Having Faith When You Get What You Don’t Want

The first time I talked to my husband I was at my parents’ house.

We hardly knew each other. We’d connected over Twitter and he’d commented on my blog a few times and we shared several mutual “friends” online but he also lived all the way across the country and I wasn’t even sure I knew his whole last name.

If you ask him, he’ll tell you he called me that day because he wanted to date me.

skype

If you ask me, I would say I had no interest in dating anyone, anywhere, let alone a strange guy I barely knew from the Internet.

I didn’t make a habit of talking to strange men on the Internet, but the reason I agreed to talk to him that day was because he found out I was trying to publish a book and told me he thought he could help me. And well, those were pretty much the magic words for me.

So we Skyped.

I sat at the island in my parents’ kitchen and told my mom, who was making dinner, I had to have a quick online business meeting. She agreed not to make too much noise.

So we talked for about ten minutes and exchanged stories and he told me how he thought he could help. We agreed to connect again later and I closed the lid to my laptop so I could go help my mom make dinner.

But before I could even get out a pot to begin boiling water, my mom said, “Hey, didn’t you say that was a business meeting?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Why?”

“It didn’t sound like a business meeting,” she said smiling.

Everything inside of me fought what I knew she was saying—that she had seen my interest perk up a little when I was on the phone with him. I don’t like him, I told myself. I don’t want to date him or anyone. I wasn’t ready. This wasn’t the time.

I even believed myself.

If you would have asked me that day, I would have told you I wasn’t interested in dating him and I never would be. In fact, in full-disclosure, at the time I would have told you I was in love with somebody else. But sometimes our hearts want things our heads don’t even know we want.

A little over a month after that conversation, I flew to Minneapolis to meet him.

Four months after that, we were married.

It wasn’t what I thought I wanted. It wasn’t what I would have told you I wanted. But at the same time, something deep inside of me—something I couldn’t quit put my finger on—wanted him, wanted to date him and be married to him, in a way my thoughts couldn’t say.

(Also, let’s be honest—he won me over. He’s pretty smooth like that).

I try to remember this part of my story every time something happens in my life that I don’t think I want. There have been a few things lately, a few instances where I think to myself, “this is now how I would have planned it! This is not what I wanted!”

But I try to remember that some of the best things that have ever happened to me would never have happened if I’d gotten exactly what I wanted at the time.

Sometimes we don’t know what we want.

Sometimes we want things we don’t realize we want.

Sometimes we avoid the things we really want because we’re not sure we’re strong enough to face them, or because we’re afraid of the work it takes to keep them, or because we don’t quite have the clarity to see who we are and where we’re headed just yet.

We’ll see, with time. We’ll get what we want.

What Happens When We Listen To Ourselves

One day recently I was really struggling to get words on paper.

This was not new. Some version of writers block has been plaguing me for weeks. But on this particular day my husband suggested I go for a walk and I took his suggestion. I hadn’t showered in a few days and I was starting to get to that dark place I go when I don’t shower.

I needed an excuse to get out of the house.

inner-voice

So I walked, and as I did I tried to listen to myself. This is something I’ve been practicing lately—being present with the sensations in my body and using them as a guide for what I was feeling, underneath the thoughts floating through my head. I walked and listened and prayed God would help me see through the cloudiness I’ve been feeling in this season. And within a mile or two of my walking, this phrase came to me, without thinking:

Take care of yourself first… others second.

At first, everything in me cringed at these words. Although they felt true in the deepest part of me, I immediately wanted to push them back down. Consider myself first and other second? Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

All the phrases of my upbringing fought with the phrase that had come to the surface in that moment. The last shall be first, my brain argued. Lose yourself to find yourself, my thoughts challenged. But no matter how hard my thoughts fought, I couldn’t ignore the intention that had risen up from a deepest part of me. I couldn’t explain it, but I also couldn’t ignore it.

