The Lives That Got Away

Dec 2006 022

All of us have unrequited lives – the lives that died on the vine, the could-have-beens, the ones that got away. We have experienced the grief over the death of many dreams. If only I had gone here, studied this, made that decision, NOT made that other stupid decision, married him or her, married later, worked instead of staying home, stayed home instead of worked,  not been in that accident, taken that job.

Today my life is a particular set of circumstances, and yet a million different things from my past could have changed my today. There are days when I wake up and my today simply feels like it’s the wrong one. Have you ever felt that?

When I was in my twenties, making career decisions and considering starting a family, my Mom was about where I am today – similar age, last kid had just hit double digits. She had given her 20’s and 30’s to her family at home, and now they were beginning to need her less. And I remember NOT understanding some of the regret-tinged conversations regarding her “personhood” and job status (or lack there of). I mean – wasn’t meeting our every need the most amazing job in the world?

Fast-forward. Oh, the irony of turning into our parents! I am having the same conversations in my head. WHO AM I? What am I to DO? What am I supposed to ACCOMPLISH?

Sometimes I chide myself and think those questions sound very worldly and selfish. But if I believe I was made in God’s image, those questions take on a different light. He works awfully hard. He is the ultimate creator, and He knows exactly who HE IS. He is the only one that utters, “I AM”, and successfully completes a sentence.

My desire to discover my identity, my contribution, is part of my design.

This post is not about answers – I’m nowhere near them. Years of patterns are set for me as a stay-at-home Mom. Some of these patterns make life much smoother for my family, so shaking them up would be tricky business. *Oh, I know – I’ll become a successful writer/songwriter right in my own living room. I’ll carve out plenty of uninterrupted time to perfect my craft and make all kinds of contacts sitting in Magnolia, TX. No problem.:)

Yeah – I don’t know anything. I know the haunting of my working life that never was. Maybe some of you it’s the haunting of a home life that never was.

That issue bubbles up hot again every now and then between women. Maybe next time it does and we want to point fingers, we can all remember that every human has a road behind them lined with the lives that could have been. When we wake up today, we have only the one.. But today, we get to pick the next steps.

When I sent an early draft of this to my Mom (memory check), she immediately sent back a wonderful quote that had been in her church lectionary that very morning:

“Nothing worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.  Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.  Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.”  — Reinhold Niebuhr

A great reminder! It is true that in this time-bound world we only have 86,400 seconds in a day. The number of those seconds that are wasted, ruined, or lost can overwhelm me if I think it all has to happen here on this earth. But I don’t think that’s the last chapter in the story.

I have moments and dreams where I feel like I get a momentary glimpse into another reality (see my post “Heavenly Laundry“). Maybe those glimpses are a promise of what’s to come. I think I’m here to get my feet wet, to see and experience God and others in a way that requires limits and change and time.

“O Lord, let me enter into your presence and there taste the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, preoccupations, and worries.. All that is timebound will show its real meaning when I can look at it from the place where you want me to be, the place of undying love.”  — Henri Nouwen, Mornings with Henri J.M. Nouwen – Readings and Reflections

4 thoughts on “The Lives That Got Away

  1. Boy howdy can I relate! It reminds me of Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” So many times I wonder what might be had I taken another road, made another choice. But you remind me that the story isn’t over yet. Love you, friend!


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