I was watching TV the other day while I was baking some Christmas goodies and some characters got stranded in the mountains and happened upon a cabin where a grouchy old man sat in front of a fire with a table full of amazing food. His kids didn’t want to spend the holiday with him and his wife had died the previous year. Sadly, all he had left were memories of happy years gone by. There is this bitter-sweet reality to living a good life. As you get older, there are so many good memories there is a danger of looking back and feeling more sadness for having had that good in your life than there is motivated to keep making good memories.
My and many of my girlfriends are being faced with our children becoming adults and leaving the nest to pursue their own lives. For some moms this is the inevitable worst-case scenario because they lived for their children. Their sense of purpose and direction in life is now gone. They find themselves looking back more than looking forward. I miss when my kids were little, when they’d crawl into my lap, when they’d reach up and hold my fingers in their tiny hands. But somehow, I can’t let that bring me down NOW. Because something was good before doesn’t mean now can’t be good too.
I think people get caught up in missing the good so much they forget to find the good that is all around them in the present. And even more, they stop looking with anticipation toward the future.
Complacency and coveting is death. Contentment and hope is life. Not that you won’t have moments of sadness…just don’t live in that sadness.
So if you find yourself with a void…FILL IT. Keep writing your story. Don’t let your entire story end just because a chapter does.
I didn’t dream beyond raising my children. When my life was turned upside down by my divorce I had no idea what my future would bring. The story that unfolded was as much a surprise to me as anyone.
But I refused to sit in my past and pine after something that would never be again. I had to mourn that life and I did, and then… look forward.
Maybe for those who get set in their ways very easily, kick starting new chapters is harder. But I’m convinced it’s the trick to growing old happily.
Begin again. Keep having new beginnings instead of just endings. Begin again. It’s the lesson of life built into the seasons. Life, growth, decline, death, life. Start a new job, a new hobby, make a new friend, keep learning, keep growing, keep experiencing. Find something to be grateful for everyday.
If you do the changes that make you sad will make you less sad.
My daughter came home after her first semester of college last night. I was excited to see her and imagined in my mind a home-cooked family dinner with the four of us. I even invited my son over for dinner and began planning the menu. Then I got a text from my daughter reminding me she made plans to attend a choir concert with friends, invited her brother and told me they wouldn’t have time for dinner. My vision of that evening shifted from candles and casual conversation around a dinner table to what happened in reality. She walked through the door, I gave her a hug, she changed, I gave her and my son $20 for In N Out burger asked them what time they would be home and they shut the door behind them.
What was so great about that, was it was fine. Yes, I was bummed I didn’t get my family dinner. But Harry and I cooked dinner anyway and had a quiet night snuggling on the couch. the alternative was just as good and filled me with contentment, just in a different way.
Now, just a side for all you naysayers out there. In evangelical Christian culture there is a saying, “Let God fill your void.” Many people warn that after great loss it is unwise to attempt to fill that void with anything other than your relationship with God because there is a danger of filling it in desperation with the first thing that comes along. But being content and being discerning and having self-respect are all intertwined. If you lack self-respect you will quite possibly accept something less than what you’re worth. If you are unwise you will not properly discern what is best for you. So let me give you caution to be very careful in who you ‘let in’. Many wolves wear sheep’s clothing. This I know to be true from mistakes I made in my own life. None of us are perfect. Trust God with every step but keep walking.
Let me also be clear that being content and feeling whole as a person does not mean you have to be closed off to what God would put in your path for your future. Every time you begin again there is the possibility that something wonderful could happen. You could find a new job that could open doors for a new life. You could meet a new friend that could open doors to a new relationship and possibly marriage. Saying yes, isn’t always foolish or cavalier.
Saying yes to things that bring goodness into your life is believing in the hope for that regeneration of life. Saying no is also believing that something else will come along that will be better. Getting stuck looking back? Now that is no good. It is a place I never want to get stuck.
If that’s you. Please challenge yourself to begin again. Just take a step.
In 12 days my life is truly going to begin again. It will mark a very real new chapter as I change my name and vow to love and cherish this man, my Harry, for the rest of my life. I can’t wait. I have much to look forward to. And I am truly grateful that the steps I’ve taken have led me to this place.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”