Voltaire wrote, “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” That about sums it up for me right now and I’m sure many of you too. My life, or more accurately the many facets of it, seems to be in a constant state of turmoil. A sometimes black abyss that threatens to wear me down, weaken my defenses and swallow me whole… but in the dark and stormy waters there are lifeboats, for which I am forever grateful. It is these life boats that will carry me through, keep me grounded and not allow me to let my tortured present get the best of my bright and sunny future. Everyone has their struggles. 99.9% percent of us are shouldering some burden, pain or struggle. The other 0.01% is lying…not only to others, but to themselves. Life is not perfect, although admittedly there are varying degrees of imperfection. We are bombarded on social media with how rosy and sweet life is for those around us…but these snapshots are not a true depiction of what is really going on in our lives. Few share the struggles. Those digital happy shiny faces and those we keep burned in our own minds…are evidence of our lifeboats. They are the memories we cling to in our hearts to remind us that the struggles are, in whole or in part, worth the pain and sorrow and that the good outweighs the bad. They are the people who remind us of who we once were and the people who motivate us to continue on the journey. They are reminders of the hopes and dreams that live in our souls and shine through our eyes. They are our band of merry men and women singing a catchy uplifting sea shanty aboard a lifeboat. Behind them, in the blurred distance, is a sinking ship and in front of them, on the other side of the camera lens, exists a new horizon full of promise.
It is a rarity that I get to sit down like I am this morning, alone with a cup of coffee reflecting on where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to go. However when I did, I realized first that there is just way too much material for one blog post and second that my view of the world more broadly and my itty bitty piece of it, is nothing like how I imagined it would be – for better or for worse. This of course got me thinking of all the different lifeboats I’ve drifted on over the years and what lies on the horizon.
I was never much for keeping a journal as a young girl. That is not to say I didn’t write in them…I just didn’t keep them. I had many over the years. Somehow writing things down always gave me a clear perspective on a situation and helped me work through the typical problems of childhood, but I always feared, or more likely knew, that the security of that little tiny silver lock and thin metal key was not enough to keep my deepest thoughts secure from the outside world. I was notorious for ripping out large sections of journals to protect the pages from prying eyes either burning them in the fireplace or burying them deep in the kitchen trash. Forever protected. Forever preserved in my memory as I read the pages for the last time.
My first journal was a small pink one with purple pages that I got for my birthday around the age of 8 or so. It was on those purple pages lined in white with dark purple filigree on the outer corners, that I would write about life and the difficulties of navigating childhood in blue and purple ink. I would write about the other girls in school and how they made me feel. I wrote about the bully (Susan – who I forgive but don’t forget) and those that loved and accepted me for who I was like Michelle, Jen and Stacey. It was there in those pages that I first wrote, “stop the world, I want to get off” as though it was an amusement ride that made me nauseous. I wrote about my mom and dad – our adventures, our fights and the sacrifices they made for me and my brothers. Yes, from a young age I always recognized the sacrifices, even if I didn’t acknowledge them in the presence of my parents.
By my teen years I had a well established group of friends that, while not always perfect, will always hold a special place in my heart. As will my peer ministry group that helped me realize that my father was right (more than once) – people come in and out of your life for a reason, always leaving behind a lesson to be learned. It was with them, on that lifeboat, that I learned that sometimes faith is all you need – God will provide what will be, even if we don’t grasp that particular lesson until years later. During this period in my life, my journals chronicled the struggles of dating the wrong guy(s), falling in love and having my heart broken and picking up the pieces to continue the quest for Mr. Right far away from home. There among the pages of my teen journals, my future started to take shape… my hopes, my dreams, my fantasies. I wrote about the life I wanted… a high profile white collar criminal defense legal career, a social calendar full of dinner parties and outdoor adventures, my dream kitchen in a city flat with commercial ovens for baking the most amazing stress relieving sweets and a tall, dark, handsome man that possessed a love for me like that of Boggie and Bacall.
Through college and law school my journaling in a grey and green bound volume with my favorite flower on the front, would come and go…again with large chunks of pages finding their way to the fireplace as a way of cleansing the betrayal found therein… the long distance relationships, the one I was supposed to marry turned cheater who broke my heart again and again, the fiancé that put his career before his love for me, the start of social media i.e. AOL chat rooms and the man who pulled me aboard his lifeboat and polished my spirit and smile, despite my mother trying to kill him on a mountain biking trip. After realizing we were better off as friends, I swore off men for a while – deciding that Mr. Right didn’t exist and that I might as well focus on the other aspects of my life plan. I buckled down to focus on my law degree. In fact when I met my husband half way through law school while playing softball on a recreational league, I emphatically declared I was not looking for a serious relationship. I never wanted to get married. I was not having children. I did not want a picket fence. I will not drive a mini van. I advised him that he best just keep moving along if that was in his future, because I had tried the whole love and relationship thing and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I had bigger plans. That was 1997.
Fast forward nearly 20 years, a promising career, a marriage, two beautiful children, a house in the suburbs and a minivan parked in his garage. Life didn’t quite turn out as planned in the pages of my journals and while I am sure some would say it is perfect regardless, I have my own opinions that often change with the prevailing winds and the magnitude of the problems or issues starring me down. The seas are rough at times, some more stormy then others, but in the end there are lifeboats floating in the water. From my place, bobbing in the storm churned sea, I can hear the music and I can hear my friends and family singing a little more than slightly off key. I know that whatever comes, I will be alright as long as I embrace those moments in time just singing along as we venture toward the horizon and our next great adventure.
*Photo credit: Pinterest