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In Defense of Passion

In January my family set out to live more passionately. We decided to challenge each other to try new things in 2011 and then chronicle them in this cute little blog you’re holding in your hands. Michael called it the Living for Our Dreams project. But something about that label made me resist: Living for our dreams sounded too selfish and too navel-gaze-y. I was all for the project, but wary of the narcissism it might announce to the world.

Despite my concerns, I climbed on board. The project has given us a jolt of positive energy and has upped the happiness quotient in our little house exponentially. I even think it’s making Michael and me better parents. We have more to give.

So why do words like “dreams” and “passion” have to come with an apology or a disclaimer? I just read a great piece all about this subject by Lane Wallace in The Atlantic“The Value of Following Passion in a Jobless World.” Wallace just spent the past year and a half researching a book about passion and people who lead passionate lives. She found that nothing backs up the stereotypical beliefs about passion-followers: That they are hopelessly idealistic, selfish, or irresponsible.

Instead, says Wallace, “I would argue that passion is one of the most important elements in any effort to improve a community, build something of value in the world, and even survive tough times or a daunting economy.” She defends passionate people as those who have the courage and perseverance to pursue an alternative potential future. They’re survivors.

I think I can hang my hat on that. Viva passion!

Leash to the Wall, Face in the Feed Bag

horse with feedbagI’ve got a problem with Elizabeth Gilbert. Don’t get me wrong; I loved her book Eat, Pray, Love. Couldn’t put it down. Neither could Wendy. But the underlying premise of that book, as well as Gilbert’s attitude toward family life, are part of the reason we started this blog.

In case you’re one of the 15 English speakers who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie starring Julia Roberts, Eat, Pray, Love chronicles Gilbert’s adventures as she tries to find herself in Italy, India, and Indonesia. Nothing wrong there. But it’s her underlying assumptions along the way that irk me.

The book opens with her in an absolute panic, hysterical, over the fact that if she stays with her husband, she might become a mom. And then her life will be utterly ruined.

So, she splits, kills the marriage dead, and flees the country. Okay, so lots of people need to get out of bad marriages. But it’s the kid thing that really gets her ass in gear. In the end, Gilbert hooks up with a dude who’s already had kids, thank you, and doesn’t want more, and who’s had a vasectomy to boot. Whew! No chance of bringing rugrats into the world with this guy! Bullet dodged, Gilbert lives happily ever after.

Now, I don’t have a problem with folks who don’t want kids. I don’t think anyone should have kids unless they really want them. It’s just about the biggest commitment you can ever make, and you can’t exactly return them if they don’t work out. What I take issue with is Gilbert’s assumption that you can’t live for yourself if you have kids, that if you have kids, you can forget every selfish dream you’ve ever had.

Gilbert’s interview in O, the Oprah Magazine last year clarified her views.

“When I was in Mexico when I was 20, I remember meeting this American couple who were in their 60s, and they said, ‘Oh, it’s so great that you’re traveling now, before you have kids, because you won’t be able to then.’ I know this is a thing that people do; they go traveling for a year, and then they hitch their leash to the wall and put their face in their feed bag and that’s the end of it. And I thought, ‘But I might want to keep doing this,’ you know?”

In other words once you have kids, you can forget about traveling around the world, or doing anything else that’s particularly interesting. I know a lot of people have this idea, that you can’t live for your dreams if you have a family and responsibilities, and blah blah blah. I’m just picking on Gilbert because she’s so damn articulate about it, and so widely read. She’s issued such a public challenge that I just can’t let it go.

Elizabeth Gilbert, I’ll see you two kids, and take your India, too. Wendy and I are doubling down and going for broke.

(Well, at least Wendy is. She’s the one going to India. I’ll be home with the kids while she does that. I never really wanted to go to India anyway. Oop. Gotta go now; I think I hear a Klondike bar calling me from the feed—er—freezer….)

A New Year’s Manifesto

Ah, it’s 10:55 pm. The kids are asleep. The house is clean and orderly for the first time all day. The dishwasher is humming its soapy, comforting tune.

It’s the perfect time to write a manifesto.

When Michael and I first conceived of this Party of 4 blog and project, in our rush of adrenaline and enthusiasm we decided that we wanted it to contain a manifesto of sorts. We wanted this project to inspire and energize not just ourselves but everyone who reads about it and touches upon it. And the perfect way to do that is with a call to action.

In the meantime, serendipitously, I came across the Internet presence of Gwen Bell, who has written a great piece on her blog called Create Your Personal Manifesto. It’s bursting with advice and tips on how to do just that. And I enjoy the manifesto graphic pictured here, which I found on Etsy. When you’re about to write your own manifesto, it’s a good idea to read a few first just to get in the spirit.

Michael and I came up with a rough draft of our manifesto on New Year’s Day, over samosas and malai kofta at an Indian restaurant in Kingston, New York. I will now attempt to polish and shape each of our statements into something that is, if not elegant and declarative a la Ralph Waldo Emerson, then at least fairly readable. So here goes.

Party of 4 Manifesto

We refuse to believe that A LIFE OF ADVENTURE is incompatible with a life with kids.

Material things have a lesser value than RELATIONSHIPS and EXPERIENCES.

Our job as a couple is to NURTURE and PROTECT each other’s dreams.

EQUALLY SHARED PARENTING shall be the new world order.

May we be true to ourselves.

May we remember to pause and SEE THE MAGNIFICENCE in everything, especially our children.

Marriage is not the death knell of PASSION and LOVE.

Home is where we have our FAMILY – not our mortgage or our stuff.

We don’t stop growing after bringing kids into this world. In fact we owe it to them to keep EXPANDING OUR LIVES and moving toward our dreams.

May our actions be fueled by JOY rather than fear. May we live in openness to POSSIBILITY and CHANGE.

No whining.

No clinging to the past. No self-indulgent bouts of torment or nostalgia.

In uplifting ourselves, may we also UPLIFT OTHERS.

So there’s a start. It’s a selection. I’m tempted to add a few items from my own personal belief system, such as EAT CHOCOLATE or Unroll Thy Yoga Mat Daily. But I need to stay true to our Party of 4 theme. So there you have it.

Have you ever thought of writing your own manifesto? What would you say?

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