The conversation that changed my life

The conversation that changed my life

When my last Real Simple arrived, it included a fun little spread called The Conversation That Changed Me, in which 5 authors described a life-changing encounter from their pasts. Some were inconsequential conversations with passing acquaintances, some were deep conversations with loved ones. But all impacted the authors deeply.

You know I love talking about life-changing books, and I like Real Simple’s conversational twist on it. I’ll play.

Here’s the conversation that changed my life.

(I hate to call it the conversation that changed my life, but since I’ve been immersed in the subject of women and work and family for the past few months, we’ll call it that for now.)

When my baby was one, I think–I’m pretty sure it was before we discovered the cancer–my husband and I met regularly with a marriage and family therapist. (If you ever have this opportunity, take it.) At the time, our son had unexplained developmental delays, and these regular sessions were part of our son’s treatment plan.

life runs in seasons

Every week we’d all gather around our dining room table and try to occupy our baby with cheerios and toy trains while discussing deep issues. I don’t remember what we were talking about that day, but I remember I was frustrated. We hadn’t yet figured out a diagnosis for our baby, or a treatment plan that helped him feel more comfortable in his little world.

To make things worse, I felt like I’d blown an opportunity to see my own dreams through. I’ve long been fascinated by how people develop their spiritual beliefs, and why. I’d studied it in school; I wanted to do meaningful work in the field. I wanted to research and write and help people. But I was spending my days (and sleepless nights) with a baby I couldn’t make happy.

So I spluttered all this to my therapist, my husband seated beside me, listening.

My therapist didn’t think long. He wasn’t that much older than me–ten years, maybe–but his words rang with a grandfather’s wisdom as he leaned in and said: “He won’t be a baby forever. There will be time for all that. Kids grow up–they really do. There’s plenty of time.”

Maybe you’re wise and mature and it makes perfect sense to you that of course a life runs in seasons. Maybe I’d heard that explanation intellectually a hundred times before. But it wasn’t until that moment at my dining room table that I actually believed it. My life runs in seasons. There will be time. I will not be a mother of little ones forever.

That baby’s growing up, and there are 3 more littles ones trailing behind him. I will not be a mother of little ones forever: some days I think it’s a blessing; some days it breaks my heart. But regardless, it’s the truth.

And the day I finally comprehended it, it changed my life.

What conversation changed your life?

photo credits: table, baby

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17 comments

  1. Zarah says:

    I have a 2 1/2 year old (just one kiddo so far!) and I have to constantly remind myself of this. He’s old enough for me to “get” the “he won’t be a baby forever” thing, but it’s really tough for my brain to comprehend that the same rule applies to each succeeding stage of life. Rather than being frustrated by the toddler tantrums, I need to enjoy the sweet moments for what they are. (A rock? For me? Why thank you!)

  2. Jillian Kay says:

    I’d have to think about this for myself. I can name events that altered the course of my life, but I’m having trouble with conversations.

    This article did make me think of the very famous Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy life altering conversation though 🙂

  3. Leslie H says:

    During a period of my marriage when I had an ongoing frustration with my husband, I read a conversation in a book that opened my eyes.

    In the book, a young wife was complaining (legitimately) about her husband to an older wiser woman. The older woman simply asked her: “Well, is what you’re doing now helping the situation?”

    The young wife admitted that it was not. “Then do something different.”

    The same was true in my situation…and it was so simple. What I was doing was not helping, no matter how “right” I was. It was time to let go of my self-righteousness, and do something different…something that made things better, even if it might not resolve the issue as I wished it to be resolved.

    It gave me a lot of peace, and a sense of grace that I was lacking.

    • Aimee says:

      Ouch. I’ve just been convicted, Leslie. Not sure whether to thank you or not. 😉 My uncle once told me that being right can be a very lonely place.

      Indeed.

  4. Kelly M. says:

    I just had such a conversation with my oldest daughter. I finally explained ‘the facts of life’ to her. And it went fine! Fine!
    It just reaffirmed that her and I have a much different, much better, relationship than I had with my mother at that age. I’d been dreading this conversation for the last year or so based on the awkward exchange of words I’d had with my mom when I was my daughter’s age.
    I don’t want to say it was like a Summer’s Eve commercial or anything, there’s was still lots of giggling involved, but it has erased the uncomfortable feelings I associated with coming of age forever. I feel like I can talk to my oldest about anything now, and I hope she feels the same way.

    • Anne says:

      Oh wow, Kelly! I hope and pray I feel the same way after my first Talk with my kids. Congrats to both of you on a big milestone!

