Embracing Diversity

wedding pic 2I have never been known for following current trends, mostly because I am usually so hopelessly out of touch that I have no idea what the current trends even are.  But I have noticed that the term “diversity” is a popular one right now, as in “celebrate diversity,” “embrace diversity,” and similar slogans.  The gist of it is that diversity is a good thing, and that we need to let go of our natural tendency to want to associate mostly with those people who are just like us and start sharing our lives with people who are often very different from us.  And I have to say that this is one trend that I am right on top of, because I have been “living with diversity” for over thirty five years now….ever since the day that I married my husband.

Obviously, there many core values that my husband and I share:  we have the same morals, the same commitment to family, the same sense of humor and the same work ethic.  We also both like a clean house and are masters at the art of worrying.  But I am a minimalist who feels very uncomfortable around clutter, and have a strong compulsion to organize all my possessions.  My husband has many gifts, but the ability to organize his many possessions is not one of them.  My books are shelved according to their author; the money in my wallet is arranged in ascending value with all the bills facing the same way; my clothes are hung in my closet according to color and category.  My husband’s closet is hodgepodge of clothes, shoes, tools, store receipts and random knick knacks.  Once I even found a hammer in his underwear drawer.

I am a writer and avid reader, while my husband prefers to watch movies for entertainment.  He’s an athlete and a sports enthusiast who regularly follows all his favorite teams, and I can tell when a game is not going well because I can hear him yelling at the TV, even when I’m on a whole different floor of the house.  I enjoy going to a Cardinals game now and then, but otherwise, I find professional sports to be rather boring and have a hard time caring much which team wins.  (If any of the professional athletes were sharing their salaries with me, then I would care very much about whether or not they were having a successful season.)

We came from different states, different types of families, different religions, and we have very different strengths.  He’s a natural at numbers and all things financial, while I struggle with anything beyond the most basic math.  I am most comfortable expressing myself through the written word, whereas he sometimes asks for my help when he’s composing a simple business letter.  And yet we make it work.

IMG_0545I think the key to successfully “living with diversity” is understanding that we aren’t going to change each other.  I am no more going to convince my husband that he needs to keep his tools organized according to my standards than he is going to convince me that my spices don’t have to be arranged alphabetically on the spice rack.  (Because, of course, they do.)

I admit that deep down, I think I would prefer it if my husband would change a little so that he could be more like me.  But it doesn’t work that way.  If I want to stay in a close and loving relationship with him, I have to accept him just the way he is, and count on him doing the same thing for me.  And I think that’s what “embracing diversity” is really all about:  learning to let people be who they really are without trying to change them into becoming more like us.  It’s not always easy, but after thirty-five years of marriage, I can honestly say it is worth the effort.

Happily Ever After

wedding pic 3It’s impossible to reach middle age without also reaching some rather significant milestones in life, and I’ve had my share of big ones (graduations, becoming a mother, publishing a book) and small ones (shedding the extra fifteen pounds I’d carried around for decades, starting this blog, etc.)  This weekend, I’ll be reaching another large milestone, because Sunday is my 35th wedding anniversary, and I don’t think that managing to stay happily married for over three decades is any small feat.

When I think back to my wedding day, which was memorable mostly for the record-breaking heat of 110 degrees with a heat index of 120 degrees, I honestly can’t believe that it was thirty-five years ago.  The time has just flown by, much faster than I ever could have imagined.  We had planned to celebrate with a trip to Ireland and England, but then my daughter and her boyfriend decided that this would be a good year to get married, and the thought of financing both a wedding and an overseas vacation didn’t seem like such a good idea.  (We hope to go next year, instead.  Who says you can’t make a big deal out of a 36th wedding anniversary?)

I’ve learned a lot of things in the past thirty five years, and most of it has to do with the delicate art of compromise.  I am a minimalist who gets nervous when I look around a room and see too much stuff, while my husband is what can best be described as a “keeper.”  We learned early on in our marriage that separate closets were a must.  Our child-raising styles were similar, thank goodness, but our decorating tastes were not, and that became one of the many areas where we learned to compromise.  I said “yes” to the plaid sofa and love seat combo in our first apartment, but “no” to the velvet tapestry of the dogs playing poker.  It took awhile, be we figured out how to be a part of two very different families, how to manage our finances in a way that made us both happy, and how to play to each other’s strengths in deciding who does what job.

I suppose after living, more or less peacefully, with my husband for thirty five years that’s it only natural for me to want to give my daughter a bit of marriage advice.  So far, I’ve resisted the temptation, but if I did, my advice would be simple:  be true to yourself, be loving toward your spouse, and always make your marriage your priority.  Know there will be good days and bad days.  Sometimes he will annoy you by doing nothing more than walking in the room and breathing your air, because that’s what happens when you live with someone day in and day out.  But if you have chosen your spouse well, there will be far more good days than bad, because you are sharing your life with your best friend, your strongest supporter and the person you would rather be with more than anyone else.  And trust me, the years will just fly by……