“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” – Dr. Seuss
I was growing by leaps and bounds. My weekends were spent in various staff development seminars or sitting at the kitchen table planning lessons. I received The Teacher of the Year award. Every year, I received glowing reviews. One year, I received a promotion. Ah, the good life.
Meanwhile, my partner CJ navigated carefully around the prickly, often frigid, and always exhausted person he did not marry. The old me had left the building, and it seemed I had taken fun with me. While we still loved each other, our relationship revolved around work and talk of work.
My pant size increased while my enjoyment of life steadily decreased. I justified staying late and working weekends with shoulds and oughts.
I continued to hop on that hamster wheel year after year. What else could I do? This is life. Deal with it.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Model
Six years ago, I was curled up on the couch most of the hours I was away from school. A medical mishap, a toxic reaction to an antibiotic, wreaked havoc on my nervous and skeletal systems. For a year and a half, I did little but work, attend doctors’ appointments, and fight with the insurance company about approving MRIs.
Yet, here on the same couch sat a man who took back his life. Two years prior, CJ declared he had enough and left an elementary music teaching position to start his own guitar studio. He cut his work hours in half, and I was so excited for him. Although the money was trickling in, I loved having clean laundry, prepped meals, and shiny floors.
Only now, as a 35 year old who ambulated as if I were 80, did I admit what I had been denying for several years. Something had to give. In addition to my poor health, I was bigger than I ought to be, our sex life was non-existent, and my anxiety was through the roof.
Complacency was no longer an option. I had to make a change. And I was scared to death.
Collaboration and Conversation
I loved being with CJ more than anything in the world. Our conversations satisfied everything from my desire to my intellect. The obvious solution was to move toward more time with him and less time with work. But how?
We took our conversations from bitching to action. During any free moment, we talked about how we would make a life together and still afford to keep the lights on. There were wild schemes, lame schemes, and everything in between.
A coffee van for teachers! We could under-price Starbucks and drive their morning cup right to them!
You’re a guitarist! Compromise your principles and write the One Hit Wonder. We’ll live on an island like…
Eventually, we found the answer in a closet.
One afternoon, I was talking with CJ about how a colleague wanted me to tutor her son. School policy forbids teachers from making extra money on their property, so I needed another place.
What about the guitar studio?
Guitar and reading. Um, probably not going to work, honeykins.
Not in the same room. What about that closet off the waiting room? It’s kind of small, but so are your kids. You only need a little table.
And so it came to be. Now in its sixth consecutive year, we enjoy the fruits of an idea born out of conversation. No incompetent coworkers. No staff meetings. Decreased pant sizes. Good health.
Doing Whatever Works
The facts are a bitch and so hard to deny. In fact, to this very day, I occasionally slip into rationalizing my past behavior. I had to stay late. I wanted to advance in my career.
But I got sick. Only then did I change. While the catalyst for CJ was anger, mine was pain. Different strokes.
What I realized in this transformation from merely existing to living is what everyone keeps saying ad nauseam. Change takes time. What some fail to mention is that it is fun. It is damn fun to change and craft yourself into a better you.
Fun has re-entered the building. I hold on to it with a white-knuckled grip.
What are you doing to ensure fun in your life?
Photo by Wesley Eller
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37 thoughts on “The Power of a Good Partner”
I hope you find it, Dan! Thank you for taking time to stop by.
Mix business with pleasure. Relationships are built on value you provide for one another. I am constantly focused on checking in on people and interested in them– that makes me more interesting to them. Most importantly, when stressed, I drop what I’m doing and do something that makes me feel good. The law of attraction is at work– always! ;).
I loved this article. Thanks!
Hello Gabe! So happy to hear you say, “I drop what I’m doing and do something that makes me feel good.” It’s so easy to get caught up in ‘must’ and ‘have to’ that we forget that we have control over what we think, say, and do. So many tasty little nuggets in your comment. Thank you!
I have taken up surfing. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and somehow never got around to doing. Ironically, I learned that people do it in my city!
I love that I can get away for a half the day. Being in the water is nice and refreshing, pure joy. It also really keeps you in the moment as you can’t think about anything else.
What a great point, Jack. Surfing is certainly not for the inattentive. It sounds like you can also share that love with others in your city – if you so choose.
You also remind me that we don’t need a whole day off just to enjoy something we love. Many happy waves for you!
