people of our parish, our diocese, and the entire Body of Christ. Our new suburban house suddenly became a hub of activity, with kids and friends and neighbors in and out all the time — none of which would have ever happened in our old life. It was loud. It was chaotic. It was messy. It was more work than I’d ever had to do in my life. It made us wish the original owner of our house had not installed white carpeting. But, interestingly, we never yearned for our old way of life. Not once.
One day we looked around and saw that our museum was gone. All the stuff that we’d arranged so carefully to suit our tastes had had to be rearranged to accommodate other people’s tastes. The hustle and bustle of so many other people running through our lives meant that things got knocked down, broken, and moved. Life was no longer about just us anymore; we had to consider other folks’ comfort in addition to our own. And it was a wonderful feeling when we realized that our museum was no longer there…because it had been transformed into a home.
Tomorrow night Joe and I will probably celebrate our nine years of marriage with a quick toast, in the approximately four minutes we will have between when the last kid goes to bed and when one or both of us falls face-down on the floor from exhaustion. And when we do we’ll toast to the good life, and thank God that we finally found it.
(Okay, I am crying now again. Thanks, Jen.)
Here’s the funny thing: our culture has it completely backwards.
Excitement – the kind that’s good for us – comes from what we create in our homes. It comes from our family. It’s when your first child takes her first step, or when your next one stops crying because her sister sings a song to her that you used to sing when she cried.
It’s when you see your husband running alongside a bicycle, and he lets go and your child keeps on going, shrieking in delight at the accomplishment. It’s when you save for a vacation and bring your kids to Disney World and they see Cinderella and vibrate with happiness. It’s when you can’t take a big vacation so you stay home for a week and play board games and make cookies together.
It’s when you borrow a movie from the library that you grew up loving and share it with your kids for the first time. It’s when you see the world through their eyes, and you suddenly see wonder if a bunny hopping across your lawn. It’s when you take them to the town’s Christmas tree lighting and you look at their faces instead of the tree.
This is exciting. This is life.
When my husband and I were preparing for our tenth anniversary celebration, we made a Power Point slideshow with music. We struggled to find pictures of the two of us – five years’ worth of marriage – for the first of three songs, but then struggled to fit in all the pictures of our second five years, which started with the birth of our first child.
I looked at the pictures and said, “It’s as though our lives didn’t begin until they came along.”
And that’s the truth. Life begins when we open up to it. Once you open yourself up to life, it pours in and fills the voids in life. And that’s pretty exciting.