I was feeling quite proud of my little arrogant “I can do hard things” self until I realised something. A great friend had just asked me how I figured out how to be okay with a life in no way that I had pictured. Smug. If I’m honest my heart felt a tad bit smug. My chest puffed out and I was walking a bit taller. I knew my gorgeous friend was just processing her life out loud and really didn’t want answers. We often don’t. We just want someone to hear us. But the next day as I continued to think on these lovely words I stopped in my tracks. Wait, you want to know how I figured out how to do life when nothing you expected happened and you are living no where near to the dreams you wanted? Hhmmm. Is that code for ‘man you are so good at failure’? Would a better more accurate question be, “It’s amazing how you failed to get what you wanted but you don’t want to kill people. How do you do it?”
After I pondered that I laughed as I walked to my car, that I don’t really love, in my jean shorts that I bought when I was too big for all my clothes after I had my son (4 years ago!) which are now semi cool because they are evidently called boyfriend jeans (shorts) now not “your too fat for your old jean shorts so you buy baggy ones” shorts. And apparently the holes in them from washing them too many times & accidentally ripping them in a hurry to throw them on to get out the door are very cool. Did I tell you I wear these almost every day? I do. And I got them at the cheapest store in New Zealand that most people don’t admit to going much less buying clothes. Yeah those shorts I had on that day. I digress once again.
I guess my life isn’t at all, whatsoever what I planned or hoped for when I was younger. Guys, I was going to marry a youth pastor in my early twenties and change young hearts having four kids, a big house, being a sister/friend/mom/coach to young students everywhere. Have people over at my house all the time, making dinners nightly, baking regularly and living in blissful chaos. I was also going to have a clean, organised house and live in America in a hot place. All I can say is HAHAHAHA. My life looks nothing like that. At all. Whatsoever. Did I mention nothing like that?
I got married in my thirties, to a man who lovingly calls high school students and college/university students, well, annoying, the worst possible age ever. We have one child. Not four. If I cook an edible dinner 3 nights a week we call it winning. By edible I mean just that. Not the dinner last Thursday my son and husband had to throw out. Or like the meal I made a couple months ago that my husband said I could not send to our homeless ministry freezer dinners. Standards. He said we have to have standards at what we give to the ones in tough times. Life is hard enough and getting a bad meal can’t be okay. My husband is an extreme introvert and I am an extreme extrovert. My husband is also a med student so having people over is just not realistic when the nights are devoted to study. So yeah we rarely have people over. By rarely, I mean never. And a clean organised house. Ha! Today I found bugs in the window sills in the kitchen. I’m not lying nor am I proud but it’s the God honest truth.
So yeah my life doesn’t look like I wanted. There have been very tearful moments , sheer depression and anger that was ugly. It has not been easy and I really didn’t like being a mess and moving which required meeting new people in this state. So when my friend asked/processed about how I figured it out all I can say is, I actually haven’t. Some days I still go crazy and want to punch people in Kiwi culture. Some days I am SO completely over my old car and miss my cute SUV in America I could cry. Some weeks I feel like an utter failure as I chat to people with PhD’s or scores of kids that are all excelling or doctors and surgeons that are younger than me. Heck, some days I just covet people that cook dinner every night or more accurately can eat out every night.
I tried all the tricks, every last one. I’ll do anything to feel better. I had a gratitude journal. Yeah that didn’t work at all for me. It seemed to make me more annoyed and less thankful (just to clarify it works wonders for others but for me not so much). I read my Bible. I volunteered. I tried to make friends. I exercised. Yet some days my life just looked nothing like I had hoped minus one very important thing: I lived at the beach. By at the beach I mean, take a walk daily on the beach that’s two blocks away. Then we moved after I finally found some friends. Holy freaking heck! It was another roller coaster of emotions and fear and anger and cold. Have I told you how cold it is where I live? Did I mention that summer rarely exists and when there is a semi good day or week everyone talks about the great summer we are having? Yeah, that’s just a whole new layer of bitterness.
So how did I do it? I don’t know. I guess I just showed up every day. And the days I didn’t show up I complained and got lost in TV shows or food or Starbucks, then miraculously another day appeared. I stopped telling myself to stop complaining and just be happy. I stopped trying to like my different life. Then the pressure was just off. Now almost six years into my marriage and over five in a different country I am just me. Living in New Zealand trying to figure what I will do next. Maybe it was a bit of a mourning process and now I can look back and see while I think I might have liked the life I dreamed of it was so limited by only what I had seen and known.
I now live a life in a health care world I didn’t even know existed. I have a husband that is brave and driven and going after the hardest discipline there is, that alone makes me swoon. I have one child that is hilarious and such a fun buddy. I am entertaining people not in my home so much as in my heart. I have quiet nights most nights of the week and I love it, and the nights I don’t my four year old and I are surrounded by a huge group of University students that we adore. And some days I do nothing of value at all except keep my kid alive.
My answer to how I did failure so well or how I am okay with my life being so dramatically different is time. It takes time and a good friend or two that will let you complain and whine and swear and scream about the same things over and over again. Then one day you wake up and you say some stupid cliché that you hated with a burning passion months earlier. I am so glad I didn’t get the life I wanted. I got the life I love. Then the next day you wake up and still hate parts of your life and that’s okay too. Waiting out a hard season or hard life choice or circumstance can feel like it might destroy us. It won’t. It will feel suffocating and horrible and wrong some days, but I promise it won’t kill you and this my dear friend, is not your forever. I stopped trying and I think sometimes that was the smartest, most wise loving thing I did for my family and me.