We just returned earlier this week from a family vacation in Maui. Both my kids are in high school now with my son, Beau, going into his senior year. We’re trying to squeeze in more time together as a family before they are both gone out into the world to live their own adventures.
We had a great time swimming in the ocean, eating too many shaved ices, snorkeling, traveling the road to Hana, and watching sunsets. My wife, Kirsten, and I also had the chance to do a vow renewal ceremony one afternoon. We both grew up in the Mormon church and were married in the Boise temple, 22 years ago. Recently, however, we both made the painful and difficult decision to leave the Mormon church and felt like renewing our commitment to one another was the thing to do.
Maybe one day I will blog about leaving the church, but for now I just want to say how magical and special that ceremony on the beach was. We both expressed heartfelt words that have a deeper meaning to each of us, having been tempered with time and experience together. Relationships are hard. “Happily ever after” only exists in books and movies. Real relationships take effort and patience and an understanding that you are not going to give up on one another at the first sign of difficulty.
The kids were good sports about the whole thing, despite having to put on nice clothes and stand around in the hot sun for a couple hours, bored to tears. I just hope that they remember that day and the love their parents expressed for one another and for them. It may not have been the most fun afternoon, but it was a meaningful afternoon.
And really, isn’t that what life is about? Success to me (in one sense, anyway) is about creating a series of meaningful events throughout your life, consistently and over time. Layering those experiences on top of one another, week in and week out, month in and month out, year after year, is what gives our lives purpose and uniqueness. Some of those meaningful events are going to be painful and hard. They’re meant to be. It’s on the other side of hard that you find value.
Other events, like our renewal ceremony, are going to fill you with love and passion. To experience that love and that passion at its deeper level, you have to be willing to withstand the painful and the difficult. This is how life works. To really experience the good you have to know what the bad is like. To be happy you have to have experienced profound sadness.
Yet we resist these painful experiences and wish them to go away in a hurry. And who can blame us? It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts. But it’s also where the magic is.
It took me a long time to understand that, accept that, and embrace that. Of course I don’t like to go through painful times, but I also realize that they are necessary and help shape me into a stronger, more loving, and better person. I reckon I can withstand a little hurt and disappointment if it means I can come out the other side a better husband, a better father, a better human.