Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Let’s agree, shall we, that my life is not better than yours?
Just because I am doing something unusual and writing about the best parts, doesn’t make it superior to the way you spend your days. Can we agree that all lives have hardship and joy?
I’m a writer, remember? So I pay attention to the words people use. Over and over, as we have spoken with others about our trip, one word comes up more than any others. “You’re an inspiration!” they say. Or, “I’m so inspired by your story.”
I don’t quite know what to do with that. It’s like getting called a hero for simply parenting my children. What else would I do? I’m trying to live my life on purpose, with attentiveness. The way that works out is like my wardrobe. It’s a mix of what I’ve been given and what I’ve chosen, but I layer it over a beating heart and yearning spirit, just like you.
Recently, I realized that the thing that annoys me the most about this statement is how it separates us.
It puts me on a false pedestal, sets me up as something unusual. Yes, our choice this year has been a bit unorthodox. But look beyond the details and you will find I’m not doing anything so different from many in my life who work to create beauty and to love well from the midst of their own unique mixture of talents, interests, and circumstances.
Sometimes being inspiring has a hint of fatalism, as if the speaker feels trapped in his or her life. I am not blind to the great privilege to choose this adventure. Until the day we sailed away from the dock, I wondered if something out of my control would happen to stop this long-awaited year. In other seasons, even in the midst of this one, I’ve had ruined dreams too, and fought against the frustration of unmet expectations on my way toward contentment.
Sometimes the statement hides darker hints of envy, romanticizing my days and overlooking the sacrifices we are making. Jealousy divides, sounds a battle cry I’m not willing to heed. I want to say, “Stop trying to live my life and get on with the work of yours!”
Today, I was reminded of the deeper root of inspiration.
To breathe in.
To give breath to.
Many times on this trip, the beauty took my breath away. A few times, the fear or sadness did the same. One day, it took conscious deep breathing, like the breath of hard labor, to stay open to the moment and not panic or shut down. Words from friends, hugs from my daughters, the boundless wonder of our world, the love of those who know me best—these inspire me. They give me strength to lean in on the hard days, breathing room to stop and worship.
So if, when you say “You’re an inspiration,” you mean that reading my words has helped you take a deep breath at times, helped you stop in awe and pay attention, I’m ok with that. And If you find my story breathing life into your own, buoying you up to live with more intention and gratefulness, I’ll gladly be your inspiration. So many of you are already mine.