Gretchen Rubin

A Little Happier: My Husband Jamie Taught Me a Wonderful, Memorable Lesson About Plans.

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One thing I love about my husband Jamie is a tiny aspect of his character, but it turns out to be a very wonderful quality: his ability to gauge when it’s time to leave.

Like at our wedding. I was so absorbed in all the excitement that I lost track of time, and I’ll never forget how he leaned down to whisper in my ear, “It’s time now for us to leave,” and I felt such a rush of agreement and relief. It was time for us to leave. He knew just the right moment.

And I’ll also never forget one cold, dark night in New York City, years ago. Everyone in my family remembers it—my daughter Eliza just mentioned this night to me a few days ago.

Another of Jamie’s great qualities is that he often makes plans for the four of us. He buys tickets to plays, he finds fun restaurants, he takes us to new neighborhoods. And on this winter Friday night, he’d made a dinner reservation and bought tickets to a Shakespeare play that was supposed to be great. I can’t remember which one.

We were all looking forward to a big night out, but for some reason when the time came, Jamie, Eliza, Eleanor, and I were all exhausted. Eleanor fell asleep in the taxi on the way to dinner, which she never does. During dinner we all struggled to make conversation. And, I have to confess, I was bratty: I remember I looked up the plot of the play on my phone and said something unenthusiastic, like “I don’t like the plot of this play.” None of us was complaining, we were all just listless.

After dinner, Jamie started to hail a cab. I said, “Wait, can’t we just walk to the theater from here?” He said, “No, we need to take a cab.” I wasn’t exactly sure where the theater was, so okay, we all pile into a cab. Then I hear Jamie give the taxi-driver our home address, and I said, “Wait, you gave the wrong address, we’re going to the theater.” And he said, “No, we’re going home.”

I was absolutely shocked by this. And yet the amount of relief and joy I felt, that the girls felt! We could just go home.

Now, it was wasteful not to use the tickets, absolutely. And we’ve never done anything like that again. But at that moment, it was bliss. He knew it was time to say enough, we’re done, it’s time to go.

I think this story shows something about the Four Tendencies. I think that for reasons related to my Upholderness, it simply never occurred to me that we could just not go. Our plans were on the calendar, we bought tickets, we were on our way, obviously we were going to go.

And maybe it was Jamie’s Questioner side that allowed him to say, “Why are we doing this? We wanted to have a great evening out as a family, and this plan needs to be re-examined for its effectiveness.”

It’s true we missed out on the opportunity to see a play. But in terms of having a memorable family adventure, I’m sure that we all remember “The Night We Didn’t Go to the Play” much more vividly and fondly than we’d remember that Shakespeare production, no matter how good it was.

I often recall that night to remind myself that I don’t want to get so locked into the plans on my calendar that I lose sight of the reason that I’ve made those plans.

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