So I walked home with something that resembled a thought but that also felt much deeper and more powerful than the “thoughts” I usually had.

Yourself first, others second.

It felt more like an intention, like a meditation, than a simple thought. I didn’t know what it meant or what I was supposed to do with it, but I just held onto it, trusting the rest would become clear over time.

Later that day, an idea came to me I wanted to get down on paper. Feeling an energy I hadn’t felt in weeks, if not months, I opened my computer and started typing. Before long, I got an email from a coaching client who had a question she needed me to answer. I got a text message from a friend who was wondering if I wanted to go for a walk. My husband was asking me what we were going to do for dinner. And yet, for some reason, this phrase kept rising to the surface of my heart: yourself first, others second.

I texted my friend and asked her if we could walk later that evening, or the next day. I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind picking up take-out for dinner. I assured him he would have my full attention in an hour or so. And I closed my email and resolved to respond the next day.

Miraculously, I was able to get a few thousand words down that day.

With the “myself first, others second” intention in place, I was able to clear the blockage and get moving again. It was almost like my body, my spirit, knew what I needed to do. It knew the solution to the problem even more than my mind did. But in order to get there, I had to get quiet and be able listen to myself.

What would happen if we listened to ourselves a little more often? What would happen if we stopped ignoring our instinct, our intuition, our fear and our pain? Maybe we would find relief from our worry, our anxiety. Maybe we would uncover happiness. Maybe we could give ourselves permission to stop caring so much about how many many people like us or hate us, or how viral a post we write.

Because with this in mind, we would have what we set our for all along—not fame or fortune or popularity, but a small and growing semblance of self.

The Little Things Make All The Difference

Sometimes the little things feel big while you’re living them.

Have you ever thought about that?

This thought was never more clear to me than it was on my run the other morning. There’s a trail in Nashville I love to hike. It’s about 4.5 miles and every time I’ve walked it, I’ve thought, “someday I’m going to try to run this trail.” And since I’ve been building up my mileage lately—not to mention my tolerance for the heat and humidity in Tennessee—I figured I’d give it a try.

run

So for the first time, I set out to run a trail that felt, for the most part, too big for me.

Here’s the thing: three years ago in October, I ran a full marathon and I used to run all the time when I lived in Portland. If you had asked me to run that same trail in Oregon three years ago, I would have conquered that trail like it was my job.

But running in Oregon is different than in Tennessee; and running on a trail is different than running on flat pavement; and when you don’t run much for three years, you lose the strength and endurance you once had.

So instead of conquering the trail, I floundered up it, flailing around like an idiot, huffing and puffing like someone was going to have to call an ambulance sometime soon.

So was running that trail this morning a big thing or a little thing?

I guess it depends on when you ask me. Today, it certainly felt big. And for today, I think it was big. Big for me, at least. I kept going—start to finish. I flailed around, but I made it. And next time, it will feel a little easier. And if I keep working to get stronger, maybe in a few months the trail will seem like a little thing again.

At the end of the trail, I met a group of runners my parents’ age

—and struck up a conversation with them.

I asked how long they had been running and what they did to stay hydrated in Tennessee. They made fun of me because I was from Oregon (“Oh, must be nice running in that weather!”) and then offered me watermelon they had cut up and were sharing from the back of their pickup truck.

They told me they run every Sunday morning and invited me to come with them next time.

And I know it’s just a little thing—it was just five minutes and watermelon and an invitation that’s probably extended to anyone who asks. It was just a quick laugh, a hello, a goodbye and few jokes about where I’m from. But it didn’t feel like a little thing to me.

In fact, it felt quite big. It made all the difference.

I’m more likely to try again—to feel like it’s okay to struggle, to flail a little, because I’m not alone and I’m going to be doing this for a long time and there will always (hopefully) be watermelon and laughing at the end of the line.

This just makes me think that it’s okay to feel affected by the little things—good or bad. Because sometimes little things are big things.

And hopefully even big things can become little things, with time.