As you pack up your life to move, you seem to have time for nothing else but inventory management. Your house smells of nothing but cardboard and packing tape, and you wonder why you’ve been using a knife to cut cheese for the past couple of years when you apparently had a whole set of specialized utensils for that purpose that you never bothered to take out of their package.
We’ve moved to LA from Connecticut, and while that may sound pretty far and pretty radical, we should remember that Liz is from Southern California, so this is a homecoming for her. We’re terribly excited to be here.
We love Connecticut, we love the people, we love New York. But we had some interesting opportunities in LA that we wanted to explore, so we didn’t really hesitate. We found a place out there, rented out our house to a lovely family, and started packing.
Now, it’s not often you get to move across country, so Liz and I figured we should turn it into a bit of an adventure. Since I was excited about it, I asked if I could plan it.
“Go crazy,” Liz said, distracted. So I did. I went crazy.
“Okay, here’s the plan,” I told Liz that night, sitting her down. “When the guys pack up all our stuff, I’m going to grab the kids and drive to Boston.”
“Why are you going to drive the kids to Boston?”
“Because there were cheap flights to San Diego from there,” I said. “I’m going to bring my mom with me, and we’re going to fly the kids to your mom in San Diego.”
“I’m not coming for this?”
“No – you’re going to get in the car and start driving west.”
“Huh,” she said, paying closer attention now.
“I figure I can get the kids to San Diego, drop them off with your mom and my mom, then hurry back to the airport and get the next flight back to Cleveland.” I could see Liz’s eyebrows furrow, and she began to pose the natural question, so I kept going. “I’m thinking that if you start driving west, you’ll make it to Cleveland. We’ll get there around the same time, you pick me up, and we keep on driving west.”
“I see,” she said.
“Then we drive west, get to Yellowstone, see some buffalo and stuff, and then I’m going to drop you off at an airport in Montana to fly the rest of the way to San Diego.”
“Where are you going to be?”
“I’m giving a commencement speech at the University of Great Falls in Montana, and I figure I’ll do that and then drive south to meet you in San Diego just in time to get the kids and drive up to LA to meet the truck with our stuff.”
Liz was silent for a moment, then nodded.
“I like it,” she said.
And that’s what happened, all of that. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever had, sitting next to each other and talking for hours on end.
It got me thinking a lot about relationships and partnerships and marriage. (We listened to a few sermons by the great Tim Keller on the topic as well, which informed my thinking a lot here.) And I realized that it would be easy to just chalk up that great adventure across country to great compatibility between us – but that would be selling it short.
On the surface, after all, Liz and I weren’t terribly compatible. Not really, anyway.
We had radically different political views, we had radically different faiths (she had it, I didn’t), she was an attorney in a big city with a huge network, I was in Nepal living with orphans.
But what we saw in each other – and certainly I saw in her – was somebody with whom I could build an amazing partnership, friendship, and family. At her core she was compassionate and adventurous and cared deeply about how other people felt, what they were going through. I loved that.
Both of us had had relationships before, of course, and I think we were probably both looking for people with whom we were “compatible” – sharing interests and backgrounds and activities. But those continued to fail because we hadn’t found a person who we were willing to stay with even when they changed, even when we changed. Because that’s going to happen. We’re going to change. We’re going to end up as different people. The superficial stuff goes away.
What stays, if all that goes away?
You learn to love each other better, to appreciate what the other person appreciates. You learn where their hurts are and where their triumphs are. You learn them, and you change because it’s no longer enough to be the best you can be. You want to bring out the best in them, too. And they want to do that for you.
That’s compatibility, and that’s love, and that’s why I know that LA is right for us. Because it was right for my wife, and when I saw it through her, when I saw what she saw, because I knew her so well, then I wanted it as badly as she did.
We’re home now, and there are fewer boxes, and the kids have settled into the sunshine, and our yellow lab Emma – a bit fatter after a month of holiday with friends – has just arrived by cargo and she’s settled in too and already found a tennis ball in the backyard. Her weight reminds me that everybody talks about how image conscious LA is, how I have to dress better and look better and all that stuff.
And maybe that’s true, but I’m not going on a diet unless our dog does, and unlike our dog, I don’t look like a baby hippo when I lie down.
I have loads of time to worry about all that. Right now I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful for my friends and hopefully the future friends who will want to hang out with me, which I plan to seek out using my Map of the Stars. But mostly I’m grateful that we arrived safe, that Liz and I had that time together, and whatever we end up doing here, knowing that we’ll be doing it together. What a gift that is.