When I was 14, my family moved to Bremo – a place that has – to this day – a funeral home and a small post office as its only businesses. We lived 2.5 miles from a public road, and even when we reached that road, it was another 15 miles or so to the high school.
The county only got a stoplight a few years ago.
As we drove toward what I hoped would not be our new home, I took a sliver of joy in seeing the lights of the high school stadium – “a sign of civilization” I said to Mom. She pointed out that we were still 15 miles from our house.
I did not like that my parents chose to move us there, to take me away from the school where I had finally begun to fit in, to finally find my place in the artsy, edgy crowd of skaters and actors. I hated that move.
At 14, the world revolved around me, so then I couldn’t see what my parents were giving up in order to give us a better life – all their friends, a house they had worked hard to build and a landscape that was an oasis. I couldn’t see that they were making this choice for all of us – so my father could get out of the bureaucracy of community college teaching, so my brother and I could attend better schools, so we could all have the peace of country life that each of us thrives in.
Now, I couldn’t be more grateful that they made those sacrifices in order to gain the things we most needed.
This morning, I spent some time moving money around, adjusting expenses, pondering what I could sell, so that P and I can continue to build this life here on the farm without me needing to return to work that blisters my spirit. We have chosen things that don’t make sense to many people – I left a full-time professorship; P drives 50 miles to and from work each day – in order to live this life – of farm animals and quiet space where everyone is welcome to get away.
Sometimes our choices are very hard – when the budget is so thin you can see through it, when we would love to get to the beach for a week this summer. But ultimately, I know we have chosen – as my parents did – to sacrifice the lesser things for the life that fills us up and gives us joy.
For me, that life is one that is slower, more word-filled, more unstructured. I get to write every day. I get to sit and think while I color the new mandala coloring book that my friend Kathy gave me. I get to walk out and play with the kittens in the workshop when the world is too much with me.
I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and I definitely wouldn’t trade it for money, even if sometimes I think I would.
Our culture has set us up to believe “we can have it all,” but my life experience says that’s a huge fat lie. We can’t have it all – people die, we lose jobs, houses burn, work demands time away from family and family from work, we have to choose between medication and groceries. So no, we don’t get everything we want in life.
But this I know to be true – we can choose the things that are of life – friends, faith, family. Quiet nights on the front porch swing. The purr of a tiny kitten. A play that makes our skin tingle. We can choose to live toward the things that make us whole, and while we may have to sacrifice other things to get those big ones, that sacrifice will always, always be worth it.
Just like moving down that 2.5 mile long driveway gave me my life’s work. I’m so grateful.
What have you had to give up to get the best things, the things that give you life?