I could tell he was thinking. Under the dim glow of our living room light, my husband’s face was consumed in a daze. And I waited. Patiently, I waited. Then I saw the thoughts begin to formulate into words, and I hunched forward to listen in eager restraint. “I’m sorry I can’t afford to give you a house,” he said with concern emanating from his heart. And I paused in anticipation for some sort of profound wisdom to flood from my soul — some quote from a saint or book that I had read. But nothing came. Nothing except, “there are many rich people who are not rich in love.” How’s that for a heartfelt cliché response? Good one, Brit.
And the truth is that our lives have turned out a bit unexpectedly. There is no plot of land in which our names are attached, and our family tree has been stubbornly resisting growth for years. David and I, we are vagrants on this earth — harvesting beauty where it grows and trying to plant generosity toward others along the way. And, often times, it’s discouraging, this kind of life. Because while others are scrambling around in constant reach for something better, we are here — where we’ve always been. No house, no yard, no kids. Just… here.
But there is an intrinsic beauty that comes with living on the outskirts of that darn cookie-cutter we all so desperately try to cling to. Because the walls of that cookie-cutter are sharp. They slice into your pliable skin and mold you into hardened crust until you are imprisoned to that immovable shape. And it is in that shape that you exist — dreadfully aware of the confines that surround you and the expectations that oppress your gifted mind.
And, frankly, my husband’s words, so full of discouragement and palpable heartache, have got me thinking about life and of all of the ways we dilute it. I mean, it’s really quite preposterous the way we live, wouldn’t you say? We subconsciously exist shackled to the restraints of some predetermined expectation for our lives. And in our feeble attempts to live out that expectation, we build these forts for ourselves and fill them with all sorts of stuff — always reaching for new, and big, and better. And we silently tuck ourselves away behind this stuff while the world outside gently breathes with unparalleled beauty. And we have these dreams that tug at our hearts, but they go neglected because of some absurd fear that perpetually keeps us tethered to the confines of expectation. And so we silently sit stagnant with this aching awareness that we are made for more than who we’ve allowed ourselves to become. But the bills keep coming, and those expectations keep advancing, and we sit dormant within the comfort of that darn cookie-cutter while life outside passes by.
And, truthfully, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if we all tossed aside those expectations that torment our tired souls. To live on the threshold of our dreams instead of the threshold of despair. To wake up with passion instead of with dread. For me, I desire a simple life, one with a genuine thirst for the humble beauty found in each day — the sweet symphony of birds chirping at daybreak, or the rich scent of coffee brewing after a restful night’s sleep. I want to write, and serve, and dance, and travel, and pray. And I want to do it all with my husband by my side and a dog at our feet (and, yes, I’ll take about 4-5 kids to go along with that order). All material goods collected along the way will be counted as bonus, but never as the objective. Because the simplicity of life is quite astounding if you let it be. And this, to me, is plenty.
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
– St. John XXIII