Stay with me.
Solipsism is a word one doesn’t use every day unless you happen to be a professor of epistemological philosophy. The word, which refers to the belief that the self is all that can be known to exist, often receives a bad rap in modern parlance as its fundamental meaning gets connotatively twisted to be synonymous with such words as narcissism, self-absorption, and egocentricity.
I suggest to my students that, despite these negative connotations, solipsism is a worthy life strategy while they are young and single. During that post-childhood, pre-full-blown adulthood period prior to the eventual partnering which most will choose, it’s appropriate to live with a degree of selfish self-absorption. We should all chase dreams, chase skirts, chase wild geese, whatever it is we feel the need to chase during that largely-unencumbered time; however, once we choose to marry into a committed relationship, we must leave our solipsism behind and no longer place ourselves at the center of our own lives.
Notice my phraseology in the previous sentence: “once we choose to marry.” Most people tend to associate marriage not with “choosing” but with “falling,” as in “I fell in love,” with the expected end being marriage. My problem with this notion is that one should never “fall” into a marriage. Fall in love by all means! Love is, ultimately, what makes life worth living. I encourage everyone to fall in love early and often, but marriage should be a choice based largely on reason and entered into with deliberation. And, loving someone is NOT a good enough reason to marry them. We have all loved a few people in our lifetimes whom we could never have actually lived with — nor them us.
Think about it. How often does the act of falling end well? We fall and hurt ourselves. The stock market falls, and the Great Depression ensues. Rome falls and Europe is thrown into the Dark Ages. Even when used as a noun to indicate the autumn of the year, the fall season literally and symbolically marks the ending of things and the onset of winter and death. So why would anyone want to “fall” into a marriage. They shouldn’t. It should, in fact, be a choice.
Some couples are fortunate. They mutually choose to marry the same person they fell in love with. I feel I’m one such lucky guy. Admittedly, rationally choosing to marry someone is not sexy. Hollywood will never make a rom-com based on someone’s choosing to love and/or marry. No love song will ever be written or played on one’s wedding day that extols the virtues of choosing to love and/or marry. Still, if sustained happiness and longevity of the relationship is the goal, choosing to love/marry is much more likely to bring about the desired long term and healthy relationship than falling “Accidentally in Love,” as my favorite band of all-time, The Counting Crows, extol in a song of that exact title.
Are you still there?
All of this, finally, brings me to the title of this post. Once we choose to marry, we also must choose to set aside our solipsistic youth and to place ourselves second in importance to our partner. Our own happiness should become entirely dependent on that of our partner’s. That’s what love is. If children should follow, our own happiness becomes even less of our own making and even more out of our control. Therefore, the title. A truism, which my wife and I have come to accept, is that, as parents, we are only capable of being “as happy as our least happy child.” It’s a truism that applies no matter how young or old your children are, and for us, it has been extended to include daughter-in-laws and grandchildren.
With that understanding, for a few precious days recently, Julie and I have been very happy. A month ago, our son Travis and our daughter-in-law Mallory had their second healthy child. Last week, our eldest son, Taylor, coached his Hiram College basketball team to a tournament championship. And this week, our youngest son, Tanner, passed the written portion of his paramedic’s exam on his first attempt. If you look at the pictures below, you’ll see happiness written all over their faces.
If you think they’re happy, look at their mom and dad.
Who knows what the near future holds — or even the next ten minutes — but for today anyway, we feel happy.
If you enjoy my blog posts, you may like to receive an email notification whenever a new article is posted. If so, click on the Menu link above and select “Home,” scroll down to the bottom, and click the “Follow” button. You may preview or order my most recent novel, Island No. 6, below. – Always with gratitude and love, Ty