I woke up at 5:30 this morning to catch an 8:10 flight to Dallas. I’m heading there for work, and I didn’t sleep all that well. It stormed through the night, and I kept waking up convinced my flight would be delayed causing a domino effect of missed events for the remainder of the day. And once it was time to actually get up, I stayed in bed for another 10 minutes debating whether or not I made the best decision by setting my alarm for 5:30—I’m convinced I could’ve gotten away with 5:50. Anyway, I got to the airport, and my flight was in fact delayed. Not because of the weather, but because the pilots were delayed from a previous flight. And since it was still early enough to have not gotten behind on work, I pulled out my book to read. I’m reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and it’s been one that I keep wishing I hadn’t started. Not because it’s a bad book, because it’s hitting too close to home. I’ve only just jumped on the Donald Miller bandwagon so I’m new to feeling like he’s reading my mind and knows things about me that he shouldn’t know. I’m new to feeling like he’s so honest that he makes it impossible for me to not take a sobering look in the mirror and have some honest moments of my own.
This particular book is about how Donald discovered that the story he was living was pretty boring and wanted to change that. And he’s candid in saying that’s probably true for most all of us—that we’ve been brainwashed to believe that we’re meant to achieve status quo and be excited and happy about it. And I tend to agree with him.
I know I’m living that way. I don’t think I have to be a world changer or everyone has to know my name to live a good story, but I do think it requires risks and dreams and failures and successes and love and loss and action. It requires a lot of action. It’s less about the talking of ideas and dreams and more about the doing the ideas and dreams. And that sounds exhausting and probably is. I wouldn’t know because I’m more of a talker of dreams and less of a doer of them. That’s not me being self-deprecating, just a realization from my reflection in the mirror. And here’s the kicker—I originally bought the book for my dad for Father’s Day two years ago. I wanted him to know his story wasn’t over even though Mom’s was. I actually think I wrote something like that in the card. And it’s taken me two years to even pick up the book myself...
Anyway, a couple of days ago I somehow decided it was time for me to give it a read. It’s odd that I’m not finished because the last (which was also the first) book of his that I read I finished in less than two days. But this one has been more painful because while I knew I had some improvements to make in the story-living department, I didn’t actually want to make them. These changes, at least for me. require me to confront some lies I’ve believed. The lies that let me live comfortably, but not excitingly. The lies that keep me from living a better story. And the whopper, mac-daddy of them all, is grief has stolen my ability to live because I've been wrapping grief around me like a blanket and letting it cocoon me into believing that my story is to survive instead of thrive. And I didn’t confront that lie until this morning when I was reading at the airport terminal and started crying.
I immediately put the book down because crying at the airport terminal tends to draw unwanted attention. And I didn’t feel like having everyone stare at me with their sleep-hungry eyes and wonder what’s got the girl in the navy sweater wailing before the sun’s had time to rise. Fortunately for me, these were more like tears in my eyes that made me blink rapidly to stop them from rolling down my cheeks, but I’m sure it was no secret to the people around me that they were close to falling.
I had just read the part in the book where Donald decided he was going to look for his dad, a dad he had never known, only to discover his dad had died five years ago twenty miles from where Donald grew up (I’m not giving away the story. You should still read the book). And I was overcome by the flood of “what could have been”, “what should have been”, and I thought about that for myself.
I thought about what could’ve and what should’ve been for me. And then I realized just how much I think about that on a daily basis. How much I don’t even give it a second thought when my mind daydreams about the future I could have and should have had, one that included my mom and Scott. And that’s when I let the grief whisper, “come cuddle inside the memories and the pain and forget about the fact that you still have life to live, that there's still an adventure left for you to discover”.
I was at dinner with my friend Kasey Saturday night, and we started talking about this idea I had to live in four cities in one year and whether or not I was serious about it. And my response, in a nutshell, was “I can’t. I’m grieving”. “I can’t. I need my family because I'm grieving”. “I can’t. I need my friends because I'm grieving”. “I can’t…”
So, she asked me about the grief. She asked me about grieving my mom and about grieving Scott. And I told her lots of stuff, but the one thing that made me think of our conversation while reading Donald Miller’s book was this: when we talked about Scott, I told her that I felt like I had lost “a life”. Not just Scott’s life, but the life I thought Scott and I were going to have together. Scott was my boyfriend for two years and got sick five months after we were dating. What originally should have been six months of our relationship ended up being a year and a half of treatment and surgeries. And a little over a year ago, his battle was over. He fought and was rewarded with a body that will never have to be sick again.
So, there’s a lot of “what could’ve been” in my life these days. And I choose to believe the "could've and should've been" is better than whatever my future actually holds, and I let it keep me from living a good story. I can be grateful to have had Scott for two years. He was one of the good guys. One of the ones you want to be able to say was yours and be known as his. And my mom was one of the most influential people in my life and will always be that way. Her death is the single most impactful event in my life because it has made me think about the way I live, the way I treat others. It’s made me want to share all of this for reasons I don’t really understand all of the time.
So all of the rambling leads to this—I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, but I’ve decided I don’t want to stand still. I don’t want to stop writing in the pages of my story. Moreover, I don’t want to author it at all. I know that to live a better story, The Author has already written a book full of pages that are going to grow me and stretch me and make me wonder and force me to trust and make for a great story. One that will read the way it’s supposed to be read—one that will tell the story of a person who lived with love and purpose. So, I’d encourage you to keep reading, and I’d encourage you to let the pages in your own book be filled with some beautiful words. Who knows what will be written.