When I look back on my life, I expect to segment it into different chapters. There will be a table of contents, a beginning and end. And in the space between will be chapters sorted neatly, one after another.
First this, then this.
One thing ends.
A new thing begins.
See how smoothly my little life went?
Yet in the midst of living, it seems quite hard to sort one chapter from the next or experience a seamless transition between them.
There certainly are different chapters in our lives, but there are also gaps in between them—an annoying space where you don’t know what comes next after leaving something meaningful behind. There is a pause, a breath, a hesitation that’s a lot like being on hold. And how annoying is it to be on hold?
We all want to be locked into the next thing. The next job, the next phase; to be vibrantly planted wherever the greenest grass grows. But between chapters— even in the midst of them— there is a lot of intolerable waiting.
As someone currently on hold, I’m now wondering if waiting is the glue that holds the chapters together, if it’s a cohesive agent that binds meaning from the past to meaning in the future.
Because it’s in the waiting that you feel the sorrow for what was lost, which sounds like a terribly sad thing to say, but let me put it another way: only when you feel the absence of something do you realize how much it mattered.
Thursday is the last day we will be an active duty military family. And if I’m honest with you, I feel pretty exasperated that our “next thing” hasn’t arrived yet. We don’t have a sparkling new identity, a sense of noble mission to neatly replace the one we left behind.
So here in the waiting, there’s a restlessness that’s not countered by the distraction of a settled new reality. We aren’t exchanging one version of life for another. No, we are leaving one version of life behind and still waiting to find out why and what for.
You have no idea how badly I want to rush into the part where I tell you how good and right the choice was, how well it worked out for us. We will be fine, yes, of course we will. But in the most tender moments, usually right after I tell someone in conversation “It will all work out!” there’s a tiny voice inside that tentatively whispers: but will it?
The things I thought I would miss about the military are not the same ones that I actually do. I thought I would miss the pageantry and ceremony, the uniform, the idea and nobility of it.
But what I actually miss has nothing to do with the military. I miss the things anyone would miss when they leave a comfortable way of life.
I miss having my own house and having a set schedule for each day. I miss my neighbor April, walking next door for coffee creamer first thing in the morning, borrowing the last ingredient for dinner from her pantry. I miss going to the neighborhood park everyday at four o’clock, knowing the faces I’d see there and the conversations I would have. I miss the mindlessness of knowing what we will do tomorrow, the muscle memory of moving through the grocery store and filling a cart out of habit, knowing the ‘normal’ price for avocados.
I miss things that are completely unoriginal. My friends. My comfort. My own kitchen table.
And somehow this is a relief to me— that what mattered then is not exclusive to that context, that neighborhood, that address.
What mattered then is something that can be recreated again. It just takes time. It’s just on the other side of this waiting.
It’s in the next chapter. I know, I know.
But can’t we just get there already?
I’m sure I will look back on these last six weeks and think “What a blink that was! How fast time passed!” I cannot wait to experience this moment in retrospect, when it seems like a drop in the bucket rather than an ocean of unknown.
But until then, I’m showing up here to vocalize the gap between chapters, the intensity of waiting, and how long it stretches the hours of each day. Because honestly, I think it’s easy to forget about the wait once you arrive to the reason for it.
Even so, I think that gaps like these are God’s grace to me, to us. Instead of hustling into a new thing, there a pause to evaluate the old thing with new eyes.
Here you feel the ache of what was lost. And in that gap of longing you realize how rich your history was, how well you were loved, how thoroughly you were taken care of, and how spectacular your life was for those moments you lived through it unaware.
Surely, we will plant again, grow again, feel rooted once again. But from here, the clearest line of sight is on what mattered before and what was hard to leave behind.
Somehow this clarifies how to live into the next chapter. Because what we long for is what we prioritize: relationships, people around the kitchen table, familiarity with the person who lives next door.
We carry with us the remnants and memories of times that have expired, and use them like seeds— as the small beginnings we sow into new ground that show us how to live again.