September 10, 2013

How do you change without change?

As a kid, I never moved. My mom had moved a lot so when she got married it was a big goal to buy a house and stay in it forever. And so far they've been in the same house for almost 39 years!

I have a little bit of a gypsy spirit, however, and always wished we could move. But I figure that is mostly because I had the privilege of having a stable home that I could always be sure would be there. That security helped me feel more safe with exploring. Plus, I'm just an exploring type of person! (My mom can give many details of this in me from the earliest times of my life.)

When Jim and I got married, it was really cool getting to be in our own apartment. After three years we wanted something different, and moved. That began a series of many moves all over. The biggest move, to Colorado, was partly inspired by a sense of stagnation and fear of never getting to try new things and be different people. I know part of me hoped that by changing location I could change the things I didn't like about my life, myself, my marriage, etc. In some ways I suppose it worked. Being in a new city without the ease of family to fall back on and familiar places does make life different. Plus we lived in a very different type of climate/environment. There was no way to mistake Colorado Springs for Illinois! All you had to do was look up at the mountains.

But, there was still a degree of unhappiness there. I realize now that it was mostly due to the fact that I was pregnant, had a baby and a young, difficult child and therefore life would have been hard no matter where I was! At the time I assumed that moving closer to family would fix a lot of the challenges because I would have help in a way that I didn't with my friends in Colorado.

So, we left. Some issues had been resolved while we were there, we grew up a lot, we made some smarter choices with our money and lifestyle, we got closer as a couple. But, we weren't ready to come back to Chicago. In part because we feared we weren't yet past the things that had been tripping us up the last time we lived there: driving too much, spending too much, not having enough close friendships, schedules being overly devoted/hijacked by jobs and family.

In Ohio, I learned what it means to not have much of anything you want. The country life was NOT for me. It was boring and devoid of culture. I liked our duplex apartment and when we moved into our own place in town it was better than being in an old, overly full farmhouse when we lived with my in-laws. But it was practically impossible to make friends (the country is quite the insider's club a lot of the time). We couldn't find a church where we felt really at home. Jim's job was awful and soul-sucking. I was still alone with a toddler most of the time. We made some very hard choices in order to save money and live on Jim's mediocre salary. So, we had no internet, no TV, and spotty radio and phone reception. We didn't go many places because there was both no place to go and no money to go anywhere. Again, we learned a lot about living, sacrificing and focusing on what we wanted in life. As well as accepting a life that literally had so little of what we wanted for our family.

When we came back to Illinois, we lived with my parents to save money and get in better shape before trying to find our own place in the more expensive housing market out here. We had to adjust to two (then later three) different family units living in one home. We had to ignore nagging feelings of failure and perceptions of I don't even know what when a married couple in their 30's with kids live with their parents.

Now we've been in our own apartment for over three years. All we've learned from our moves and growing pains has been wonderful and helpful.  But there are still so many changes we'd like to see in our lives and our family. We found that a lot of the problems we had before we left are still here, and causing the same troubles as the first time around. (Which is super depressing because we really hoped to be at least a little older and wiser by now!) Add in the desire to be more environmentally friendly, socially conscious,  healthy, budget conscious, and less materialistic and it's enough to have my head spinning. It's so hard not to feel like every decision I make could wreck my kids present and future. I'm working on letting go of the fears and accepting life as it comes. The worry about today and let tomorrow worry about itself plan. But, of course, that is really, really hard.

This apartment and these jobs are now officially the longest we've ever lived and worked in one place as a couple. We lived in our first apartment for three years, but neither of us has held the same job for longer than two years. So, we're fighting the desire for flight right now. We're working on stability and the maturity that comes from working through problems instead of leaving for something new, exciting and potentially better.

But we wonder how to make the big changes we want to make without a physical marker.

Recent sermons at our church have been helpful. We need to learn to empty our selves of self, be less inward focused in order to be more effective Christians, as well as spouses, parents, and workers. It's amazing how quickly personal desires can take over and overwhelm other aspects of life. How quickly we can feel trapped and uncared for or unfulfilled when we start giving too much thought to our own comfort.

We want to have dreams and then strive for those dreams. We want to be people who care for others and for the Kingdom of God. We don't want to build up our own, safe little life and/or try to live out anyone else's idea of what is best.

So, we are trying to listen more. To be more open to change (especially internal/behavior change), and open to what others may need (whether inside our family or not). We want to live the life we have now and not keep wondering or worrying about what should or could be. Life feels like it is moving faster now that we have kids. As we age, we see more and more what everyone has always said about making the most of the now because it does move fast. We'll have a kid going to college in about 11 years!!!!

I still have very little of any practical sense of what to DO. But I'm trying none the less to be more and do more. And I'll keep praying for guidance.

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