Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Longing or Living?

Last week, when my (in)courage post called As We Gather went up, one of the most frequent comments was on one phrase... when I said we needed to be careful not to be longing instead of living.

It seemed to strike a chord.

I have to admit, this past weekend it struck a chord with me, too. When Mom and my sister Laura came to visit, I found myself pondering how easy it is to live in a state of longing for what we want, what we had, instead of living what is.

Periodically over the past few years, I have gone through my closet to get rid of pieces of my old life as I've been ready to let them go. Some friends have my purses, dresses, shorts and shirts that are meant to be worn to weddings and church and dinner parties.

All places I'll never go again.

And I gave them away with a truly happy heart. I love the idea that what I once wore to events I enjoyed, my friends now wear and take me with them in a way. Last summer, Mom got a new closet full of shoes [lucky her we wear the same size] since my feet are sore and only tolerate certain kinds of socks and my not-so-fashionable lined crocs. Where I once had jackets and sweaters, I now have sweatshirts and comfy tops. Where I once hung up khakis and dress pants, I now fold sweats and yoga pants.

Reality is that life is different. And when I look at a closet of outfits that scream, "Wear me somewhere fun!" it causes me to long for something I'll never do and places I'll never go. In those moments, with something as simple as clothes in my closet, I find myself longing instead of living. Wishing for what was instead of what is.

Fighting for a life that is no longer mine.

The truth is, fighting reality takes effort. And accepting reality takes effort. But only one of those things has a positive outcome.

It may not be the outcome I dreamed of, but it is the outcome that life has presented me. So I choose to spend my energy being positive, accepting the life I am given and finding my joy in the center of it.

But I had one step left in my closet that I just hadn't been willing to part with. While some girls hoard purses and others have closets lined with shoes that are to die for, my obsession has always been jeans.

I love me a good pair of jeans. The Buckle and I have been very good friends.

When I tell you that my closet still had stacks of jeans lining the top shelf, I'm probably downplaying it. And this weekend, as I looked at my cute sister who I knew would probably fit the majority of those jeans perfectly, I decided it was time to let them go.

She didn't realize when I first mentioned this that I have rules... if you take my clothes there must be a fashion show first. I like to pretend I'm shopping and help decide what is cute and not cute. I told her what to wear with which pair, which ones look great with boots and which ones need a fantastic heel. I taught her about good pockets that make good looking tushes and which kinds of stitching make a girl look slim.

I loved it. And did it with a happy heart. But I was holding one stack back. The stack of my favorites. The cute trouser jeans that are perfect for the date that isn't casual but isn't dressy. The Big Star jeans that give you a little extra confidence when you walk in a room. The pairs of jeans that represent the moments I loved and wished I could have just one more time.

I know it's crazy, but that one stack of jeans kept me longing instead of living. And Laura saw it on my face. She said they could be my "in the event" jeans... in the event I could ever get out and do those things again I could have them back.

It was sweet and kind, just like my sister. But it wasn't real. So I took a deep breath and said, "No. They aren't in the event clothes. I have no more events. And that's ok. They are yours to wear and take me with you. That's how our life works now."

And that took us from a fashion show session to facing our new reality. Suddenly my family is faced with a world of "never" rather than a world of "someday." I'm never leaving these walls again as long as I'm on this earth. We are never seeing Dad again as long as we are on this earth. We are never going to be given those moments we loved back to live just one more time. And that hurts more than words on a page can convey.

But we also have a world full of living to do on this earth, and that can't be done if we are pretending our lives didn't change. The only jeans in my closet now are a few that hold no meaning. They are just ones to slip on if I feel well enough when friends come to visit. Because my reality is that most of the time when friends visit now, they have to sit in bed with me because that's where I am, in my comfy yoga pants, most days.

The reality is that we are going to have Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays without Dad. But we still have them together and we need to live and celebrate those moments we are still given. I could long for the husband and children I always dreamed of, or I can live in the families I have created with people who have blessed my life. I can wallow in the missing or I can live in the present, with sweet memories I can carry with me.

Just like Laura will carry me with her while wearing her cute new jeans.

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