Unexpected Lessons From Our Cabin In The Woods

Do you just wake up every day and think you’re in paradise?” my friend asked as we dawdled around the front yard and looked across the fading flower beds and wheelbarrow overflowing with remnants of summer’s bounty. She was serious.

My response surprised me.

Almost instantly, I threw my head back and let out a heinous, cackling laugh. “No, I don’t. It’s beautiful but so much work! I see all the work!”

My sweet friend oohed and awed over the landscape of our wooded acreage and log cabin and I sighed with unspoken regret. Guests made these kinds of remarks all the time.

As I retold my husband about our interaction later that evening and replayed the scenario in my head multiple times, the sadness crept in.  

There was a time when this place felt extremely right and lovely beyond measure.

The proverbial peaceful cabin in the woods, except we knew it was not for us alone. We had high hopes for it to become a retreat of sorts for our community, a place for all kinds of people to gather and grow and gain fresh perspectives. We had a picture of lush gardens, winding forest trails, and quiet corners, all with the sacred purpose to refresh anyone who came along.

It’s been almost a year now since we moved outside the city limits and up a small dirt road, deciding to see what would happen if we pursued this particular lingering passion in our hearts.

And it has been nothing like I expected.

I’ve dealt with more disappointment and depressive states than I care to admit. There are days when the only remedy is to pile the kids in the minivan and go for a walk somewhere, anywhere but here.

I think about selling it all and moving on. We came, we saw, and we didn’t survive.

Days after we moved in, my husband and I held each other in a limp embrace, in a state of complete overwhelm. We dared to say aloud, “Could this be one of the biggest mistakes of our life?”

We were serious too.

From those first few weeks, and still, to this day, it’s been endless work. I’ll admit, some of it our own doing, projects we wanted to complete before certain dates that maybe we should have waited on. But much of it can be traced back to the arduous task of keeping up with this overgrown land and the maintenance of a well-built, yet finicky log cabin.

We still wonder if it’s too much? Is this lifestyle really for us?

I immediately throw out the comparison card. But so and so is doing it down the road …and they have kids…. and even more animals… and more land…and more responsibilities to take care of!

Granted, maybe we didn’t hear correctly, maybe this isn’t where we’re supposed to be right now as a young family of six still trying to cut through our own issues as well as pioneer a path for others?

We can be so hush, hush about the emptiness we sense in the pit of our stomach even when other people think “we’ve arrived” or “we’re living the dream.”

But I want you to know dear reader, I walk up towards the front door multiple times a day, encircled with towering evergreen, colorful maples, and awe-inspiring architecture, and I have yet to fall to my knees in praise.

I don’t have an exact answer yet as to why. But I have a few ideas.

No matter where we live or what we have, there’s a simmering, somewhat embarrassing discontentment, brewing in all of us.

There is a low-grade disenchantment with the very things we asked for and pushed into our reality. We can be surrounded by longed for beauty and not want any of it.

The questions about where we are going and what we are doing with these eighty years we’ve been given still haunt us every night.

We rightly fear being taken over by our growing need for more possessions and the allusion of the American dream. We find ourselves unconsciously chasing after both.

What are we to do when we find ourselves overwhelmed with what we thought was a unique opportunity, a bit jaded and confused by the path we thought we were supposed to take, or unable to see paradise when we look out our window?

Do we pack up our bags tomorrow? It’s definitely an option. Place matters.

Do we become rigorous and ritualistic about gratefulness? Yes, that probably helps. Perspective matters.

Do we stop, rest, and catch our breath? It wouldn’t hurt. Our pace matters.

But before all this changing up of our place, perspective, and pace, comes a loosening of our hands from this life we call our own- this one we want so badly to enjoy and not waste.

We let go of the guilt for not knowing what the heck we are doing and where all this is going and for taking so long to figure it out. We humbly accept our humanity, our forever-hunting-never-finding-paradise hearts. After all, without this kind of heart, we’d never accept any invitation to adventure.

And finally, we wiggle free from the need to appear like we’ve finally arrived and confess that we will always be on our way.

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