Monday, December 14, 2009
Are you sure?
That’s the question I posed at a speech I gave last week to some spouses of top executives at a Fortune 500 corporation. “What else do you want to experience with whatever time you have left?” I said to the group. “What more do you have inside to give?”
Reasonable questions for baby boomers to ask themselves, right? Especially since we’re living longer and longer.
But what if one’s spouse or partner has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo?
That was the question I was asked, and there were knowing nods all around when the issue was brought up.
My father didn’t want my mother to work. At least that's what my mom always told me. He wanted her to be available to entertain clients and travel. He paid the bills. He expected her to support his career. (Above are my parents on their wedding day, when their whole adult lives were in front of them.)
What I said to the group and would say to my mother if my father were still alive, is this:
Are you sure?
Are you sure your partner is dead set against you doing something that gives your life greater meaning? Are you sure the two of you can’t come up with a creative solution so that both your needs are met? Are you sure that over time your partner wouldn’t even get a kick out of seeing you grow?
Are you sure, in other words, that you aren’t making excuses?
Sounds harsh, huh?
Maybe so. Admittedly, I'm reducing a complex issue to its lowest common denominator. (Sorry, mom.)
But it's important to be clear about what’s your choice and what’s not, to learn to distinguish the voice of fear from the voice of certainty, and to give our loved ones a chance to decide for themselves how they feel.