Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.
What’s your favorite date night movie? One of my favorites is P.S., I Love You with Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler. It’s the story of a young widow whose husband arranges thoughtful, sweet surprises for her to help her cope during that first awful year of grief. Surrounded by her dear friends, she feels her husband’s love in tangible, irrefutable ways through these little surprises, seemingly drawing them closer even than they were in life.
Sometimes surprises can be fun. A little variety — the spontaneous outing or present, the out-of-the-blue card or letter, the date night that he planned and arranged for the babysitter all by himself.
Other surprises are much less so. Today, for example, we think of tax returns and their orderly rows of numbers, and our fervent hope that not to receive a criptic response from the IRS, who tend to frown on unexpected deviations and variations.
Or, take an example from my college years: on Mondays, the lunch menu always featured a single descriptor: “variety.” This was code for a surplus of a particular dish that had moved slowly the previous week. Nondescript casseroles, dried-out chicken legs, and left-over roast beef with a strange filmy rainbow “au jus.” More than once we resorted to the only alternative — hot-air popped corn in our rooms.
In that case, “variety” was definitely not the spice of life.
In married life, too, variation can be a source of tremendous pleasure or frustration. When it disrupts critical routine, variety can burn the roast, cause toddler meltdown, or overdraw the checking account. On the other hand, when a little variety brushes across our love lives — the “for no reason” bunch of tulips, favorite dinner, or unexpected sleep-in — it adds a little silver lining to any gray day.