Happily Even After
“And By ‘Important’ You Mean…”
by Stacey Noem
Recently Joshua and I had lunch together before I took off for a work trip to Boston. The children were all in school and it was just a lovely opportunity to share a meal out together.
As we were chatting before the server came to take our order, I mentioned to Joshua that I only had a 50-minute layover in Chicago in which to make my connection. (Folks who have flown the South Bend-Chicago leg may recognize that the flight is only infrequently on time. Additionally, I get a pinch nervous about connections when I have less than an hour between flights, especially in the winter. I hate having to run between gates.)
Anyway, after the server took our lunch order, Joshua asked me, “So how long do you have for your layover?”
Background music scratches to a halt.
Stacey on the inside: “What!? I just told you! Hello?!!”
Stacey on the outside: Sweet smile. “Josh, how long DO I have for a layover?”
Joshua: Catching on quickly that this may be a piece of information I had already shared. Smiles carefully. Makes sure to maintain eye contact instead of looking off into the distance while racking his brain to come up with the bit of information he had completely ignored in my pre-order chatter. “Uhmm, you have …”
Stacey: “I have 50 minutes.”
Joshua: “Yes, that’s right. And it’s kind of tight.”
Stacey on the inside (or it might have been outside): “Gold star for effort, sweetheart.”
This exchange then precipitated a fairly interesting conversation about the way each of us categorizes information.
Joshua explained that his categories for information are: “Important and Relevant,” “Important but not Relevant” and “Not Important.” I am fairly confident my flight information was the last of these.
By contrast, for me information falls into one of four categories: “Essential,” “Important,” “Pertinent,” and “Not Relevant.”
At which point he asked me to explain what each of these categories means. When I hit “Pertinent” I described how as his spouse, as a parent or in my work there are any number of pieces of information that do not directly impact me but might be of importance for someone I care about or for whom I am responsible. Those are items that I consider “Pertinent.” It is basically a relational category.
He said: “Yeah, I don’t have that.”
Pause for mutual explosion of laughter.
This is not a shocking revelation after almost fifteen years of marriage. Joshua is nothing if not incredibly straightforward. When it comes to information, he interacts with it more or less like an individual. He processes it from his point of view.
Now that isn’t in any way to imply that he doesn’t care about information that impacts me or the family. He is aware that if some information has to do with us as a family, he fits it nicely into the “Important” category.
I interact with information much more along the lines of a complex web of relationships. Not because of any conscious choice on my part. On some level it is just the way I am wired. On another level, it is the product of the way I was raised. And on a third level, it is the result of twelve years of motherhood. Basically, I can’t help but care. Even about things that have nothing to do with me directly.
The beauty of the whole exchange was that it was filled with smiles and hearty laughter. After so many years of married life we are definitely at the point where learning new insights about one another, especially those that don’t match up in any way, more often leads to giggles than frustration. At an early point in our shared life this conversation could have been the product of hurt feelings or become more heated.
As it was, we poked fun and joked and really just enjoyed celebrating our differences. Because when it comes down to it, these are neither strengths nor weaknesses for either of us. They are simply differences and there is a lot of good that comes to our relationship and our family life from them.
I am incredibly grateful that we are in a place where we take that as a starting point.
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