We are moving.
Cleaning out boxes from the attic has left me more unsettled and emotional than I ever anticipated. As I open each crate, I vividly remember the way life used to be — the hobbies I used to love, the things I used to do. Thumbing through my mementos, I am reminded again that the life I’m living now isn’t what I signed up for. Nothing has turned out as I planned.
While I am deeply convinced that I’m living out God’s best for me, there are days I mourn the loss of what used to be — particularly recently as I’ve been going through old tubs, each one filled with memories of a life that no longer exists. Pictures of long-ago family vacations, Christmases past, recitals, and school plays. Shoeboxes filled with letters from people I no longer know. Childhood photographs that make me laugh and at the same time cringe in horror. All reminders of how my life has changed.
And then there are the art supplies. Fifteen years ago, my life was defined by projects I could do with my hands. Painting, crafting, scrapbooking, embroidering, making jewelry, painting dishes. Tubs, crates, and craft containers all crammed into the attic — each dedicated to a different artistic passion. They all sparked my creativity. Relaxed me. Made me happy.
But my diagnosis of post-polio syndrome changed all that. With my arms deteriorating, I couldn’t afford to waste my energy on crafts. I boxed everything up (with help), labeled it, and shoved it in the attic. And I didn’t look at it again. Until now.
What Happened to the Life I Dreamed?
As a friend helps me rummage through these old boxes, looking at paintbrushes and canvas, rubber stamps and colored paper, a deep sadness settles over me. I miss those things. But I know they are part of my past and I can’t dwell on what can’t be undone.
This grieving isn’t particular to me. A few weeks ago, I spoke with three friends, all of whom were facing significant disappointment. One used to be an opera singer, but her vocal cords have changed and she can no longer sing as she once did. Another friend was looking forward to her youngest child going to school so that she could pursue the ministry she felt called to. But an unexpected pregnancy dramatically changed her plans and now her dreams feel beyond reach. The third friend has a special needs child and constantly wonders about her child’s future. As well as her own.
Like my friends, all of us face disappointments. Our lives look vastly different than we imagined they would. People dream of certain careers and accomplishments, but family issues or unexpected events make careers take a backseat. Young lovers believe they will have the perfect family, yet somehow their family doesn’t even resemble their vision.
So, what do we do? How do we get past this nagging feeling that there should be more to life? Or that perhaps we are being denied the life that we should have? The life that, if we were completely honest, we believe we deserve.
This counsel from John Piper has been immeasurably helpful to me: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”