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.