by Shelley Shepard Gray
I’m not really sure how it happened, but over the course of 30 years of marriage, my husband and I have moved nine times. Some of the moves were job transfers for my husband. Other moves were for a variety of reasons, some of which were better than others. I can now pack up a house pretty easily. We even have a notebook with a checklist to make sure we don’t forget things like reaching out to the gas and water companies. I guess all this means I’ve gotten pretty good at starting over.
I used to think there was something wrong with me. Why am I always so excited about an upcoming move? It wasn’t like I lived all over the country when I was growing up.
After much reflection, however, I’ve come to realize that I really do like new beginnings. It’s in my nature to be hopeful. I’m the only person I know whose favorite day of the week is Monday! There’s just something so exciting about the start of a new work week for me. As far as I’m concerned, there is always the chance that something good is around the corner. My husband (who is not a Monday fan) always shakes his head at me on Sunday nights. That’s when I’m pulling out multiple calendars and making plans for the week. He’s sometimes said that my Sunday night enthusiasm for Monday morning makes him wish the week was already over.
I guess I can see how one might think that.
Perhaps all this excitement about starting something new is why the Lord gave me the skills and desire to become a writer. Starting a new book is part of the literary process. There’s tons of lists and research and dreaming to do in order to create new characters, design the perfect setting, and carefully plan out the structure of a novel. After writing so many books, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at starting a new book, too.
However, I have to admit that there are many drawbacks to all this starting over—whether it’s across the country or I'm staring at a blank computer screen. The main one is what happens right after we’ve moved or when it’s Thursday afternoon or when I’m stuck in the middle of a book that I suddenly hate.
You guessed it.
I get a serious case of the regrets.
I start wondering why I ever thought the new house we bought was going to be so perfect. I start missing all our old friends and our church and the way my life was so well organized (though it never really is).
Hand in hand with regret comes second-guessing. I’ve second-guessed books I’m writing and second-guessed towns we’ve chosen to live in. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve felt all this before or that I know within a year I’ll feel happy and settled again. I can’t seem to help it.
All these questions and feelings hit me hard about this time last year. We moved from Colorado to a suburb in northern Ohio, and I began to feel overwhelmed. I knew it was bad when I was sitting on a couch on a Sunday night, crying. Even my usual Monday morning lurking didn’t pep me up.
I’m happy to share that my husband talked me through my difficult night and didn’t once remind me that things would get better. (No wonder we’ve been married so long!) When I went to bed that night, I came to the conclusion that the Lord gave me these moments of doubt, too. Everyone needs some time for self-reflection, even when you aren’t really pleased about the reflection you see in the mirror.
It turns out that evening was exactly what I needed to get myself back on track. I gave myself grace and stopped trying to get adjusted so quickly. I decided to take more walks and simply give thanks for pretty days and happy moments. I stopped ‘doing’ and started reflecting.
Maybe what I’ve learned is that it isn’t just new beginnings I should embrace but good endings, too. A perfect ending to a story. A satisfying end to a meal. A beautiful sunset at the end of each day, reminding me that God is still with me . . . and that He’d actually never left.
Shelley Shepard Gray is the two-time Holt Medallion Award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over one hundred novels. Her novels have been translated into multiple languages and highlighted in the Philadelphia Enquirer, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, NPR and USA Today. An active member of her church and the mother of two young adults, Shelley lives with her husband in Ohio and writes full time. Please visit her online at ShelleyShepardGray.com.