The Lives I’m Not Living

Floating around the sphere of inspirational quotes (or something to that effect) is a line written by Jonathan Safran Foer in his novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. You’ve most likely heard it before or read it somewhere and seen a little emoji heart after it, or something similar to someone saying, “OMG this is so deep,” or “This is me.” I take issue with this quote. Allow me to paste it here:

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”

I used to agree with this line of prose. I used to identify with it because I was angry at the world, at my state, at my family, at my mother, at myself. I wanted to be out and living and breathing and feeling my bones stretch and absorb all these lives I knew I wasn’t living. Little known secret: I had an ambition just before I left for college (at 21) that I would go to Italy, fall in love with a married millionaire, dive into an illicit affair, become pregnant and distressed, and flee to England to live with my illegitimate child in as much anonymity as offered by today’s media-absorbed world. It’s not easy for me to type that. However, now I recognize something inside of myself that I lacked by truckloads. This something is only offered by one Person I’ve ever encountered in my entire life, and He has never let me slip from His grasp, now matter how angry I became with Him.

Jesus offered me an alternative to the anger and the despair and sorrow and anxiety and regret I could feel in my bones under the weight of every single life I found myself not living. Once I grasped onto what He was handing me, I found a transformation beginning within more than my heart–within my spirit and soul. I let go of every life I wasn’t living and held firmly onto the one that I was. I only have one life, and that life could be snuffed out at any moment. How dare I sit and stew and waste what’s been given to me, pondering and crying over what will NEVER HAPPEN.

I will never be a homeless person in Italy in desperate need of a millionaire’s love. Heck, I reckon I’ll never even meet a millionaire, let alone an Italian one whose child I would bear. I’ll never flee to England with a bastard son. I’ll never even avoid social media, especially not as an aspiring author.

But here’s what I know will happen. I’ll be loved by my mother and my family and my friends. I’ll graduate college next year with a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing. I’ll be rejected by people–not just romantically–and I’ll get over it and move on after a good rant, a cry, an indifferent shrug, and a smirk. I’ll use the Oxford comma religiously. I’ll love books and reading and writing, and I’ll continue to write. God will never leave me, and I’ll trust Him to stay.

I feel the tug of lives I’m not living, but not in my bones, and not despairing that I’m missing out. With each person I pass by on the street, and with each soul with whom I shake hands, and with each breath I share through every immortal on this planet, and with each moment of eye contact and awkward waving (yeah, I’m that gal), I encounter by arbitrary specificity a uniquely crafted vessel meant to be filled by love. My bones creak under the weight of these lives; I long to love every single person I meet, and I long for them to feel that in this world blighted by hatred and cold-hearted cynicism, by prejudice against one race–the human race–and favoritism toward those who don’t deserve it; in this world of darkness, I want to shine Light.

These souls’ burdens expand inside my marrow until I stagger–physically–and heave dry sobs wracked by trembling agony. I feel no anger that I’m not living a life not meant for me, but that I’m missing an opportunity to shed love and Light into the life of a soul who is angry, who is struggling, who is wishing that he or she was anywhere but Here. And while I may be rejected, I pray I never reject a soul in need of love. God forgive me if I have.

This new year offers us a moment in which we must decide–will we live the lives that will break our bones by implosion, the shattering monolith of lives not meant for us? Or will we take a stand and walk boldly the path placed before us, shedding love and Light and kindness on everyone with whom we come into contact?

Let me give you a chance to realize you have a better option. Whoever you are, whatever your case, live your life–be shattered for others–take firm and full hold of the one blip on history’s radar you’ve been given. And never, never, never stop loving. We’re all of us humans; God help us the day we decide that a difference makes someone else a different species altogether.

Jesus love you, dear hearts. And please, please know that so do I.


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