Do you ever wish you could rewind time? Unsay something; undo something? As the popular saying goes, it’s not so much the things I’ve done, but the things I haven’t done, that I regret.
Like most kids probably, when I turned 18, I was going to conquer the world.I got married, had a baby, and everyone said I couldn’t conquer the world now. I was going to prove them wrong.
But I woke up a couple years ago and realized I hadn’t proved anybody wrong. I had tried, but it seemed like every time I thought I was making the right decision, I was making the wrong one.
I got too tied up in a paycheck, and forgot about the journey. Forgot about the music and the fun. Forgot to do the things that make life worth living.
I had been able to make my own decisions for almost 9 years, and what did I have to show for it? Just stuff. A couple cars, some furniture, a good credit score. But who did I help? Where was my impact? Where was the music?
So, I decided to start making an impact. To make up for lost time. I would practice music again, volunteer at church and shelters, spend more time with friends and family. But as much as I tried, between work and other responsibilities, by the time I got a chance to do anything, I was too fatigued and in too much pain. Day in and day out, I went to work, came home, and went to bed.
When I quit my job, I had every intention of changing my path. I would play music again, volunteer for things I could do, make a difference.
But recently I realized, I wasn’t really doing any of that.
I wasn’t playing the keyboard, because I was too afraid of getting off the couch. Really. I was afraid that if I got off the couch, the pain would start. Music is my passion, but I was letting the fear of pain make me too apathetic to go after it.
My church has always needed help in the childcare department. I didn’t want to help, because I was afraid of pain. Afraid of committing and then being in pain getting ready early in the morning, and being in pain doing activities with the kids. Afraid I’d get put in the nursery, or with toddlers that I would have to carry and chase. Afraid it would end up like work, where I would have to be calling in all the time. I didn’t do much of anything because of the pain. No, it was sillier than that. I didn’t do anything because of the fear of pain.
I wasn’t really helping anyone or doing anything because I was afraid of the pain that it might cause. I was letting apathy get the best of me. What kind of a life is that?
I started to get angry. Angry that I was just sitting around all the time so I wouldn’t be in pain. Angry that I was letting fear keep me on the couch. The thing is, that’s a ridiculous plan, because I was in pain anyway.
So why shouldn’t I walk across the room and sit in the chair in front of the keyboard? Maybe it’ll hurt more. Well, it probably won’t. And then at least I’ll be doing something. And if it does, chances are it will be short lived. And then at least I’ll have done something.
And then I had this epiphany about helping out at church: I could ask to only be scheduled with school-aged children, so I wouldn’t have to carry or chase anyone. Sitting in my wheelchair talking to kids and teaching them would not be any different physically than sitting in my wheelchair listening to a sermon. And I could ask to only be scheduled at second service, so I wouldn’t have to be up and around too early. Wow. I’m a genius.
So, I’ve been playing music and teaching kids at church, and life has been a lot less boring.
In my efforts to reach out and live life, something really cool happened this weekend.
A few months ago, my brother-in-law, Ian, was diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, it’s the same form of cancer that my uncle has. On Thursday, we stopped at their house to drop off a couple things, and we noticed they really needed yard work done. I felt kind of bad for not thinking about it before. Of course they need yard work done! He’s going through chemo, and my sister has a job and a 10 month old baby to take care of!
Right that minute I texted one of my community group leaders from church. She got a hold of the rest of my small group, and the next day we were all at my sister’s with shovels, rakes and gardening gloves. I was touched that they were willing to take a Friday night and spend hours doing yard work to help my family. As far as I was concerned, I figured I’d be spending the evening sitting on my sister’s couch while they did all the work. But when we got there, I decided to grab a shovel and see how far I got.
I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to help, and even make a dent in the work. And instead of hurting, it actually felt good to use those muscles I forgot I had. Eventually my back gave in, and I had to stop. I was fully expecting to be in a lot of pain the next day, but I wasn’t. In fact, I woke up with less pain than I have in a long time. Good Karma? Or maybe there’s something to using those muscles…
I’m so glad I decided to put the apathy away. To take the risk of being in a little more pain once in a while in order to live life; to make a difference. I can’t wait for the next opportunity.
Update: Playing my keyboard has been great. The chair we had used to hurt my back after a few minutes. By chance, we got another chair at a yard sale (the one we had had wheels; bad for a walking baby), and that chair doesn’t hurt my back. So I can play until the kids wake up without having any pain.
Childcare is going well. Usually I have someone in there to help me help the kids with their crafts. It’s a little difficult when I don’t, getting around to all the kids to help them. But there was only one day that I really had a hard time and ended up in extra pain. The rest have gone well.
My community group was able to pull all the weeds and scattered saplings out of my sister’s front yard. We will be back on Friday to do the back yard. We learned that they do have a sprinkler system installed, so they’ll be able to water it easily. Also, one of the guys in my community group works for a landscaping company. He was able to get a great deal on setting grass seed for her yard in the fall, and a year of lawn care, where all she would have to do is mow, and set it up so that there is no cost to my sister. Now that’s what church, and family, should be like.
Live with purpose.