Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there was this guy I liked. A lot. He liked me, too, or so I thought, and we spent a lot of time together. After several weeks (months?) of doing some very date-ish, boyfriend-girlfriend type stuff, I screwed everything up. Or maybe he did. You see, he had just kissed me (not for the first time), and as I pulled away, I laughed a little and said:
“So, what exactly is this?”
Still smiling, I wiggled my finger between the two of us, touching his chest and then mine. “You know. Us.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
I was starting to get confused. Didn’t we hang out? And hold hands and watch old movies and share dreams and kiss? I wasn’t in the practice of kissing my friends or acquaintances or college classmates. It was obvious to me what we were. Obviously, not to him.
We parted ways awkwardly that night, and the next day I got an email from him. Yup. Classy, right? An email. It said, among other things, that he had “too many irons in the fire” and didn’t really have the time for a relationship.
Oh! So wrong! So, so wrong! I was upset… First because I felt incredibly used (I never signed up to be FTMO, I really liked him), and second because after reading through the email a half a million times, I came to the conclusion that I never really knew him at all. One line in particular frustrated me so much I could hardly stand it: “I have too many irons in the fire…”
What? Is that even possible?
I’m convinced the Lord sometimes protects us from ourselves, and he certainly did so for me through that frosty email. Any interest I had in said guy fizzled the second I realized that he considered people metaphorical irons in the fire of his life. It’s an idea that is fundamentally opposed to who I am and what I believe, and there was simply no way I could reconcile what he was saying with what I knew, even then, I wanted my life to be.
Why in the world am I reminiscing about an old non-boyfriend? That’s ancient history, and barely even worth remembering. And yet, the issues that were at play in our break up (for lack of a better term) are something that I still face every day.
See, I’ve got this theory about life and it goes a little something like this: Life is short and you only get one go-round. So for all the days I’ve been given, I intend to heap my plate, suck the marrow out of every moment, live the sort of adventure that I dreamed about when I was a little girl, and love extravagantly as many people as I can cram into the ever-expanding confines of my heart and soul. If my life is a fire, I don’t want it to be a tepid, flickering candle or even a roaring hearth fire. I want it to be the sort of bonfire that people throw old couches on while they drink bottles of ice cold beer and marvel at the way the flames seem to reach the sky.
That’s why I can’t say no to something new.
I recently modeled for a jewelry catalog and though I felt stupid doing it, I simply cannot pass up a new opportunity. Model jewelry? Me? Well, why the hell not? Learn to cha-cha, travel to Africa, make a commercial, act in a 24-hour film challenge, stuff my basement full of strangers on a cross-state bike trip, co-author a book, refinish an old table, join a writing group, complete a triathalon, try my hand at cooking authentic Chinese cuisine (a miserable failure)… What next?
A special needs adoption. Or so some would say.
But I need you to know, my new daughter-to-be is not a project. Nor a whim, a spur-of-the-moment decision, a notch on the belt of my so-called adventurous life. Neither is she another iron in my already blazing fire.
Someone (several people, actually) recently admitted that they were surprised to hear we were adopting again — particularly a little girl with medical needs — because we already have such “full plates.” (Another bad euphemism to say that we’re busy people with no intention of un-busying our lives.) It’s a fair observation, but I think it misses the point. We do have full plates… But we have lots of hands to carry them.
My friends and family — my children — are not delicacies on the plate of my life (or irons in the fire). They are beside me, sampling the fares I’ve chosen, swirling a finger through the mashed potatoes, stealing a bite of the deviled egg (my favorite), and adding their own picks to the pile. When I trained for my triathalon, my eldest ran with me. When I was editing Sleeping in Eden, my middle son tried his own hand at writing a story. They compose letters to our friends in Africa and look forward to the day they can meet them in person. We play together and dream together and eat supper every single night (almost!) around the table together. We don’t run in separate directions, we gather around the same table (the same fire, the same plate) and take turns joyfully contributing our own hopes and ideas, our closely held, God-given passions that, once released, stoke a culture of delight and adventure. I hope. I pray. And I pray that they are getting the message: Try new things! Embrace life! Say yes! Never stop learning! Surprise yourself!
And, when given the opportunity to widen your circle, do so with arms wide open.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating for a quiver-full philosophy to family planning or suggesting that you should be BFFs with everyone you meet. It’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t. We are all given a capacity for relationship that is unique to our own personalities and situations. But no matter how you populate your days with people, please don’t ever consider them an iron in the fire of your life. Or a scoop of potluck casserole on your plate, a project, a chore, one more thing on your to-do list…
I’m blessed beyond measure that I was dumped in an email — and discovered by the man who ultimately asked me to share his life. We do share it, arms linked with a small army of children, family, friends, and more. And we are busy (sometimes in a cheerful, enthusiastic way and sometimes with our teeth clenched as we power through), but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We danced in the living room last night to everything from “Call Me Maybe” to “10,000 Reasons.” And the five of us make quite the scene. It’s wild. Arms and legs akimbo (that’s me), sultry little hip circles (that’s my six-year-old), bunny hops (the baby). The music was loud and we all sweat like crazy and laughed so hard we fell over. We were busy and furious in the moment before we fell down, and then we took a breath, reached for one another. My fingers stroked a bare ankle, my sweet son’s head warmed my chest. I didn’t think about the things I had to do before bedtime or the fact that I’d be a single mom come the weekend or that my both my big boys had spelling tests the next day. I soaked in the moment. We all did. And then we got up, ready to begin again…
To dance. Wild and crazy and breathless around this bonfire we’ve created, enraptured by the life we’ve been given and the chance that we have to share it.
I hope my little girl likes dancing, too.