in it for the long haul

If you’ve followed along in my blogging or social media journey there’s a good chance you know the name “Jacob” and maybe seen his face in old pictures.

Since I started journaling and blogging after his death in 2006, there are no written records of those first years without him, from my perspective — which is probably a really good thing because, as some of you know, when Jacob died, so with it went any and all good feelings I had about God. I disliked Him, mistrusted Him, and completely didn’t understand Him.

The short version of who Jacob is to me and my family is that he was a member of the “Family of 8” I was raised with, a combo of four Nyenhuis family members + four Belt family members. We met and started doing life together when Jacob and I were in third grade. Family vacations, holidays — since both of our blood families were physically far away from us, we became each other’s people.

I could LITERALLY write a whole book on who these people are to me (and one day I might) but since I need to keep it short for the purposes of getting to the point of this post, I’ll stop here, however, like I said, I could write a book.

Five weeks after Jacob and I left for college, me to Auburn University, him to the University of Georgia, he was heading back to school after a weekend in our hometown. On September 24th, 2006, his mom watched him drive away in his silver S2000 and it was the last time she ever saw her boy on this side of heaven.

Again, I have SO MANY WORDS.

Fast forward to the week following his death. SO MANY PEOPLE were around. I can’t even explain to you how many people. Our high school was pretty tight and having just all graduated four months prior, we were still close, riding the high of our senior year camaraderie. People flocked Jacob’s house and his family. So much love. So much food. Our families (I was at Auburn so not around) ate dinner together every night for six weeks all on food other people provided. Seriously. So much food. So much love. So many people.

For an introvert (identified as one MUCH later in life!), it was hard. There was no other place I wanted to be then Jacob’s house and yet it was the last place I wanted to be because the swarm could be overwhelming. A defining moment, one I have remembered and will remember as long as I live, was a moment I was venting to my mom about how I hadn’t been able to see Jacob’s family at all the whole week. It was so hard to get to them, to even hug them. We were all hurting and couldn’t be together and it was… hard. Hard for a BAZILLION reasons — grief is so complex.

She said “Virginia, we are in this for the long haul.”

What she meant was “when the music fades” — when all the sympathy cards are sent and opened, when the meal train stops chugging along, when the memory of him slips from other people’s mind, when the dates come and go without any recollection of their importance — we will be here.

And we have been. We have been for fourteen years.

None of the above is me tooting my own horn. I haven’t done things perfectly — there isn’t a manual for this kind of stuff. What I’m challenging myself with lately under this theme of “long haul” is — what are the other things I want to be doing for the long haul? Which parts of my life I’m doing now do I want to still be doing in 5, 10, 20, dare I say even FIFTY years?

Sure, I’ll get smarter, wiser, more experienced, more humble, more patient, more disciplined, kinder, more peace-filled…HOPEFULLY…but what will I be caring about and spending my time doing?

It seems our society/culture/whatever you want to call it values loud voices and quick success. I value those things at times. How quickly can I turn my writing into a money making venture? What corners can I cut to get where I want to be faster? What priorities do I need to have to succeed? What new fad can I jump on to make me all of those qualities I mentioned above without the work it takes to get there?

My father-in-love gave me a really cool gift for Christmas last year. Actually, for the record, he’s a pretty amazing gift giver in general. To brag on him for a second — for three years in a row he’s given me gifts that exemplify his care for me because the gifts are all related to stuff I care about. He pays attention and gives gifts accordingly! Three years ago it was the book “Lioness Arising” which is just, well, I am woman HEAR ME ROAR! In 2018, it was the coolest sign with the anticipation of birthing my girl into this world.

And last year it was a decorative piece of wood that sits in my bedroom to view daily. On one side it reads, “do hard things that take a long time” and on the other, “enjoy deep things that last forever”. The irony? They are the exact same list.

The stuff that really impacts, the stuff that brings me deep and sustaining joy and lasts forever is the stuff that is hard as all get out. It’s stuff that feels small in the moment, maybe even insanely mundane, the stuff that might not get kudos or sudden popularity or too many *likes*.

What things will I choose to be in for the long haul? Who will I be still doing life with in 5, 10, 20, FIFTY years? What causes will I still be supporting, what battle cries will I keep yelling out, who will I keep fighting for, WHAT will I keep fighting for?

Today, I ate breakfast with a woman who moved her family into East Point for similar reasons we did. We talked about the importance of consistency over the long haul, about earning trust and keeping it. We talked about how important it is to not forget, about staying committed even when we get exhausted. After hearing my heart about the whole kit and kaboodle she said “never forget and don’t quit!” Yep, that’s about right, sister friend. Never forget and don’t quit. What are those things in my life that are never worth forgetting and never worth quitting?

As a thirty-something woman, I feel like I have SO MUCH TO LEARN in this area. Oh, how I look to my parents, my grandparents, my in-laws, our “aunt and uncle” neighbor who live across the street, women in my church, and other people I get to do life with who have crossed over the “halfway” mark of their life, I love paying attention to what they care about, what they talk about, what matters (and what doesn’t!!!!) to them. They are my teachers and I am their student.

I’d love to hear from you — no matter what age or stage of life — what are the things you’ve decided are worth being “in it for the long haul”?

xoxo, va

3 thoughts on “in it for the long haul

  1. Pingback: migraine life (part 4: getting better at it) | Following the Fortunatos

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