Confession: If you'd have told me a few years back, as I lay on the kitchen floor, a sobbing, weepy mess, that I'd be peddling advice on how to love the life you're living, I'd have laughed in your face. Or, to be more honest, I'd have thrown a shoe at it. Which is what I nearly did to my husband, Rafi, when he stumbled upon me (quite literally) on the floor that day. Instead, when Rafi knelt down and asked, "Caryn, what's wrong?" I hissed back, "I hate my life."
As soon as those words swung back around to my own ears, I realized I didn't quite mean them; however, they were the best I could come up with to describe the way I felt after three years of financial devastation and family stress; three years of disappointment, hurt, loss, anger, and confusion; and three years of feeling altogether forgotten by God. Nothing in my life was as it was supposed to be—and I hated that.
But here's the thing: while I wouldn't have believed you right then, if you'd have told me that just a few moments after my sort of dark midafternoon-of-the-soul experience I'd have something to say about loving life, I'd have paid attention. Because that's about the time God started working on me, touching my heart, opening my eyes, and convicting me of things that frankly I was in no mood to be convicted of.
Just when I wanted to settle into comfy self-pity and well-worn martyrdom, God started bringing things to mind: songs I loved, verses I underlined and could recite (well, paraphrase might be the better word), words I had scribbled in journals as an angst-filled teenager. All things that pointed back to what my attitude needed to be in those moments. In the midst of chaos and frustration. In the throes of hurt and loss. In that wilderness that my life had become. In that place where God had always been—even if it wasn't where I'd asked God to put me or ever imagined I'd be. I had to start saying "Hallelujah Anyhow," as that old song goes.
Over the days, weeks, and months that followed, I discovered that God welcomed my resigned, crabby, sigh-filled, grumbly hallelujahs. So I needed to learn to mumble it, grumble it, hiss it, or smirk it and learn to love the life God had for me even as my parents' marriage crumbled; even as my childhood home was sold and relics from my childhood—wanted only by me—piled up on shelves in my garage; even as my husband's business disintegrated; even as our financial situation devastated us; even as our medical bills piled up; even as relationships soured; even as depression shook its ugly gray cloak over my house; shoot, even as my beloved dog died. Even as I felt so alone. Even as there wasn't much to love about life, that's when and where I was to start loving it. And rejoicing in it. Ugh.
I just needed to know what loving my life really meant.
It took awhile, but somewhere along the way I realized my former idea of loving life was all wrong. I had imagined it as some sort of puppy love. When things were going so well, when life was paying me all sorts of lovely attention, I'd sigh, sit with my head in my hands, and bat my eyes at life. Oh, how I loved it! Until it let me down. Then I fell out of love. In a hurry. My love was quite conditional.
Turns out, I had the wrong kind of love happening. The sort of love we need to feel for our lives runs deeper than mushy love letters. The love we should feel toward our lives is the same unconditional, "no matter what" love we feel toward our spouses, our kids, our siblings, our friends, our parents, and our pets.