I finally found a job.
After six months of searching and two months of desperate job applications and silence pushing me to the edge of a depression I always thought I was immune to, I finally found something. I don’t call it my dream job. But it’s a job that pulls deep down from roots that have been withering since before I was even born. It’s a chance to tap into a family history book almost closed for good. A legacy soon to be forgotten, until I took the tattered and cracked reins.
And since then, I have discovered connections to my passions that I wasn’t expecting. A rich history of ordaining women into ministry, a foundation of egalitarianism, and of course, an age-old need-meeting of feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. 82 cents of every dollar donated to the Salvation Army goes straight to its missional work of meeting the needs of the community. Beat that.
But my dreams of old have lingered still. A question of when, and how, and where. Will I still one day finish the higher learning I dreamed of? Will I write and publish and all the fun things associated with it? Will I teach the cultural fabric of religion to university students in my old age? Who knows. I can’t put these away, and I won’t. But I’ll wrap them tightly for safekeeping. And they’ll somehow manage to break out of that because out lives are constant measures of paths taken and not taken. All I can do is trust that just as my needs have been met in ways not anticipated, so will my desires.
Also, in one week, we will finally have our own place, thus cutting half of my commute off (thank heavens). Providence proves once more to be just what it is. All the falling-into-place moments of sweet perfection have graced our lives and cuddled us into feeling like we can breathe. Finally above water.
And yet, that subtle inkling of unsettledness will not retire. This idea that there is still more to attain. Better things to seek. Our prayers have been answered, and provisions have been made, and I find myself making plans for when things get STILL better than that. Now, having a job is not enough. It’s all about when I get a raise. Now, having a nice (very nice) place to live actually in town isn’t enough. It’s all about when we get a house and extra bedrooms. I went from being relieved that it all finally happened to looking ahead to better things. No enjoyment or thanksgiving or pleasure-taking in between – all skipped over to finding the next best thing.
Grass is always greener.
Yes, it is.
Grass is always greener where you water it.
And then the truth of how I live so gently reminds me of its existence. It doesn’t always do that gently, so I appreciate the moments when it does.
Where have I been watering . . . not as much where I should. The treasures bestowed upon me don’t look so shiny compared to what others have. But perhaps it’s because others have taken care of their treasures. Of course they look better. Mine go neglected because I spend my time yearning for theirs. I neglect my lot and pity the day that it finally withers because I couldn’t connect the dots. I couldn’t live in gratitude for my blessings, sweet and sorrowful, for both kinds need love and attention, care and security.
I had to learn this when I was single. I regret nothing about my life and my choices, though some things turned out differently than I imagined ten years ago when I knew so little, I find myself in a place with what I always thought I would have. I knew I’d be married by now. I knew I’d be in Nashville by now. I knew I’d marry a musician. All those things. But even though I spent many years wishing for a partner, a companion, I’m so grateful those years were not granted that very thing. Everything happened as it was supposed to, and I want no other life now. But that doesn’t change the truth that there are quite simply many things I would like to do if I were single that I simply can’t do. I can’t live in Paris for a year teaching English. I can’t buy a cottage on a Gulf Coast island and spend days at a time to myself writing and cooking and reading. I can’t road trip across the country at a moment’s notice. These were all dreams that I once had that don’t cease to exist because of the choices I made, but that’s not the point. My point is that because life is about choices as much as it is about happenings, my choice was to choose what is real. What I had presented before me at any given point in my life was and is real. And I chose to believe that what was real was better than a dream.
I had to choose that when I was single, dreaming of a partnered life. And now I choose that again.
But I want to make a clarification about this. Choosing to live and be content with what we have been given does not mean that we necessarily give up on our dreams. I don’t give up on teaching abroad one day because I know he is not opposed to it in the future. It’s just that our choices and shared dreams for now don’t include that. It doesn’t mean they won’t include that in the future. We don’t shut it out because we don’t know the future. However, because of our choices, I also have to be okay with the possibility that it may never happen. When you’re single, choosing to be content with it does not mean that you stop wanting to be with someone. It means that you choose to water your own garden and enjoy the fragrance of what you have. Tending to our lot doesn’t mean we can’t tend to our dreams. Both need to be nurtured. The tragedy, is when one of them gets neglected. Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s the present that gets forgotten. Feeding and encouraging dreams is important. It’s a a must. It’s the only reason anyone is able to accomplish anything.
But let’s not forget the importance of what we actually do have over the things that we don’t have and that are yet to see material form. They are both meant to work together to fulfill our lives. Contentment is the only way to remain grateful, but at the same time, we are still meant to grow and keep seeking and keep exploring. It all works together. And if it doesn’t . . . well, then you just have to choose. Choose your life, and choose to live with the consequences, because there will be some regardless of the choice. But, by God, choose what is real. And water, care for, and love your life for what it is, for you will never be granted these days again. In the wise words of whoever wrote Andy’s lines in The Office series finale: I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you’ve actually left them.
And there is. Decide that you’re in the good ol’ days, and live in them. Because I know one day we’ll be saying fondly, “Remember that time we moved and didn’t have jobs for two months?” “Remember that time we only had a one-bedroom, and all our friends had to sleep on the couches?”
Maybe it’s impossible to think none of us will ever say the words, “I wish I had…” at some point in our lives.
I have chosen a verse for this season of my life, of settling, building, and such. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, minding your own business, and working with your hands.” And I think that will be my key to contentment as spring begins to wake us each day because the times for resting, grieving, and sinking into the dark have passed, and there is work to be done.