It’s my husband ‘s birthday today, but unfortunately I’m teaching and won’t see him before 6pm. So I’m writing this to say ‘Happy Birthday, dear Barry!’ I’m immensely grateful that on 9 May 2010 you went down on one knee and changed our lives for good. Big gratitude for all the life lessons you have taught me in the past 7 years. It’s probably a long list, but here are top ten which popped into my head in no particular order.
1.’Good enough is good enough’
I was at the brink of completing my PhD thesis when I met my husband. Stressed out, I got a repetitive strain injury in my right shoulder and was unable to work for a while. ‘Good enough is good enough’ was his mantra back then. He encouraged me to submit a month and a half before the deadline and I’m so glad I did, because I passed my viva without a signle correction and had an enjoyable rest of the summer.
2. Go for your dreams!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know that I come from a relatively oppressive background where women were kept small and not encouraged to do anything but think of their families and children. To have an ally who takes pride in my achievements and offers me support has been healing to say the least. In the time that we’ve been together, I got a permanent lectureship, birthed our children, certified as a Compassion Key fascilitator, written a book or two (but not published yet), entered competitions, travelled to far flung places, like Mauritius – you name it!
3. Always say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’.
Now, this will probably sound awful, but in Azerbaijan we don’t say those words to our family members. It’s a given that each family member is willing to serve the other. The way you ask is what’s important, not saying those words, which are reserved to strangers. I started using them after living in England for a while, but not all of the time. Strangely enough, when I visited Azerbaijan on occasion, I managed to mortally offend some family members by saying thank you and please too much. Shortly after my son arrived, my husband indicated that he’d really appreciate it if I used those words consistently. I’m pretty sure the world is a better place for that.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This one is a work in progress, but he often reminds me about the importance of focusing on what’s really important in life. Sometimes I forget, sometimes we both forget, so it feels good to include this as a reminder.
5. Speak the truth and nothing but the truth.
When I got my university job, my husband and I were in the process of moving in together. The next morning, I remember settling in an armchair by a large window looking out into a peaceful road and reading work emails. My mind was on my wardrobe wondering what to wear to the drinks organised at work that day. Suddenly, I saw an e-mail from the head of department saying he’s going to see everyone to have celebratory drinks in 5 minutes. Confused, I looked at the date, and saw that the drinks took place the day before. With horror, I realised that I missed the school event organised to welcome me (and other new colleagues) on board. Panicking and somewhat hyperventilating, I starting thinking of a good excuse to explain my absence.
‘Just tell him the truth,’ my husband encouraged me.
To admit that I made a mistake felt super scary at the time. Yet, I went to see the head of department and told him what had happened.
‘No problem,’ he shrugged it off.
It may not seem a big deal, but for me it was the most empowering thing I had done in a loooooong time. To have a proof that I can speak the truth and not get in trouble with an authority figure was amazing.
6. Time is the most precious asset.
Like many, I have lived my life like I’ve got all the time in the world. This illusion that we can do something tomorrow, or cram in more and more and more stuff to do was really unhealthy. When I talk about joining yet another course, my husband never questions the cost. As far as he’s concerned, if I love it, I should go for it. The only thing that he questions is the time commitment. Because there are many worthwhile things to do in life, we have to be selective in how we invest this precious commodity.
7. If you feel grouchy, do appreciations.
Works like charm. Try it. We do it quite regularly, especially when things don’t flow. Just saying ‘I appreciate …’ and completing the sentence can bring a fresh perspective.
8. Obstacles as allies.
This one we learnt together. We were on a dance retreat in Brighton when a teacher introduced an exercise encouraging us to use obstacles as allies. We shortly learnt this principle in practice. It was December of 2010. We were planning to go to Devon for new year, but got snowed in. Grumpy, I complained all the time, until on Christmas eve we received a package with my documents from the Home office. They rejected my visa application because one piece of paper was not enclosed. I had less than a week to re-apply, or else I had to leave the country, because my visa was expiring on 31 December 2010. Panicking we managed to get the paperwork in on time. Were we to travel and return on 2 January as planned, I’d be in a big trouble. Obstacles as allies….
9. Happy parents = happy kids.
This too is a work in progress. In early days, unconsciously, I was following my grandma’s model of martyrdom as a parent. She still prides herself on the fact that she hasn’t lived a single day for herself. I thought if I worked really-really hard, my kids would be happy. Needless to say, I stressed myself and my husband out with all the vein attempt of ‘making them happy.’ It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m finally getting that when things are well between us, kids are settled and content.
10. I am loveable – all of me.
This lesson has changed my life. When in the early days of our relationship my husband complained that I never get angry, I must admit I felt puzzled. Why, did he want me to get angry? What was wrong with being nice all of the time. The truth is it was just a habitual façade. For the first time in my life, my light and shadow were welcomed in equal measure, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Happy birthday, Barry!
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out my last year’s birthday blog too.