Hi Tammy, it’s a pleasure reading your article. I believe change is inevitable if you looking for a better future. Better future not only about how many zeroes you can accumulate in your bank but also the happiness you shared with your life partner. Your partner is the one that will motivate you when you down and cheer you up when you are sad. Life without a partner is like a jigsaw missing the final piece.
Jason, I’m so happy you are here. You are so right. There are not enough zeroes to bring you happiness when you’re stressed and tired all the time. As teachers, I’m sure you can imagine that we weren’t exactly rolling in the dough, but we are so much happier now that we figured out what works for us. We realized we don’t need more money or “stuff” to be happy. We needed more time together. Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insight!
Thank you for sharing your story – it is inspirational! I was a bit like you when I used to teach. I worked with disabled children and ignored all the health warnings that my life was out of balance. Eventually my back gave out and I was forced to stop and literally had to lie down for a couple of weeks. It was during that time I decided to leave teaching. I was a lone parent though so took a part-time job to start with. It took me another 10 years to finally become self-employed and do what I really love. But I got there and it’s great!
lovely and genuibe post
this post reminded me of this too.. do have a look !
Brad Pitt About His Wife :
“My wife got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and problems with children.
She has lost 30 pounds and weighted about 90 pounds in her 35 years. She got very skinny, and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman.
She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the morning and got tired very quickly during the day.
Our relationship was on the verge of break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself.
She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we’ll get divorced soon…
But then I decided to act on it. After all I’ve got the most beautiful woman on the earth. She is the idol of more than half of men and women on earth, and I was the one allowed to fall asleep next to her and to hug her shoulders.
I began to pamper her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised her and pleased her every minute. I gave her lots of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends.
You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became even better than before. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and she loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much.
And then I realized one thing: The woman is the reflection of her man.
If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it. ” – Brad Pitt, A Secret of Love
Wow, Priyadarshini, I had never seen those words from Brad Pitt before, nor did I realize how sick his wife was because of work, etc. I can definitely understand that it does happen. I think those words are beautiful, and CJ’s love is what really healed me as he was the one to pull me gently up and out into the world again, one step at a time. I know that may sound hyperbolic or hackneyed, but love can do amazing things.
CJ will really get a big head if he thinks we’re comparing him to Brad Pitt, so let’s just keep this between the two of us.
I appreciate you sharing with us as I know many other people will enjoy reading this too!
Priyadarshini: Thank you for sharing this Brad Pitt piece. I didn’t realize the issues they were going through, but it’s great that Brad Pitt took that approach to shower his wife with love, rather than to give up on her. I truly believe that love is the answer to everything, and if we showered more love into all of our relationships–we’d have better relationships with our loved ones, friends, and generally people that we come into contact with. Love is the answer.
Hi Gina! Fortunately, it sounds like your unfortunate incident may have been the catalyst for change. Thank you for sharing the number of years it took you. It is very rare that change happens over night. It certainly didn’t for me. In fact, we’re all changing at this very moment. Exciting when you think about it!
I enjoyed reading your story of transformation Tammy! I’m glad that you were able to come up with a workable solution to creating the life you wanted. :)
Thank you so much, Alison. It was so much more fun that our previous “plan of attack” which to keep on doing the same old thing! I appreciate your comments.
Adorable. I always imagine you two are like Marc and Angel, running a blog together about your adventures and lessons learned. :)
Hello Vincent! Our adventures are getting our debt paid down, increasing our savings, engaging in meaningful activities, and ridding ourselves of junk in all its forms. We know you are all about living a life on your terms, and we feel the same way. Once we prioritized and simplified, all of our activities became adventures.
When you’re over 40, it’s not often that someone refers to you as ‘adorable’ – so many thanks!
Finding the right person is so amazing. Keeping the relationship going takes daily commitment and work. Nice when you make it happen together
Roberta! Yes, yes, yes! It is the daily commitment and work that keep relationships amazing. I’m not one for flowers or fancy things, but CJ filling my water glass or stopping by my work area for a peck on the cheek? Bring it on!
I hope you’re enjoying a fine evening!
I love your story…I see so much of my own life in there…distraction, the income trap, weight gain, the health deterioration, and the absence of fun…
Communication is the secret sauce, without it there’s no hope for lasting change. It doesn’t matter if you have a partner or you’re just communicating with yourself. Communication helps create clarity, a vision for the desired life and the guts to pull it off!
Cheers, you and CJ have it wired!
