Do I really have to? A lesson on sacrifice, resentment, and choices

Call it a midlife crisis. Call it post-divorce stress or even PMS. Call it what you will, but I’ve had it with living a life framed by what I “have to” do and what I either can’t afford to do or don’t have time to do.

deck repairI am in the middle of quite a run of overdue home repairs, replacements, and maintenance. I like home improvements, trust me. I just don’t like to be forced into them.

Building wealth has never been a priority of mine. Give me a person with lots of heart and talent any day over somebody who merely makes a ton of money. Money, however, is a huge factor in my current frustration. Back when I was a sales director, I remember using a line about money that went something like this: “You don’t have to love money. But, it’s kind of like oxygen – you need to have some in order to live.” Being a homeowner makes that sentiment even easier to believe. Since I work more jobs than a sane person should, my solution is to enter home improvement sweepstakes. Hey. Don’t judge.

Actually, what is most likely happening in this momentary frustration is that I’m feeling the effects of some pretty significant and intentional sacrifices I’ve made in my life. Some people find it easier than others to delay gratification. Still fewer tend to make sacrifice a way of life rather than a temporary commitment for a greater purpose. I’m pretty sure I fall into the latter group. I sometimes have to have long conversations with myself about my purposes in giving things up to ensure that my commitment hasn’t outlived its purpose.

As a single parent, saving money and spending time on projects for home improvement have been sacrificed for childcare costs and graduate school. Steaks, chicken with its amazing array of cooking methods, bacon, ham or turkey sandwiches, and dairy-based milk and ice cream have all been set aside to improve my health and my odds of beating heart disease and cancer risks. (Explore a pescatarian diet here.) diet

Seeking the companionship of a man has been set aside until I feel ready to swim in that sometimes wild, sometimes wonderful ocean again.

All of these things added together can make me grumpy. Grumpier than I like to admit and grumpier than I would like to remain. Sometimes, long-term sacrifice can breed resentment.

As I talk myself through it, I see more clearly that my frustrations are not only temporary, but that I can make new choices to change my circumstances, just like I made choices that led me here. Having choices and knowing what they are is empowering. Choices increase hope and excitement and can reduce feelings of resentment.

Perhaps, choices are the biggest luxuries any of us have — rich or poor or somewhere in-between. I thank God for choices, demonstrated lovingly in the free will He gave to all humans. I thank God also for Wisdom that shows us our perceived walls and limitations and makes us see our choices more and more clearly.

Finding my feet

I may have put too much pressure on myself to break loose and have fun now that my next-to-last school semester is finished.

Rather than being pumped full of motivated energy and chomping at the bit to go out and discover new people and things, I’ve found myself itching to get home at the end of my workday and going to bed early, or at least on time.

Online retail therapy deserves an honorable mention in my current pattern of life. What can I say? I enjoy receiving packages of pretty things … that I can wear.

Part of me is still putting pieces together from things I’ve lost over the past year. I miss my little dog, Stuey, sometimes, especially when I see his picture on my screen saver. I don’t see my adult children as much since they both have grownup jobs now, along with grownup relationships and responsibilities. A lot of my friends are on a trip to Israel this week – a trip I planned to take, but decided against back in the Fall. I don’t regret the decision, but I still wish I could have been there.

I miss being married and having another adult personality around, too. (Especially my ex-husband’s exuberant personality.) That sense of missing out permeates all of my other senses. Frankly, I feel kind of lost without having an insane amount of work and all of my family to focus on in this season. But, I need to take an opportunity to deal with facts and feelings. A lot of my life was pruned away. I remind myself, and others in a similar circumstance, that pruning is just a way to prepare for the season of growth that is coming.

So, I’m feeling a bit less full-grown than I did before. I may look a little bare, or less green. But, I still feel richly blessed in the middle of all of my awkward or self-conscious days. I wonder about what might be around the corner for me and my little guy and pray for wisdom and clarity – for beauty, as we wait for all of our new growth to sprout and bloom.

findingfeetI’m finding my feet. And I’m buying new shoes in the meantime.