The Life I Might Have Had…

There are a few quotes that really struck me in the last couple of weeks. Maybe you have heard them, or others similar, before and maybe they’re new to you. Maybe the knowledge that we are embarking on another adventure as we enter the third trimester with our third son is evoking different emotions in me. I’m not sure.

“The grass is greener where you water it.”
“The miracle aint the life you missed. It’s the life you got.” (The Shunning)

The Past

Sometimes we get so caught up in looking behind us. We start to think about choices we have made that we wish we could do over…do differently. In The Shunning, an Amish girl, Katie, learns that she was born “English,” not Amish. She starts to question “who am I?” She begins to wonder if there was a life that she was meant to live outside of the one she had. It isn’t that she doesn’t love her parents who raised her…but she begins to feel confused…deceived. I believe we all feel that way at some point.

“How might my life have been different if…” Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had my parents not divorced. I wonder if things would have ever improved between them. i wonder if it could have worked. Or would they have been miserable? I wonder if they had stayed together how much less complicated things might have been for my brother and me as we grew up. We could go a step further. I’m not sure my parents ever should have gotten married in the first place. They were young and immature. I don’t think they were ready and I don’t think they would disagree with me. Now, of course, had they never gotten married I wouldn’t exist. But I wonder how their lives might have been different had they not been married. I wonder how much heartache they could have missed.

And what about choices I have made? What if I had just never dated in high school. How might things be different now? What heartache I could have avoided! What drama I could have lived without! Who would I be? What if I had chosen to go to a different college or waited until I had more money to pay for it? What if I had gone into the military instead? What life might I have lived?

Sometimes we can take so many of the decisions we have made and turn them into a “good” vs “bad” decision instead of two comparable options and we had to make a choice. For example, I don’t think it really would have been a “bad” decision had I gone to UW-Eau Claire or UW-Green Bay instead of going to UW-Stevens Point. All of those schools offered my major and so each would have been a good option. But I had to make a choice, live with it, and water it.

The Present

We often sit and think of how much better our lives might be if we had x, y, or z. Maybe if we had a different job life would be better. Maybe I would be happier if I lived in a different city, state, country…(guilty of this one…a lot). I’m sure life would be better if I was married to him/her instead. This kind of thinking is dangerous. “The grass is greener where you water it.” Your job can be a great job if you want it to be. Your marriage can be a great marriage if you work on it. Your home can be a home you love if you invest your heart into it. We can get so caught up believing that the “seaweed is…greener in somebody else’s lake” but in reality, it could be greener in our own if we would just take care of and nurture it. We can lose so much joy in our discontentment with our circumstances.

I am guilty of this so often…especially when it comes to living far from my family. I miss them. I always feel like I’d be happier if I lived back home…closer to my roots in Wisconsin. But my grass can be greener here if I would just water it. So I’ve been watering it. I’ve been doing what I can to invest in relationships, my church, our home…trying to think more long-term instead of “I hope this isn’t permanent.” And it helps. My grass has fewer dry patches. My life feels more full. My joy is more complete because I’ve lessened my time looking over the fence at other yards and allowed room for contentment.

The Future

What about the life I want to have? Who will I be in ten years? Well, hopefully I will be the mother of three amazing boys ages 14, 11, and 9. Hopefully these amazing boys will be doing well in school, staying out of trouble, actively involved in our church and community, and loving God and others. Hopefully Josh and I will have jobs we love and a home we have made our own. Hopefully. It is good to hope. It is good to have goals. It is good to work toward those goals. It can be good to think about the future.

But what about when that turns into worry? What if I spend so much of my time and energy trying to force my future to look a certain way that I ruin my present? What if I spend so much time trying to shape every little detail about my children’s lives that I don’t allow them to find out who they are…that I leave them asking all kinds of questions like “who am I?” or “what if…?” I can’t be content in my present if I am so worked up worrying about my future. Instead of finding the miracle in the life I have, I will be forcing a life I want and losing the miracle all together.

Again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to make plans for the future. But we can get derailed in the details. We can get so stuck in our plans that we don’t know how to respond when we are thrown a curve-ball.

In the End

Let’s face it. I can’t change my past. I can’t go back and make my parents stay together. I can’t go back and choose to focus more of my attention and time on school, work, and friends instead of boys. I can’t go back and see what my life would look like if I had gone to a different school. There is no way of knowing what might have been. But I can say with confidence that, even had I made those choices, I would still have the opportunity to ask, “what if…?” I can also say with certainty that I can learn from my choices. I can learn from my mistakes. What if I had been more positive about this move to CA from the beginning? Or I can pass it off to someone else and ask, “what if I had more support when we moved here instead of being so isolated?” Either way…the way I responded was my choice. Now I get to learn from it.

In the end, I am thankful with the life I have. I know that divorce is far less than ideal. But I am thankful for the amazing family I have gained through the divorces. I would not be who I am today without the influences of all of those people in my life. Good things can come from less than perfect circumstances…especially when you put them in God’s hands. I am thankful for my experiences at UWSP and believe that the people I met there were central to my growing up into an adult. I am thankful that we had Emery even though the timing was less than ideal. I wouldn’t give him up for anything in the world…

And, in the end, that’s what is boils down to. Would I be willing to give up everything I have now to be given an opportunity to change the circumstances in my life as a child, teen, or young adult? Would I be willing to risk everything that I love about my life now? Am I willing to say that my life would absolutely, for certain, without any doubt or reservation be better had x, y, or z been different? NO WAY! I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for my kids. I’m thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my home and know, whether permanent or temporary, that living in CA is going to shape me in ways that I could never know! I am going to continue to water my own grass instead of worrying about how much greener everyone else’s is. Besides…their grass may not even be real. It might be spray painted green so everyone else believes it is alive. I’m going to embrace the miracle of the life that I live instead of wondering about the life I might have had.

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