Hello Ree! I love how you said, “It doesn’t matter if you have a partner or you’re just communicating with yourself.” We all know we talk in our heads the most (or is that just me?), so how and what we’re communicating to ourselves is of the utmost importance.
For many years, my thinking was more than a bit out of whack, and I was making things much harder than they needed to be. So happy you’ve been able to make a go of it with your secret sauce!
It would have been so easy to give up, yet you guys brainstormed and tried to find a better solution, you really have a relationship to treasure.
Hello Pauline! It took us quite a while to get here, and we’re still working on it. What I failed to realize before is that you never just arrive and that there is so much fun in the process.
I love to hear how everyone else is living life, and you have done something so unique. We love reading about your little house in Guatemala.
Thank you for stopping by!
I truly believe if you have the right partner in your life, everything else is not as big of a challenge as you thought it would be. Getting some support and understanding and sharing your dreams with your life partner can take you to the next level in life: happy, successful, safe and fulfilling! Great job Tammy on changing your life for better no matter how much scared you were at first!
Elena! It is true. I was a big chicken! CJ was so patient. It really did make all the difference. I am pretty convinced that, without his support, I would not have taken a risk and left my job. I would not have lost the 35+ pounds or changed my thinking. It was only after hours of conversations and many smaller changes that we were able to make the transformation from existing to living.
I love what Ree said above though. You don’t have to have a partner to communicate in the right way with yourself. Partners are a bonus, but I know I have to “bring it” and meet my own needs too! Isn’t life so much fun?!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Hi Tammy a lovely article. Good healthy relationships offering support and love and nurturing. Sure you couldn’t get better than that in life!!! The quality of our relationships reflects the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves.
Hello Karen! What a whopper of a last line you have there. It just blasted me back into the past about six years when I was having a rocky relationship with myself. Oh, I had the successes society deems worthy – house, car, job with pension, 60 hour work week, but inside I was stressed and anxious. Funny how working on myself led to better relationships with others – especially CJ. We had what most would consider a “good” marriage, a “typical” marriage, but it’s so much better to wake up every morning and think that THIS is the marriage I wanted. It just took questioning, prioritizing, and lots of communicating.
Many thanks for your comment as it is Post-It Note on the Bathroom Mirror worthy indeed!
Fantastic story about communicating and working together to make great things happen!
Thank you, Alex! It is a lot more fun that what we were doing!
How wonderful that you got off the hamster wheel! But even better is that you now get to work with your hubby. I’m jealous.
I would love to be able to go to work with my wife every day, we work so well together and always have great fun.
Congrats on finding the balance.
Hello Darrell! It was something we never thought possible. If you and your wife both want it, I hope you can find a way to make it happen.
CJ has one “Employee of the Month” award, and I don’t have any. It’s never dull!
Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m glad to have “met” you here on TCB.
Hey Tammy, thanks for being so genuine and authentic with your story. Although your sickness was the catalyst for your decision to make that radical change in your life, I believe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not making a decision before the circumstances have started really pressing us. Most of us learn from our own mistakes, and the point is to actually do learn and grow with every tough situation we’ve gotten ourselves into, rather than keep going down the spiral. Then, after a while maybe we’ll also start learning from other people’s experiences, so thank you very much for sharing – the article was a thought-provoking one!
Wow, Ashton! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You really pulled it all together – mistakes (inevitable) + learning and growing + observing (others and yourself) = change. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, but I just love synthesizing and creating.
While I know many people have had great comeback stories, and I guess you can consider mine a semi-rock bottom, I now know I will never let myself get even slightly close if I can help it!
Many thanks for summing up and adding your insight!
Great article, Tams! Thanks for sharing. I know you have a great partner. :)
Hello, Ernest! It is so good to see you here, and I thank you for taking time to leave a comment. I hope you’re writing away and enjoying life!
Hi Tammy: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Yes, I agree that change takes time, and the process can be fun or challenging, however you chose to view it. I’m working on some life changes now, and while at times they are stressful, it’s also such a rewarding experience. I’m making steps to focus my life/career on my life purpose. And it feels so freeing for me to actually be who I believe I’m supposed to be.
Hello Madison! You sound like you’re right on track with phrases like “rewarding experience” and “who I believe I’m supposed to be.” I think that we can and should be our own best supporters. When the challenges come up, which they inevitably will, we can rest assured that we know what is best for us. I am right with you when you say, “it feels so freeing.” I so appreciate you taking time to share your thoughts. Have a great evening!