Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I guess familiar is over-rated.

A few months ago, I read an article about a study on strong marriages (can’t find it now). One of the main keys to a good marriage turned out to be spontaneity – new hobbies, new restaurants, new memories together. We tend to think that re-visiting our old haunts, or enjoying the familiar TV shows on a familiar couch with a familiar person is the pinnacle of relationship building. But apparently, if you aren’t adding anything new, it’s no longer relationship building.

Over Christmas break, I was reminded again of the value of spontaneity in a message at church. The topic was the story of the sower and the seed – the first seeds that he threw out didn’t grow, because they landed on a hardened footpath. A footpath is a place we travel often, a familiar place. The moral? Growth is stopped by familiarity. Familiarity is when I hear without responding, act without thinking, say without doing.

What am I familiar with? The same evening routine with my dear husband. The same version of church that I see every week. The same treadmill at the gym. The same make-believe with the kids. The same issues my sister is always wanting to debate. Being with the familiar is safe and predictable. But sometimes it gets really boring or even irritating.

Busting the boredom and petty irritations is basically growing – as a wife, a God-believer, a fitness junkie, a mother, a sister.

If the way to grow is to move on from what is familiar, then here is how I’m trying to get my butt in gear and introduce spontaneity …

  • Skip “House Hunters” and watch “Destroyed in Seconds” (blowing stuff up?!) per John’s request, and then find a new restaurant for his birthday. Last year we took ballroom dancing together. That was a spontaneous riot.
  • Do ridiculous cardio circuits at the gym where I jump around instead of just jogging. This has the added benefit of entertaining other gym-goers.
  • Pull out an old bridesmaid dress for princess dress up time with the girls. Do something I’ve never done before with them – sledding last Tuesday!
  • Visit a different church, read a different translation of the Bible. Read a book about Muslims.
  • Surprise one of my extended family members with an unexpected phone call, gift, or something. Don’t hold your breath guys. Remember, it has to be unexpected.

In the story of the sower and seed, when the seeds fell on good soil (unfamiliar dirt!), they grew up to 90x more than what was planted. A little spontaneity goes a long way – so give it a try with me!


Dina said...

Ooh, ooh! I have two great suggestions for you (for the book reading part ;o): if you prefer fiction, A Thousand Splendid Suns; non-fiction, Infidel. Both amazing reads, very enlightening.

Daniel, Jenn and Judah said...

i think those are great ideas!!

Don said...

Nice post Jo. I especially enjoyed this insightful line, "But apparently, if you aren’t adding anything new, it’s no longer relationship building."

Normalcy and routines provide a nice structure, but the new twist keeps things growing and glowing!

I appreciate that you take your life lesson and show us how you're taking it to heart and action.

You go!

(Now Heide is expecting a call or a chew toy from you!) ;-)

joanna said...

I'll have to check out Infidel. Thousand SS, read it - and highly recommend it to anyone else!

One other clarification - in my sister's defense, eating vegetarian lunch together while debating/discussing issues for two hours was one of the highest-lights of my Cali trip. Picking on her was just the nicest way I could think of to say that, like all of you I assume, we all have our moments with our families.