Those of you who know me personally know that I have made most of my life choices in the last 17 years so that I honor my values: freedom, joy, connection, love.
Since 2015, I've made some truly risky and unexpected decisions, one of which took me to a new continent and a totally new way of living. It seems that that move presented more of a challenge than even I was prepared for. Unforeseen circumstances put me off track, and somehow I forgot how to have fun. Me! The person whose main priority in life is finding and enjoying the fun in it!
This loss has been affecting me every day, and needless to say it’s also affecting my fairly new marriage. In the course of investigating and working through the painful issues that are contributing to my lack of fun of late, I brainstormed a list of things I used to do for fun. It looks something like this:
What did I learn from this exercise? So many things. First, a lot of what I love involves being in communication with or in the presence of other people, typically friends but often just people interested in the same things that interest me.
Second, that my senses offer me a great source of fun: seeing beauty, hearing beauty, being in the presence of beauty—all of those things make me truly happy.
Third, I need and enjoy alone time, such as when I am reading and learning and interacting with music via dancing, etc. But too much alone time makes me feel disconnected and very, very unhappy.
Fourth, Italy and the Italian language have been a huge source of fun, happiness, and community for me the last 15 years. But then, so have Chicago and the Durham-Chapel Hill area of NC. Wonderful people abound on this earth, and I tend to find them and dance with them.
And finally, the greatest learning of all: I have had very little of the above sources of fun since I got married and moved overseas. And now comes the difficult part: Figuring out how to work back in most, if not all, of these sources of fun, happiness, and aliveness without alienating my spouse and my marriage, and without leaving the EU.
When J and I first thought about what our marriage would look like, it contained a lot of fun-sounding things—even being in Italy a LOT together. We share the love for outdoor activity, for eating (which I am currently having difficulties with, actually, due to a long-term commitment to healing my gut from antibiotic use and stress and sugar addiction), good movies/stories, and planning adventures.
Indeed, we planned to embark on 2 years of solid adventure and travel throughout Italy and beyond before the German government wrote to tell me that we had to scrap our plans (only after J had quit his job and we had moved out of his apartment in preparation for us leaving) and head back to Germany, homeless and jobless, so that I could enroll in 9 to 12 months of German classes within 3 months of getting that letter.
Since that event, I turned into Ms. Responsible. Somewhere in my youth, I learned that adults (married adults? “real” adults? I’m not sure yet) don’t have fun. They get serious about "doing what they have to do" and they work really hard to be responsible and to make security-through-money their primary goal. Earning it, saving it, worrying about it: Money is the only way to security (and, thus, happiness, I guess??).
When J left his job so we could go travel and volunteer for a couple years, and then we were told, “Nope, get your asses back to Germany right now,” we had no idea how to do it without his having a job. So I acted in the way I thought I should: I just worked extra hard to take care of both of us (hence the stress and sugar addiction that strongly contributed to destroying my gut). Ms. Responsible became my role, and Fun Adventure Woman was nowhere to be found. Now that J has a job again, he’s committed to making it work, which means he’s staying in Germany to do just that. No 2 years of adventure travel for us; none of the type of “fun” we had planned 2 years ago when we got married.
So where do we go from here? It’s a complicated question to answer, and we’re working on it every day. We seem to be getting closer to a satisfying agreement that involves me spending more time in communing with friends, traveling alone, meeting new people, learning new things, and being immersed in beauty, with as many opportunities to dance and hear music as I can find. If this agreement makes me happier and able to be the fun person he married—and the woman I miss so much--again, then it will be totally worth it for us both.
Keep your fingers crossed. And tell me, am I the only adult with “fun” needs? Has anyone else dealt with this kind of “crisis of the missing fun” before?
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