3 and a half years ago Irina and I went to Israel for our honeymoon.
It was hot. I mean, really hot. I think I sweated as much in a day as I would in a year back at home. I expect Irina may have been questioning her judgment seeing the river that flowed unceasingly from my forehead for 2 weeks.
Luckily we share an unusual sense of humour, and the effect of the savage heat on our bodies became increasingly funny as the holiday went on. We spent a lot of time, laughing.
For two days we stayed by the Dead Sea. It is a special and mysterious place. Its milky waters are hard to distinguish from the desert and the sky, giving it an infinite and endless feel. Taking a swim was unlike anything I had ever experienced or imagined. In the place of sand between our toes, was coarse salt. The water was uncomfortably hot, and thick like a syrup. That’s me above, enjoying my new level of buoyancy.
The water was so salty, that if we put wet hands even close to our faces, the stinging in our eyes was unreal. The combination of being near blinded, and the excruciating heat sent the level of helpless laughter to a new level. If it weren’t for the showers near the beach, I think we would have struggled to make it back to the hotel alive. I was wary of the buzzards circling as we limped our way back, burnt red, encrusted in salt and squinting.
I often wondered why the Dead Sea and other lakes like it are so salty that nothing can live in them. The reason, I discovered, is that they have no outflow. Salts are washed into the lake, then the water is evaporated, leaving the salt behind.
This made me remember something I once heard, about how as individuals we are like lakes, in that we can become stagnant and a bit lifeless inside if we don’t have much flowing out of us. The amount we give out has a big effect on our level of happiness and peace.
I noticed this in myself this week. I realised (with a nudge from my wife) that I had become so caught up in my own plans and worries, that I had neglected to give out, especially to the people most important to me – my family. I hadn’t done any of the things for Irina that I know make her happy, for a while. I was giving less and less, and feeling more and more empty.
So a couple of days later I found a babysitter, took the morning off work and we went out for breakfast and then I bought her some clothes. Not only did Irina have fun, I felt better too – more alive somehow.
We function a whole lot better when our focus isn’t solely on ourselves, but when we give a little to the people around us.
I think that in trying to provide for our families, we (perhaps men particularly) can end up neglecting them. I have always felt quite a weight on me to be the provider. This hasn’t been placed on me by anyone; I have a special wife who would greet me with a smile if I brought home something I found at the side of the road for tea. But I still feel it; I seem to put pressure on myself. I’m prone to feeling miserable because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough or being successful enough to give them cool stuff.
In thinking endlessly about ways to provide more, and getting stressed, and working hard at things I hope will make money, I think I am helping my family. In reality I am missing the point completely and forgetting to give them what they actually need, which is my attention. In fact, I am actually being a bit selfish, because I’m probably not doing it so much for them, as I am to feel better about myself – more of a man.
I’m trying to learn that what my family really needs is my time, and for me to be happy and healthy. Giving my attention will do far more than a million pounds ever could.
You and I have what it takes to provide good things for the people in our lives. We don’t need to be anything more, we are enough as we are. If you’re like me, you may just need to change your focus, and give more of yourself. Your attention is infinitely more valuable than any material thing.