Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

When We Can’t Have It All

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When I was 14, my family moved to Bremo – a place that has – to this day – a funeral home and a small post office as its only businesses.  We lived 2.5 miles from a public road, and even when we reached that road, it was another 15 miles or so to the high school.

Meander, posing with nail gun.

Meander, helping us build our new workshop on the farm.

The county only got a stoplight a few years ago.

As we drove toward what I hoped would not be our new home, I took a sliver of joy in seeing the lights of the high school stadium – “a sign of civilization” I said to Mom.  She pointed out that we were still 15 miles from our house.

I did not like that my parents chose to move us there, to take me away from the school where I had finally begun to fit in, to finally find my place in the artsy, edgy crowd of skaters and actors.  I hated that move.

At 14, the world revolved around me, so then I couldn’t see what my parents were giving up in order to give us a better life – all their friends, a house they had worked hard to build and a landscape that was an oasis.  I couldn’t see that they were making this choice for all of us – so my father could get out of the bureaucracy of community college teaching, so my brother and I could attend better schools, so we could all have the peace of country life that each of us thrives in.

Now, I couldn’t be more grateful that they made those sacrifices in order to gain the things we most needed.

This morning, I spent some time moving money around, adjusting expenses, pondering what I could sell, so that P and I can continue to build this life here on the farm without me needing to return to work that blisters my spirit.  We have chosen things that don’t make sense to many people – I left a full-time professorship; P drives 50 miles to and from work each day – in order to live this life – of farm animals and quiet space where everyone is welcome to get away.

Sometimes our choices are very hard – when the budget is so thin you can see through it, when we would love to get to the beach for a week this summer. But ultimately, I know we have chosen – as my parents did – to sacrifice the lesser things for the life that fills us up and gives us joy.

For me, that life is one that is slower, more word-filled, more unstructured. I get to write every day.  I get to sit and think while I color the new mandala coloring book that my friend Kathy gave me.  I get to walk out and play with the kittens in the workshop when the world is too much with me.

I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and I definitely wouldn’t trade it for money, even if sometimes I think I would.

Our culture has set us up to believe “we can have it all,” but my life experience says that’s a huge fat lie.  We can’t have it all – people die, we lose jobs, houses burn, work demands time away from family and family from work, we have to choose between medication and groceries.  So no, we don’t get everything we want in life.

But this I know to be true – we can choose the things that are of life – friends, faith, family. Quiet nights on the front porch swing.  The purr of a tiny kitten.  A play that makes our skin tingle.  We can choose to live toward the things that make us whole, and while we may have to sacrifice other things to get those big ones, that sacrifice will always, always be worth it.

Just like moving down that 2.5 mile long driveway gave me my life’s work. I’m so grateful.

What have you had to give up to get the best things, the things that give you life? 

 

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com Kelly Chripczuk

    We consistently give up busy-ness, it’s rare for us to have more than one night a week planned. This often means missing out on things and being lonely in some ways. But I find it very hard to be a nice person when I am busy, I tend to get angry, resentful and short-tempered with my kids when we are running from place to place and most of all, I need good daily doses of home. Giving up business gives us time as a family, the room to be bored and inspired by ideas that might not have surfaced if we were focused on the next thing, it allows me to say a measured ‘sure’ when someone suddenly needs a pulpit filled, and it gives us the freedom to make plans on the fly.
    Kelly Chripczuk recently posted…How it Has Always BeenMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Oh yes, Kelly, that spontaneity that quiet, simple lives allow is beautiful. I love it. Thanks for that reminder.

  • Melissa

    Wow! I love this post. Giving up things is difficult for me. I find myself wanting to experience it all. And where Robert Frost wrote about TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, I see way too many intriguing paths. But I also know that when we lived in the Rocky Mountains, I was driving on the ICY summit of a 12,000 foot pass, no guardrails, my palms sweating, taking my 12 year old daughter to camp in the mountains ~ after she had just finished a skiing trip with friends, over a weekend that was already way too scheduled ~ because I wanted her to be able to experience it ALL, it hit me. YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING! A message of faith? A defining moment? Yes to both. I had to tell her that trying to get over the pass in the ice and snow was not safe OR smart and turned around. Lesson learned, most of the time, and when I get too overloaded, I still feel my sweaty palms on the steering wheel of the car. In order for some ideas to bloom, others must be dropped. Thanks for this.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thank you for reading, Melissa. I used to do just what you describe – try to cram as much of life in as I could. But then, I realized that I was always thinking about the next thing. That didn’t feel good to my soul. Sometimes, we do indeed have to turn around.