June 2011


I was not an Anne of Green Gables girl.  I didn’t read the entire series of Little House on the Prairie. When I was given a Skipper doll I immediately cut her hair off to have a tomboy cut.  Or maybe it was my sister’s Skipper.  I did watch BBC’s “Pride & Prejudice” a few times in college, but that had less to do with the fancy outfits and more to do with good company and the opportunity to feel like a rebel as we indulged in a Mike’s Hard Lemonade while watching.  And the fact that I had an inkling that I, like Elizabeth Bennett, was one of the few with the stellar combination of wit and intrigue to one day win a worthy but seemingly unwinnable man like Mr. Darcy.  I was right, but that’s another story.  🙂

Somehow in spite of all this tomboy training, last weekend I was home, car-less,  with hot tea in hand and a severe thunderstorm outside when I happened on an episode of Downton Abbey, a BBC Masterpiece Classic I had not heard of before.  It would seem I’ve finally caught the bug for historical fiction in fancy dresses cause two days later I had watched all seven episodes.  The story begins with the introduction of the family of a British earl during the days of the waning power of royalty and aristocracy in England.  The earl has three daughters, none of whom can receive his inheritance, and is surprised by the news that his nephew, who was to come and care for the abbey and his family one day, has died in the sinking of the Titanic.

To the dismay of everyone involved, the earl must now pass on his great wealth and title to a third cousin, a middle-class lawyer.  The lawyer is a prideful man who smugly regards himself as “self-made” and snubs his nose at the frivolous lives led by his family and at their request that he now live as they do, with more servants than family members.  One evening at dinner he made it known that he had no wish to give up his vocation and would just find time to manage the affairs of the vast abbey on evenings and weekends.  At this, the earl’s mother, played by Maggie Smith, turned to him and said, “Hwhaattt…. is a wheek… eendt??”

Jaron and I, along with many others our age, are in ways trying to undo the dynamic that this lawyer’s generation began.  We are trying to carve out a life that is not about our employment.  For days and episodes after this scene, those words kept returning unbidden.  I’d get home from work and feel entitled to use the rest of my day for leisure, talking myself into ignoring chores or even productive hobbies because I had earned my free pass being on my feet all day at the store.  And there it would be… Maggie Smith’s voice again.  What is a weekend?

Work and responsibility, as Maggie’s character so perfectly pointed out, are utterly distinct from employment.  In a time when the five day-work week was just beginning to dominate, the upper and lower class still had no use for it.  A task was a task, regardless of the day of the week and their life and work were largely indistinguishable from each other.

A life’s work couldn’t very well be expected to fit into a specific schedule of employment.  It’s an important distinction for us, as people who wish to have a life’s work to show.  We live in a time when being an artist, writer, musician is not often a viable career choice.  We also live in a time when the culture tells us that the career is a means to fund the entertainment.  We “work” so we can “play”.  We must be diligent if we don’t want to get caught up in the confusion – if we want to be people who know the glory of working hard in every area of our lives and the peace of rest in each part of our lives, as well, rather than the exhaustion of mere employment and the numbness of being entertained.

So Jaron and I bought a house.  Again.  I know, we talked and talked about what a relief it was to no longer be home-owers, how much freedom we gained.  And it was true.  We came down to Nashville, put our heart and wallet into a record, each got a  job (Jaron’s, Katherine’s) that has been wonderful to us, and lived in a (mostly) care-free apartment.

So what could possess us to purchase another home?  To sink years of money and time into merely a place of residence?  We have no idea.

Actually, we have loved our decision so far.  We were able to find a smallish foreclosed home, absolutely within our budget, in a very quiet neighborhood, still close to the city and the community where we’ve fit so well here in East Nashville.  It even has a broad-leaf evergreen in the yard, which was on the wishlist.  Here are a few shots of what we’re dealing with.  There is quite a bit of work behind us, and much more ahead.  Just how we like it.  🙂

I’m turning 30 this year.  Technically I will turn 30 in December, but if I’m honest not a day has gone by in the last six months when I felt “29”.  No, this is not the year I am age 29; it’s the year I’m “turning 30”.

I didn’t anticipate the head trip that would come with this next decade.  I figured 40 is the one people freak out about.  But I live in a society where the young are glorified and the older are not.  The elderly in America aren’t even disrespected or mocked.  It’s worse than that, really.  They’re ignored.

The television shows I’ve watched in the last fifteen years image twenty-somethings for every stage of life, it seems.  From high school students through lawyers and doctors – young, smart, sexy is the rule.  The idea that life happens in your youth is pervasive, as is the inferred notion that life ceases when you are not young.  So I am here, approaching my fourth decade, fighting back the instinct to believe that the living opportunities in life are winding down, and that I have failed to experience them.

To be sure, there are perspectives that would say I’ve done a lot of living in my twenties.  They held two years of college, six years of marriage, more than seven changes of address.  If I were to google my name I’d find some things I’m quite proud of, and I live in Nashville, which would be a pleasant shock to my twenty year-old self.

But often times since moving here, even since the release of our album,  I find an unbidden Weepies song running up from the back of my head, “everything’s greener; you’re still hard to please.”

We have had unbelievable experiences in the last decade, begun incredible friendships, even bought a house that is perfectly situated for our situation.   And yet, I find myself driving on the 440, whining to God.  When I said we could cut our paychecks way down, I didn’t mean for this long.  How did I get to 30 years old without trying to have kids or a career?  When I was a kid I put a lot of hope in the idea that eventually I would be pretty – I’m still waiting…  What the heck am I doing over 500 miles from anyone in my family??  I think of the lives of specific friends from college or high school and feel totally justified in my pouting.  Why couldn’t I make something of myself like them?  Why can’t my story have reached a happy ending by now?  (Those of you who are a day above 40 can go ahead and laugh right now.  Don’t worry, it’s only on my really dramatic days [read “most days”]  that I think life ends in your thirties…)

Slowly and surely, creeping through my anger and hurt, in the middle of a freeway junction, God answered.  He brought to mind a quote I had heard from Dwight Edwards through Twitter and, at the time, given my hearty approval.  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

My mind stopped.  The list of reasons to be discontent disappeared mid-rant… What exactly was missing in my life?  Shelter? No.  Food? No.  Love?  No!  So what had gotten me so out of sorts?

Comparison is a wily deceiver, offering itself as a scale, but likely used only to mislabel abundances as voids.  Comparison can tell a successful artist or business person that they have failed because they don’t have a family.  It can tell a stay at home parent that they have failed because they don’t have a career.  And it can tell someone with a family and career that they have failed because they did not choose one.  Comparison will tell us what we want to hear, every time.  If we want to feel better than someone, we’ll find  the appropriate data.  If we’re looking to prove what we lack, we’ll find that, too.  It can make us feel better or worse than others, but it cannot tell the truth.  It claims to simplify what cannot be simplified.  It can say that an ex-girlfriend is better than a wife, or that new is always better than old.  But true comparison doesn’t exist, as no two sets of circumstances are exactly the same.

I have tortured myself with comparisons, mistaking happiness for a happy ending.  But I know full well that the source of happy endings is not happiness.  It is resolution.  If I want to live a compelling life, a story worth listening to through the end, my focus must not be on happiness.  Happiness, much like success, is a by-product.  The content of a happy ending, in an imperfect world, is not beauty or riches or even laughter.  It’s justice.

The good news is that the story of the world is in safe hands.  Justice is guaranteed in the end.

And the stories we tell, with our lives or by our hands, should model that justice.  The world cannot gain happiness without it.