My therapist recently told me one of my gifts is always knowing what I want next in life and being unrelenting until I get it. She meant it as a compliment, but, it wasn’t hard to see the darker side of this quality: it’s hard for me to rest when I desire something in the future. This can lead to unnecessary discontentment. It leads to an inability to sink into the present. Sure, it makes me great at executing a checklist. But sometimes we’re meant to be still - not moving forward. Some seasons can’t be rushed through with a goal and a plan. They need to be indulged. We need to be still. To wait.
Waiting is, maybe, one of my least favorite activities. I can’t begin to count the number of times my dad said, “Whitney, patience is a virtue,” growing up. God, I don’t think you got it wrong, but can I choose kindness and diligence as my virtues instead?
A friend of mine recently told me her baby’s newborn days don’t look how she expected them to. They’ve had to move and she’s lonely and, honestly, things just haven’t been as blissful as she anticipated. Her words hit home for me.
Sometimes, I wait so long to reach a season and then, when I get there, it doesn’t meet my expectations. Not because anything is wrong with it, but because I’ve yearned for it so deeply that it would be impossible for it to live up to my ideals.
The first time this happened to me was when I graduated college. By the end of my senior year, I was ready to move to adulthood. I dreamed of working, getting married, buying a house and starting a family. I wanted to mow the lawn and garden and grow a home full of babies of love. Six years after graduation, when I was single, unsure of what I wanted to do with my career and living in a rental, I felt so disappointed: this is not what I thought my life would look like.
It can happen during any season and catches you off guard: when college isn’t as fun as you expected. When being a newlywed feels lonelier than you anticipated. When being a new mom doesn’t feel as blissful as you thought it would.
This winter, Chris was traveling every week. We live near my family, but it’s a 25-minute drive. With a new baby and a traveling husband, the distance felt longer than I ever thought it could. I remember crying one night as I fed McCoy at bedtime, thinking, I just never expected to feel this lonely with so many people I love nearby. I never thought I’d feel this way with the sweetest baby in the world in my arms. This just isn’t what I expected.
And then, I felt ashamed. I used to live eight hours from my family! This distance is nothing. What is wrong with me? But, as my sister Ashley reminded me:
shaming ourselves for our feelings doesn’t make them go away, it just makes us feel worse.
It’s OK to admit a season of life isn’t what you expected. It’s OK to need time to process it.
But then, we have to keep going. We can’t sit in the discontentment or constantly rush through to the next season. Contentment must be found within. The joy is found in practicing gratitude each day. In noticing the little blessings along the way. When I felt sad this winter, I started to speak my daily joys: I love the morning routine McCoy and I have. I love taking him on walks. I love going to the library with him. I love how excited he is when Chris gets home. I love the way he laughs and smiles when I come into his room each morning.
With every day, I tried to sink into the present more and more. Before I knew it, I hadn’t thought about my frustrations in weeks. Not because they were no longer there, but because I trained my brain to see the good more than the bad. It sounds a little Polly Anna, but, the truth is, it’s a discipline I needed to relearn. It’s probably one I will continue to learn every year, too.