I wrote the first part of this post on a wine bag while I was at work. I came on my shift early-ish that morning, and in my spare time, I needed to write. My heart and soul needed it. I've been feeling a little stifled, stuffy. I'm learning to pay attention to the feelings in my soul, and this is one that hasn't seemed to go away with time. Once my friend George asked me, when I was in a period of unsettled heart, "Have you written lately? You should write." Since then, I've known that writing helps me process. I work at a grocery store -- I have done for almost three and a half years. I've been a cashier for all but nine months of that time. I can tell you that I never expected to have stayed here this long. My bosses are lovely, my coworkers are great, and the company is a good one. It's really important to me that I work while I'm in school. I need money, and the job is flexible with my schedule, which, with all of my rehearsals, is also of the utmost importance. There are a lot of times that I genuinely enjoy my job. But I'm reminded of the words of Pam from my favorite TV show, The Office: "I just don't think it's every little girl's dream to be a receptionist."
I don't think it's any little girl's dream to check groceries. At least, it isn't mine.
I've vacillated back and forth over the years on how I feel about this job, and I think that's the reason. It's a good part-time job; all the merits are there. But I've never been able to embrace it with open arms and rejoicing -- because it's not my dream.
In fact, it feels like the opposite of my dream. I'm doing a simple job -- and doing it well, but that doesn't change its simplicity, its sheer mundanity. For mundanity it is. Everyone needs groceries. Everyone buys them. The everydayness of this task, pressed against my dreamer heart, is almost too much to bear.
This job was never supposed to be my thing. It wasn't supposed to acquire this level of permanence. And I've had other jobs, but I keep returning, over and over, to this place, this job, this spot behind the computer, tapping produce codes as fast as I can and asking questions like "Do you have a Rewards account?"
I am a year away from having a highly specialized degree in classical singing. My heart yearns for travel and motion and movement and anywhere but here. But here I am, standing behind a grocery counter in west Texas, endlessly scanning things. My feet are rooted to the same square foot for hours at a time.
It's the exact opposite of adventure.
In fact, it's in moments at work that I tend to ask myself -- and God -- "Where is my adventure?"
And inevitably, He whispers back to me, Right here. Right where I am -- one inch above the ground.
I'm wrestling with this. I don't want it to be true. I don't want it to be true because it doesn't look like the adventure I want. I dream of living in Europe and singing opera professionally and wandering cobblestone streets and speaking French. Not to say those things can't happen -- God made dreams. But what I want to know is how to believe in my adventure here, now, when I'm standing behind a cash register.
How do I see the adventure God wrote for me in my everyday work? How do I believe in it even in Mundanity? How do I look for the ethereal in the world of the familiar?
(PSA: This is now the part of the post I wrote while sitting in front of my computer. End PSA.)
I was reading a blog post this morning written by another member of Emily P. Freeman's launch team for Simply Tuesday. Her name is Elizabeth Maxon, and I don't know her, but something that she wrote (about our launch team conference call last week) really struck me in my heart and gave me the answer I didn't know I was looking for.
In the meantime, we dive headfirst into the muted moments -- even when we don't feel like it. Just because everybody else in the big wild world can't hear us or see us does not mean that what we are doing is not of eternal importance...
Sometimes the daily work in front of us seems to be an overwhelming distraction and an unwelcome obstacle to the work out beyond the horizon that seems so much more important and enjoyable -- but it's not.
It's all the same.
The work in front of us can be woven into the dreaming and the passions and the desire we have to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
We can choose to let it frustrate us or let it free us up to live just as well when we are on mute as when we are on display for all the world to see.
Elizabeth Maxon, My Words and Wonder, "When Your Voice Is Muted" (emphasis mine)
The effect of these words was like a dull, soft oomph. It was then that I knew more clearly what I had always known: There is no difference between the adventurous and the mundane. They are the same thing. They are woven together, like wool against silk. Because this is our real life, and we do not get to pick what we want it to look like and throw away the rest.
Life consists of deep darkness and giddy joy -- and the mundane. It is made up of despairing night sky and shining sunrise and then -- white, flat sky. I'm learning that it's not all high and low, not all mountains and valleys. Sometimes -- indeed, a lot of the time, it's the flat plains we look out upon, unchanging and drab in all directions (maybe even my west Texas plains atop the caprock). And we stare and sigh and wonder if it will ever change.
Real life seems like a dream-killer, but I'm learning that real life is where actual substance happens. Real life is where dreams come true. Real life is where we fail. Real life is where we go in and out of our routine, never noticing the subtle changes that are happening in and around us.
Real life brings us back down to earth from the giddy heights of the mountains, lest we gasp for air atop the heights. It raises us up out of the dim valleys, comforting us with our routine -- the feel of coins under fingers and the smell of the cilantro in hands and the familiar sound of the vocal warm-ups and the arias and the French diction. Mundanity and Everydayness reminds us that we really exist here, now, in this plane -- that the dreams have happened, but in our world, to the us that we are, not the us that we want to be. They remind us that failure is real, but it's okay, and there will be another chance.
I listened to a podcast today in which Tsh Oxenreider talked about a friend who reads poetry when she feels she's been online too much. Reading poetry brings her back away from the screens. Tsh said something that made me sit up straight in the driver's seat of my little Accord: Real life, the rhythm of doing your everyday routine, is what brings us back. It's a reminder that this is happening to us in real time. For me, it's a reminder that yes, I sing opera and I travel and I get to do all these things I love -- but I'm also a poor college student and I have a job that I never dreamed about, but that I like and is good for me and teaches me how to move into my everyday in the presence of Jesus. The dreams of my heart are happening to me now, in my everyday life, and my humdrum things remind me that my life doesn't (and won't) always look the way I expect or want it to.
We don't get to pick adventures. Mundanity is a part of every adventure. Miles of walking. Seemingly endless journeys. The getting-there. These are all places that lead somewhere. There's also the return to quiet. The settling down to a routine. The acceptance of where you are in this season.
Maybe that's what Jesus is asking of me -- acceptance of this place where I am. Because Adventure and Mundanity are not different -- they are one and the same, two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. Adventure naturally includes the everyday stuff, as well as the stuff that dreams are made of. Because, as a matter of fact, dreams are made of everyday stuff.
Maybe I should look to see how my everyday weaves its way into the dreams in my heart and the passions I practice.
Maybe God is whispering to me to find out how checking groceries and singing opera are two sides of the same coin.
Maybe I need to trust Jesus and accept this place and let it teach me to live the same way when I am tapping produce codes (the code for Brussels sprouts is 4550) as when I am singing "Quando m'en vo". Because if my life is all one, not fragmented, then maybe I ought to live like that.
May I trust Him. May I remember that this is part of the adventure, too.