It’s a catchy tune.
And to be honest, I’ve always been a bit jealous of just how much she gets done before 7:15.
7 AM, the usual morning lineup:
Start on the chores and sweep ’til the floor’s all clean,
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
And by then
It’s like 7:15.
Mandy Moore voices the young lady Rapunzel who sings this song when we first meet her in Disney’s 2010 movie Tangled. Through this song we are introduced to how Rapunzel spends her days and what is the deepest longing of her heart.
And so I’ll read a book or maybe two or three
I’ll add a few new paintings to my gallery
I’ll play guitar and knit, and cook and basically
Just wonder when will my life begin?
Then after lunch it’s puzzles and darts, and baking
Paper mache, a bit of ballet and chess
Pottery, ventriloquy, candle making
Then I’ll stretch, maybe sketch, take a climb, sew a dress!
And I’ll reread the books if I have time to spare
I’ll paint the walls some more, I’m sure there’s room somewhere.
And then I’ll brush and brush, and brush and brush my hair
Stuck in the same place I’ve always been.
And I’ll keep wonderin’ and wonderin’, and wonderin’, and wonderin’
When will my life begin?
The song came to mind yesterday as I was taking a brief get-up-out-of-this-chair-away-from-the-computer-screen-and-get-some-sun-and-fresh-air walk around the parking lot at work.
Because it came to mind that next year marks a decade since I graduated from seminary.
And I’m not where I thought I would be. I moved back home after graduation. At the time it seemed to make sense. When I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia after my freshman year of college, there was only “try and manage symptoms” and “do what you can while you can”… so I did. I got through college and headed to seminary to study theology and arts. And while there I found a new doctor with a protocol that was supposed to help me reverse (though not “cure”) symptoms so that my future could actually be better, healthier, more vibrant and active than my past. But I wasn’t progressing very quickly on the protocol. And while Southern California may have been a better location for doing the mime and arts theology that was my goal, I was floundering financially, having been unable to get a decent job my last year of seminary (after losing the one I had). My health was a major reason for this. So I thought it made sense to move back across the states and move in with my parents until I was able to get on my feet.
I mean, my small town here in south-central PA isn’t ideal for starting a mime team or making a living doing “creative arts consulting.” But I had some ministry contacts on the East Coast and figured that would give me a start and I could expand from there. And once I got on my feet (and/or got married), I’d probably move to some place more appropriate/central to what I was doing. This was supposed to be temporary.
But here I am.
Ten years later.
Now don’t get me wrong, the issue isn’t that I’m still living at home. (Although my tendency to care too much what others think makes me feel awkward about it at times… well, too often.) My parents and I have a great relationship. We operate as a family unit of three adults, loving and taking care of one another. The original plan was that I would get “room and board” in exchange for doing the meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. Which worked well for all of us. And that’s still basically how it is… except when my health gets in the way…
The issue is the dissonance between where I expected to be and where I am.
After ten years.
I’m still at home, still single, still only working part-time and still struggling with my health…
And though I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others, the contrast is sometimes so stark that it is hard to ignore and thoughts come unbidden and unwelcome.
Watching others live “real” life. Folks who are my age (and sometimes the “kids” I worked with in youth groups and ministries) are celebrating a decade’s worth (or more) of anniversaries, have children who are teenagers, own homes, have proper full-time jobs or run their own businesses, are involved in their communities, churches and more. Things we associate with real life.
Even more, I see friends and acquaintances who are “living their dreams” – dreams which were the same or similar to mine. They are doing mime and drama and arts… they are reaching and encouraging others through ministries… they are teaching… they are doing tea events… they are writing and publishing books… In short, they are blooming.
And I don’t begrudge them this. I am happy to see them getting to do these things. It makes my heart happy when such dreams work out for them.
And yet there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever get the same.
When will my life begin?
Because from my viewpoint, my life is shrinking, not expanding. My dreams are dying, not being fulfilled.
True, there has been a series of shifts in my dreams and at the time of each shift (and even now for the most part) I see those as being God-directed. From performing mime to teaching mime and arts theology to teaching the Bible and arts (and less mime) to the tea room dream… and all along this story that pursues me that I’d like to finish and publish as a book…
But I couldn’t tell you the last time I performed or taught or even practiced mime. Or taught arts theology…
And though for a time I deliberately stopped saying ‘yes’ to new involvements at church, I then slowly backed out of other commitments at church except for teaching for one class once a month… but even then I found that my unpredictable health kept causing me to have to find last-minute replacements and so I’ve turned even that small task over…
I haven’t hosted or planned a tea party in ages, I go to few teas now and I’m drinking tea even less because of its effect on my medication (not to mention the effects of the carb-heavy “tea foods” on my blood-sugar and health)…
And though I had a decent streak for a few weeks, most days my allotted “writing time” is spent in bed or struggling through symptoms rather than working on my book…
One by one these things are fading.
As for social life and relationships, I’m really only in regular contact with my parents, my co-workers (3 of them) and the folks at church -when I’m able to make it there. And whatever relationship I can manage with other friends on social media…
So despite the fact that my eyes sting a bit with salty wet tears as I write all this out, I’m not saying it in order to throw a pity party for myself and invite readers along for the misery.
I’m saying it because yesterday when Mandy-Moore-as-Rapunzel’s voice went through my head, I had a thought.
When will my life begin?
Who says it hasn’t?
Why must life always be something more?
“Real life” doesn’t start with a full-time job. Or marriage. Or having children. Or owning a home. Or being healthy. Or attaining titles or being published or getting promoted… or having dreams fulfilled.
Ideal life, maybe, but not real life.
Real life is simply living, breathing and walking day to day in the reality in which you find yourself.
The thought that struck me as I walked yesterday was simply that my life is now.
I am alive.
The circumstances of my life may not be what I was expecting. Or what I wanted. Or what my culture promotes as normal, accepted or celebrated.
But my life is now.
This is real life.
And that is not a battle cry to “seize the day” or “follow my heart” or “chase my dreams”…
It is simply a call to realign my perspective.
(And maybe another day I’ll get around to processing through my struggles on how our culture defines “full life” and what Jesus meant when he said that he came to give “life, and have it abundantly.)