When I was young, I thought about being older all the time. I remember wanting to be a babysitter. Not, because I wanted to, say, take care of children, but because a babysitter, in my mind, had a car, a boyfriend, and great fashion sense. By 16, I thought, I would be there.
I was babysitting at 16, and I found, to my surprise, that I did not have a car, or a boyfriend, or cool clothes. I was not where I thought I would be.
I haven't always liked revisiting the past. There are things there that I'd like to forget. But sometimes I'll go back for a while to a concert, a good meal, an evening filled with laughter, a warm hug. I can't get those moments back, and I can't recreate them, even if I call up the same people, head to the same restaurant, or see the same band in concert. The past is known, but it is inaccessible. If I count on it for happiness, I'll always be empty.
But then there is the moment.
It's hard to put my finger on it. As soon as I get used to it, it changes. Over the last several days, I have experienced extreme exhaustion, deep peace, intense emotional pain, vibrant thankfulness, hopeful curiosity, and heady anger. Let's be honest, this isn't even the tip of the iceberg.
I was walking across the street in whipping cold wind in a city I don't know, last night, when it hit me: living in the moment means that where I live is constantly changing. I could have laughed aloud. I could not have stopped smiling if I tried.
Maybe my reaction is odd. I certainly wouldn't have predicted it. I've spent a huge portion of my life planning things that haven't happened, trying to control things that were happening, and creatively explaining things that did happen.
In short, I have spent my life avoiding it.
I'm not sure what I thought would happen if I fully engaged with where I was. Maybe my heart would break (that seemed to happen anyway). Maybe, oh my goodness, maybe I would enjoy it.
I've been practicing living in the moment lately, shunning the distractions that cling to me so tightly. I've been paying attention to the gentle finger of Jesus under my chin: "Look at this," He says to me. "Look at what I've put in front of you. Won't you see it?"
I've been going to bed at night without analyzing the conversations I've had throughout the day, wondering how I sounded, wondering what I should regret. Instead of living in the past, disappointed in my words and actions, or the lack of them, I've been reaching out and asking for grace, doing my best to set things right, even though the cracks are still there.
When I'm sad, I'm sad. I let the feelings wash over me and the tears cleanse me. When it's over, I let it go.
When joy wraps strong arms around my shoulders, I lean back, let my heart beat faster, and squeeze hands as we part.
For years, I've been talking about rejoicing with those who rejoice and grieving with those who grieve. I just didn't realize that I wasn't willing to do those things with myself.
When I've talked about wanting to be married, the great majority of people will suggest that I should enjoy my singleness while it lasts. In the past, I've thought extensively about how to do this. I have prayed about it, crowd-sourced perspectives and bought the shoes because life is short.
But I've never considered living in the moment.
It's not that I always enjoy the moment. Sometimes the moment makes me want to scream. But it changes. It might be subtle, it still might be hard, but it is not the same.
I thought I'd be married by now. Little me dreamed up a picture of what a 16-year-old babysitter would be just as she contemplated where I'd be now. She was mistaken. Again.
I'm so glad.
I couldn't have imagined some of the hard things in my life, but I couldn't have dreamed up the wonderful things, either. I wouldn't have even known where to start.
Living this way will involve moments of deep longing, coming like a cold finger on the back of my neck. I will shiver. The moment will pass.
I don't want to enjoy being single because I'll be married someday. There are still no guarantees about the moments I have in front of me. I want to engage with my singleness, whether that feels lovely, or gritty, because I'm single in this moment, and this moment is where I live.