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January 20, 2014 | ,

I Miss My Actual Life

BY Jen Hatmaker

The other day, discussing a man friend who travels all over the world for some sort of fancy business job, I told my girlfriend: “Why do these companies fly someone in to do all this work? Surely there is someone right there who can do what he does. It seems dumb to have to ‘fly in an expert.’”

She deadpanned, “Do you not understand the details of your own life?”

I fly places. A lot. Apparently no one has figured out that local teachers and leaders right under everyone’s noses can do a better job than I can. This is not false humility, trust me. Your Aunt Louise can teach the Bible better than me. Your neighbor is funnier. Your pastor is wiser. Seriously, I have no idea why this is my life.

But it is, and as I type, I’m grateful I’ve deleted all completed events off my website so you cannot evaluate my travel schedule last fall. Let’s just say that as I wrote that sentence, tears slowly started leaking out of my eyes. I have never allowed such a grueling schedule. With a handful of poor boundaries and some late adds, last fall become a marathon, and I am weary beyond belief. My family has paid the price as families do, and we are all a little shaky, battle worn.

I miss my actual life.

In my actual life, there are friends who know your middle name and easy, lazy afternoons watching football. There are kids everywhere; mine, some extras, some ne’er-do-wells, clamoring and hollering and eating all our food, which I am cooking because, well, I’m there and that is what I do in my actual life. There is tons of community stuff, because our people are the best, my favorites, but I have no time for them because I am always in someone else’s community. I adore my city and my heart is to serve in it, to love people here, but I’m gone too much for consistency. I pulled out of mentoring through Young Lives this year because I would miss half the meetings. And hey? Do you remember when I used to write? Me neither.Actual life is where it is at. I’ve decided. I love the same people in my face every single week. I crave deep roots, longevity with people, home. I love to live in my real life, with my real neighbors and real friends and real church. These are my people. This is my place. I actually love shooting the HGTV show right now, because every second of it is at my house (with its rats and gas leaks and I DON’T EVEN CARE BECAUSE I AM HOME).

So. With excellent counsel and sound advisors, I’ve made a two-year plan to land my feet back into my life. My travel schedule is totally closed. I am going to catch up to my calendar (because only the most insane lunatic books events two years from now…hi), and then we are gearing this baby down. I plan to cut my travel in half, and I am officially saying ‘no’ to the seventy billion small things that consume the rest of my life away.

I’m like you; the things we want to do are all good things. There is no end of good things. I want to endorse books and write forwards and pop into your Bible study and have coffee with everyone and meet you while you’re in my city and write guest articles and do all the interviews and Skype into your thing. But none of those positions me in my actual life; they just take me further away from it. I can splinter my time and energy away until there is nothing left for the people I live with, live by, live for.

That is exactly what I’ve done, and I have to deboard this train.

Is there anyone out there who gets this? Your life may play out differently than mine, but even social media can take us out of our actual lives and into some consuming cyber existence where everyone is an avatar when what we need is flesh and blood. Any number of good things can pull us away from real people and community, and after awhile, we feel starved, malnourished, lonely.

It has never been easier to be non-present in real life.

To the men and women I travel to, to those at my conferences and events: I sincerely love you. My fatigue is not your fault and I hope you don’t hear resentment in my tone. You are real people too, and through the marvel of the printed word, I have maybe played a bit part in your actual lives, and I’ll never stop being grateful and stunned by that. You matter, and a part of my calling will always include teaching in your context, in your community. It is with gratitude I receive that mantle. You are precious to me.

It’s just that the scales have tipped, and they need to tip back. I am less present in my own life than ever, and I can’t live that way. I feel like I’ve let my friends and family down; I am absent from my church and community and that is actually where I matter most.

It will take awhile to unravel what I’ve constructed; there are many commitments to see through, and I will, with joy and diligence. But I need to land the plane in my real life, literally. To my friends and family and church and community and kids and husband: I’m coming home, yall.

Does anyone get this? This fragmented, absent feeling? Like Oswald Chambers said: “The good is always the enemy of the best.” Do you need to set some boundaries? If so, I’m with you today. Let’s land our feet back into our actual lives.