I’ve been thinking a lot about adventure.
Last week, after learning that running a marathon was not in the cards for me, I decided to sit with that disappointment for a while and try to get underneath it. Why was it so important to me? Why would anyone want to run 26.2 miles in the first place?
I used to think I was “goal oriented.” But that’s not it – the word “goal” actually makes me grind my teeth a bit. I ran a marathon in 2010, and it’s not the finish line I remember. In fact,
three days later when I could put my own underwear on again, I remember feeling a little bit sad that it was over.
Because I loved the training. Well, except for that one 18 mile run when I bonked, cried, and sat down on the trail; praying to be magically transported to WaWa . I didn’t love that.
But I loved the process of transformation; the metamorphosis of a 5K’er into a marathoner. I loved that I had to dig deep to make it happen – push through any artificial barriers I had erected regarding my abilities or capacity for the hard stuff. I loved the juice of feeling alive. I loved becoming a better version of myself.
I loved the adventure of pushing the envelope.
I loved the quest.
Last week, I stumbled upon this book…
…and it was just the kick in the
ass pants I needed.
This book is about bringing meaning to your life by undertaking a quest. The author, Chris Guillebeau, recently completed his quest of visiting every country in the world before the age of thirty-five. In The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, he draws on interviews with hundreds of other questers: A man who ran 250 marathons in a year, another who bicycled around the world, a 14 year-old girl who circumnavigated the world’s oceans on a 38 foot sailboat…alone.
Of course, these tales of adventure are fun to read, but what about the rest of us…with kids…and jobs…and mortgages? Living in a tree in Tasmania in protest of illegal logging is not really an option when you have to be in carline by 2:45, or coach Little League on Saturday.
Ah, but Guillebeau is sympathetic to this perceived roadblock, and speaks to the plight of the tethered quester in the chapter entitled “Everyday Adventure:”
Relax. Or don’t relax, because a quest is rarely about taking it easy. It’s about challenging yourself however you can, learning new things and expanding your horizons…even if you never leave home.
So how do you create your own quest?
You could take a passion or hobby to the next level, like becoming a black belt in karate. An external event -like the loss of a job, divorce, or the death of a loved one – might trigger the desire for travel. Some questers choose to expand their horizons by learning a new skill or language.
But according to Guillebeau, for many a quest rises out of the ashes of discontent. Dissatisfaction. Restlessness. The need for something more:
Properly examined, feelings of unease can lead to a new sense of purpose.
I spent a few days marinating on this. I could feel my quest taking shape as I pondered these questions:
What fascinates me?
What frustrates me?
What area of my life needs to grow and evolve?
Where in my life am I
being a chicken shit holding back?
What is crying out for more of ME: my time, my commitment, my passion and creativity?
There are many answers to these questions, each one leading me down a different road. But regardless of the direction I take, all potential quests share one common denominator.
My traveling partner.
Yes, Phil and I have been experiencing some marital turbulence. There have been times when it feels like wings are falling off the plane. But underneath my discontent runs a strong current of belief that Phil and I are better together than we are apart. Anything I attempt in this life – from parenting to writing to circumventing the globe – will be better because of him. And this is not to say that I am incapable of doing these things on my own.
I don’t need him to be involved. I want him to be involved.
But before we start chartering sailboats or enrolling in trapeze camp, Phil and I have decided to fully commit to what we see as the foundation for all future quests: The Marriage Quest.
When you are training for marathon, you need to be vigilant about your training: nutrition, hydration, and long runs are just the tip of the iceberg. To be successful, you need to go deeper than that. You have to be patient and resilient. You need to block out all other distractions. You must prepare and anticipate. You need to pay attention. In a marathon, cockiness + complacency = failure.
I see marriage as an Ultimate Marathon.
In the past year, the marriages of some very close friends ended. Couples we thought would be together forever. And it scared us. Rattled us to our core. But we tried mask that fear by acting cocky: Oh that could never happen to us. And then we bonked. Hard. We were lying on the trail, screaming for a Wawa.
Actually…after a “date night” this summer, we were screaming at each other IN the Wawa.
Not our proudest moment.
It’s time to take this
bitch sacred union to a new and improved level. And we will do so by adhering to the Quest Guidelines outlined in The Happiness of Pursuit:
- Goal: To strengthen and deepen our marriage. To go from 5K’ers to Marital Marathoners.
- Measurable Progress: One weekly blog post chronicling challenges/successes/marital topics.
- Duration: 37 weeks, ending on our 11th wedding anniversary
- Mission: To eradicate judgment, criticism, shame and blame from our relationship. To take responsibility for ourselves, to listen honestly, and to grow and heal together.
But shouldn’t a quest be a solo activity? Not according to Guillebeau:
Must a dream have only one owner? Not if two minds see the world from the same perspective.
Besides, life in a Tasmanian tree house could get pretty boring without Phil. How could I not be fascinated by a guy who shows up for your first date with a stuffed moon strapped in the back seat…
…and dances with a chair at Every. Single. Wedding.
How could I be anything but intrigued by a man
girly secure enough to sport sunshine face paint…
…and dress like Bob Cratchit?
We will go after our Marriage Quest wholeheartedly, with the commitment of a man willing to strip himself down to ill fitting shorts and green body paint.
Because we are Brauns. Our family motto is: You Gotta Want It.
Our quest may be a bit ambiguous – 37 weeks from now, what will “victory” look like? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. Like I said, I am a lover of the process. For me, the important thing is commitment to moving forward – together – even when we can only see a few feet in front of us…
…and see where the road leads.
I hope you come along for the ride.