December, the last month of the year. So much has happened this year. Our second child was born, a sweet baby girl. She has thrown us into a whirlwind that we weren’t prepared for. I mean we were as prepared as we could’ve been. But you’re never really prepared. Fern Lucy is her name, her eyes sparkle and she laughed for first time tonight. I don’t know if it’s the circumstances in life or if it’s the fact that I have a baby girl now, but I’ve become increasingly emotional. I never was emotional like this before- sure I had my emo stage in high school but this is different, this is real. We went to a Christmas parade today, I really wanted to take my son- he’s three now, how crazy is that? During the parade a little girl singled forest out and gave him a stuffed animal, a little beanie baby, it’s a red bird. I was caught off guard and tears started forming. I had to play it off and start laughing because I felt so embarrassed, hoping no one would notice as I took my glasses off and wiped my eyes. We weren’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared. I’ve been caught off my guard frequently these past couple months.
Everyone says it’s like a roller coaster, filled with untimely lows, the slow ones that you feel coming and you don’t know when it will stop, then immediately out of no where- back up again. Joy and sorrow walk hand in hand.
Medical bills pile up and we spent our hard earned Christmas savings to pay for these unaccounted for expenses. I quit my job at the church to focus on my family- they really are your first ministry. And I get the temptation to and reasoning behind putting your “Ministry” above your immediate family. The word hustle has crept into our churches and become such a critical spoke of our ethos. But hustling, where does it come from? As a previous subscriber to the hustle mentality, I’m often torn between living in the moment, being patient and persistent while setting aside time for sabbath rest and staying up late- working on the next project. I feel stuck often. I feel guilty for sitting still. Well, as the medical bills pile up and our expenses remain the same, I become restless. It’s not just financial restlessness, I feel like I lack purpose.
I know, I know- a husband and a father, a brother, son and friend. I have a purpose. But even though I rarely saw the fruit of the work at the church, I had a way to measure, even it wasn’t the most accurate. That’s what you’re supposed to do, so there was a stoic comfort in the work I did. But now that I am no longer there, I can’t find that peace of mind.
Yes, 2017 has been a year, now I’m working in a new position in a new office all by myself, building a website and studying marketing. Search engine optimization, positioning in the marketplace, AdWords, maintaining an empathetic posture etc. My eyes gloss over, the computer screen doesn’t show any signs of understanding, it doesn’t nod in agreement or comprehension. It’s not a human, and to be honest, I don’t feel like much of a human. I think we have a lot in common, we’re powered on in the morning, tethered, plugged in, connected but not physically, our conversations floating through the clouds inaudibly.
It’s not just work or finances, it’s not running on limited on limited sleep, it’s not our marriage, a lack of perceived purpose, it’s a combination of those things multiplied by an unknown factor.
In the beginning of the year I set goals, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant (my goals not someone else’s) and time bound. I had reminders on my phone, Hanna and I talked about them regularly. Here I am at the end of the year, all my goals met except one (I was planning on recording an album, which I technically did, I wrote 12 songs and went to a studio, I recorded them. So I guess I really did meet all my goals) but it just wasn’t enough. I don’t know what sort of satisfaction I was looking for when I made those goals. They were just things I want to do. Things I thought were important. But time will always shine a light on what you really believe is important. I set physical, mental, relational, social, intellectual, emotional, environmental, and last but definitely not least- spiritual goals.
(one quick thing about environmental goals. When I talk about environment I am speaking about the environment that I live in- how people, things, surroundings, philosophy’s affect me. Living with another family, their toddler, and two kids of our own, our environment can get crazy real fast. So we have to change our environment or get out of it. I’m not really one to settle.)
Well, with all these goals set and met, there are unexpected turns in life. Unpredictable emotions, thoughts. Uncertain futures. There are things that are outside your control. I think the reason I hustled so much (working 70-80hrs/wk for the last 3 years) was because I like to be in control. I crave productivity. And I think it burned me out, now I’m recovering from it. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and often I revert back to my old ways, not 100% certain that I was wrong, or that I am right. I guess direction is lacking. It’s foggy, and I’m waiting for it to clear, but I’m not patient. I want to keep driving through the fog, staining my eyes, moving slow. At least I am moving. I don’t want to crash, but I don’t want to pull over and wait either. I just don’t know when it’s going to clear, and that kills me. If I knew it would be this way for a year, I believe I am persistent enough to hunker down and wait it out.
But what if, what if.
See, I’m playing the long game. I know I’m not patient but I do value structure and organization. Granted, I’m not the wild free spirit I used to be, but I still hate monotony. Im somewhere in the middle. I guess I’ve always been an outlier, on the fringe. I’m fine with not fitting in, I know I’m different and I don’t really expect people to understand. But sometimes it kills me that people don’t understand. Ha, maybe I am getting back to emo high school Zach.
I want variety, and structure. I want purpose, but not someone else's. I hold fast to conservative principles, but I’m a hippy at heart. I love classic country and metal. I want to be healthy and eat ice cream. I want job security, but I also don’t want to be tied down. I value spontaneity, but wear the same thing every day. I’m a minimalist who is always “window” shopping online, reading reviews. I’m a deep thinker, and pretty stoic, but I laugh at my own dad jokes in my head for over 30minutes. These are silly examples, but I am torn.
My highest value is family, and I feel guilty for wanting something more than being “just a husband or father”. Maybe this is how parenting is, it’s ministry that's long and drawn out. How much fruit am I really expecting to see from my three year old? How do you measure your impact on your wife?
Give me something I can check off, list it off for me so I can analyze my progress quarterly.
I wish life worked like goals, and when you checked off the boxes the satisfaction stuck, permanently.
But life isn’t like that, maybe that's why people make goals annually. And maybe that’s why I get so excited to write out my goals and dream and plan. That way I know where I am going, how to get there, and my current ETA.
Goals aren’t bad, but goals aren’t the end-all-be-all. They won’t give you lasting purpose. If you find your identity in them, your identity will be weak, frail, and dry, like too little butter scraped over too much bread.
Our purpose and identity have to be found in something bigger than ourselves. Something unshakable, immovable, infinite, and powerful. I know I’ve found that. It’s by grace alone, no amount of hustle is going to work. Already, but not yet. I’m at peace in the future, long term optimistic. But it’s the day to day- in the fog, uncertainty that makes me restless.