On the evening of July 3, 1979, Karen and I sat on the grass at Stewart Park in Ithaca, New York. I had just handed her my softball mitt. When she opened it and spotted the microscopic $395 “diamond” ring, I said, “You’re a great catch!”
It was her turn:
“I’m not marrying you.”
Hmm, this was not going according to plan. Denied thrice by my 18-year-old quasi-girlfriend.
I say “quasi” because just weeks before, I’d broken up with her, which hurt her and her mom. I later learned that my kids’ future grandma uttered these words:
“If that boy never comes around here again it’ll be too soon for me!”
But here we were, post-Joe’s Restaurant Italian dinner, on the grass, moments after a random and wild-eyed hippie accosted us with, “Hey, man, you two are a beautiful couple!!!”
It was the ‘70s after all.
And, no, Karen—I did not hire that guy.
Back to our dialogue …
Karen: “No. No. No.”
Undaunted, I applied a strength of mine that at 21-years-old I didn’t know I possessed: The ability to persuade.
I sold her.
We tied the knot on June 21, 1980.
Five states, seven kids, and seven grandchildren later, we are hitting 37 years. Relational success! But, we admit, it’s been a rocky road, mostly because of what we did not know back then:
I mean, really, super, completely different. How different are we?
Karen would live sans schedule. I want to know what we’re doing next and how long it will take.
Karen is spontaneous, to which my response is, “Sorry, that’s not part of the plan!”
Karen is energetic and creative in the evening. I’m up thinking, creating, and planning while the rooster is still snoring.
Karen’s #1 need, per Myers-Briggs, is “harmony.” Mine is “fairness.” I have been known to say these whiny words: “But that’s not fair.” This does not create harmony.
Karen is extremely others-centered. Me, not so much
Karen views our pets as part of the family. I view them as, well, animals. (Yes, I know, 87.5% of you will side with Karen on that one)
Karen’s rivers run deep. She is a quiet ponderer. On the other hand, I, as she wrote in Raising Accountable Kids, share every thought I have out loud.
Karen’s patient, thinking through decisions. I want things done yesterday. My middle name could be “knee jerk.” (That’s knee jerk, not jerk)
Yes, we’re different.
But here’s a belief we have in common—which took us years to acquire:
Karen can only change Karen.
John can only change John.
This is the essence of PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY and all that is taught in the QBQ! book.
A popular question nowadays is, “What advice would you give to your younger self?” My answer to that question is in red above. It’s just that simple.
In closing, a few notes:
Note to Self #1: Just keep working on me. Life is better when I do.
Note to Self #2: Apologies never end with “but,” “however,” or an explanation.
Note to Self #3: It’s my job to cherish my wife; she is a gift from God.
Note to Karen: Thank you for traveling this chaotic, challenging, and crazy “broken road” with me. I pray there are many more years ahead!
Note to Our Readers: Go ahead, admit who you’ve been trying to change and promise today to let them be them. If you care to share who that person is, leave a comment below!