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What Do You Want? No, Really.

I have a question for you, gentle readers: What do you want?

No, really. What do you want?

I'm asking because, if you don't stop and ask yourselves this question from time to time, you run a huge risk that you won't get it.

Whether it's a buff bod, a published book, more time with your kids, whatever -- if you don't ask yourselves the question, you might not get it, whatever it is.

I had to stop and ask myself that question recently, and ask BMNB the same question for that matter. Despite having come back from a lovely vacation and vowing to focus on my goals and the goals for our little family, I'd fallen back into the same pattern as before, constantly going to meetings after work and making myself available to do whatever people asked of me. And most of this effort on my part, although laudable, had absolutely nothing to do with what I or BMNB wanted. My actions and my intentions were worlds apart.

It really hit me when others who had come to rely on me were making their work bend to their personal priorities, while I had done the opposite. And when I did finally ask BMNB what he wanted, he replied simply, "I want you home." We discussed even further the fact that we hadn't achieved the goals we had for ourselves as a married couple and aspiring parents.

So, to the shock and chagrin of others, I let them know that BMNB and I come first and I was letting go of my involvement in certain things, things for which I could see no definite end in sight. Things that, although laudable, would continue to devour my time and put BMNB and I farther away from our personal goals.

The responses to my quasi-"Declaration of Independence" ranged from disappointment to shock ("You can't do this."). I asked myself the question whether, twenty years from now, my continuing as I was would make me happy in my personal life. The answer was "no." When I asked myself whether taking myself offline, so to speak, to pursue the goals that I and BMNB have for ourselves individually and a couple would make me happy twenty years from now, the answer was a resounding "yes." I disappointed some people, but I made the most important person in my life happy -- BMNB. And myself, too.

But I'd been here before. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I was involved in a host of organizations, always going to meetings, always taking leadership positions. I slowly noticed a dramatic drop in participation by my cohorts. Why? They were busy starting their lives -- getting married, having children, buying homes. Although I'm proud of the things I accomplished, they don't take the place of a husband, a home, and children. I didn't think I wanted those things at the time, but if I had known that I was going to be as happy married as I am now, I would have married and started a family a long time ago.

And, to be truthful, I chafed at the idea of someone telling me that I couldn't stop doing something, something that I was doing as a volunteer. People will tell you this when you constantly offer your services and are good at what you're doing with or for them. They can't imagine that you wouldn't continue doing what you're doing because, well, you're good at it. Don't confuse being good at something with being happy doing it. Don't let the accolades for doing something that isn't in line with your goals blind you to achieving your goals.

Plus, I have this thing about being independent and free. The easiest way to get me to resist is to tell me that I have to do something. I know for certain that, if I was black in a previous life, I was an unrecalcitrant field slave who was probably hung for good measure. I don't take orders well.

So, if I can impart any wisdom from my experience, this is it:

1) If you don't stop and ask yourself what you want out of life, you run the risk of not getting it.

2) Although you're not responsible for your partner's happiness, you are responsible for not getting in the way of your partner's happiness. If you don't know what your partner wants, how will you know if you're in the way of him or her getting it?

3) You can't sleep with a wall plaque. Well, you can, but it won't do much for you. Accolades won't cook your dinner, warm your cold feet at night, or give you an excuse to curl up under a blanket and read Goodnight, Moon over and over again. Don't let them keep you from pursuing your personal goals.

One of my favorite cheesy movie lines is from the movie "Mr. Mom," in which Michael Keaton's character says to his wife Teri Garr something she'd said to him earlier: It's easy to forget what's important, so don't.

So don't. I'm trying not to.

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