  5. Before I married, I was a traveling piano teacher. Though I never lacked for students, I always felt inwardly that I wasn’t good enough to teach because I couldn’t perform publicly w/o having a panic attack. My price-per-lesson reflected my feelings of inferiority. I was dirt cheap. I charged what my piano teacher had charged 15 yrs. previously: $6.00 per half hour! No travel fee!

    I finally realized that I HAD to raise my price per lesson and start charging a travel fee per household. I agonized over this. I was afraid all of my families would drop me one by one. I LOVED my job! I confided my fears to my uncle. He said something to me that still rings in my ears to this day:

    “I’ve learned that sometimes the only person holding me back is ME.”

    I presented my new rates to each family and not one person batted an eye. Instead of losing students I soon had more than I had time to get to. I had to learn to value myself…and I’m still learning this!

  6. Heather says:

    I was raised in a somewhat new-wave feminist household, and I was implicitly taught that if you’re a woman who doesn’t work (except for 6 weeks maternity leave), you’re a drudge who no one will respect. I mostly got over that idea and enjoyed staying home, but still had a lot of hidden anxiety over it (even though I will work – as a homeschooler!). Until last year when I was trying to plan small ways to make money, wondering if I should go back to school, what sort of part-time job should I maybe get someday, etc. I was getting a little worked up over it. My husband asked why I was so worried about it, since I really didn’t relish the thought of working, and we didn’t need the money. I said I didn’t really know, I just felt like I was sucking up all resources and not contributing enough. He pointed out that I take care of the baby, do a lot of the cooking, and most of the cleaning, plus I’m rather conservative with spending money. I stammered something about not contributing my fair share, economically. My husband said in a confused, slightly hurt voice, “Honey…I don’t value you for your economic input. I value you for you.”

    Such a simple thing, and I already knew it, but it radically changed my world view for the better to hear it spelled out. If I ever do work outside the home it will be for personal fulfillment, not because of some garbled feminist message I got as a kid (I know not all feminists are like that – it’s just the version I was taught!). And I don’t know if I really need the extra personal fulfillment at this point in life – I get it all right here from caring for my family and home.

  7. Sometimes we aren’t ready to hear something until a specific moment…it sounds like those words came at just the right time for you! Right now I really can’t think of one conversation that changed my life. It seems like there have been many smaller shifts rather that one grand moment where things appeared clear. I’m going to keep thinking about this question, though, because I’m really curious to see if there are moments that seemed quotidian at the time but really impacted me in a profound way!

  8. Tim says:

    About thirty years ago when I was still an atheist a young woman I’d recently met asked me whether I thought that I would get into heaven if it turned out to be a real place. “Sure,” I said. “Why? she asked. I told her, “Because I’m a nice guy.” She told me, “A lot of nice guys are going to hell, Tim.”

    That’s a conversation that is in the top 10 – maybe top 5 – of conversations that changed my life.

  9. Aimee says:

    Love this topic. I can think of several conversations that have been life changing but one sticks out in my mind right now. I had recently moved to a new city and was incredibly lonely. Eight or so months had gone by and it was obvious that it wasn’t really a place I wanted to live but I felt paralyzed when it came to making a change. What if I picked a city that I liked even less? I was talking with an older friend one evening and he said, “You know, very few decisions in life are irreversible.” It was the kick in the pants that I needed to pick SOMETHING and move forward. It turns out my decision was a great one and led to many awesome things but I felt a certain amount of freedom to change my mind if I didn’t like it and keep trying things ’til I found something that worked. Now that I’m married with kids I don’t have quite as much latitude in my decisions but it still helps to keep things in perspective.

    PS – This advice is not appropriate when it comes to marriage or kids. 😉

  10. The one I think of now is when I had been reading a book about marriage relationships. For years it had bothered me that my naturally outgoing personality sort of “eclipsed” my husband’s more reticent nature. I’d try periodically to dial myself back and try to stay behind my husband in conversation, at gatherings, etc. Then this book talked about “steady” men and how they typically love to be married to women who are self-starters, productive, self-directed, etc. I WANTED to believe that, but it just didn’t quite square with my image of a biblically submissive wife. Finally, I discussed it with my husband, and he absolutely confirmed that it was very important to him that I have my own plans and carry them out independently and enthusiastically and so on. “That’s why I was attracted to you — I could never love somebody who sat around waiting for me to tell her everything to do!”

    I cannot tell you how liberating this was to hear, and what a burden it lifted from my mind. And he didn’t even know!!! How dumb I was to take twenty years to have that conversation, but there it is.

  11. Melissa says:

    I read this and had to smile. I just dropped my oldest off at college….one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Just yesterday he was a sweet round cheeked toddler and now…Life does have seasons. Try to enjoy every one of them because they are so fleeting.

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