It was a quiet afternoon in late August 2015. In my desire to stay connected with my community back home in Des Moines, I scrolled through my Instagram and Facebook feeds like my life depended on it. Almost as soon as I started scrolling, however, I put my phone on the bedside table and pushed it away. I saw image after image of my friends and their families having fun at the Iowa State Fair. Their faces seemed to smile at me, but I couldn’t smile back.
“That’s where we should be,” I said to myself, “we’re here, though, and we’re missing out.”
I looked to my left where my toddler was napping on an air mattress. I breathed deeply and headed to the living room in the apartment we’d been staying at in the Northwest Chicago suburbs. My six-year-old and seven-year-old were sprawled out on the grey sofa on loan to us. While they zoned out on Netflix, I was relieved they had no clue how heavy my heart was.
Soon, I’d be seeing posts on social media of their friends smiling for their “first day of school” pictures. But my kids would continue to sleep on air mattresses and do home school lessons in a different city with their stressed out mom.
We had made the decision to leave Des Moines for a few months, so my husband could enroll in an outpatient program with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He’d had a spinal cord injury five months earlier which left him partially paralyzed from the waist down. In order to reach his goals for independence, he needed rigorous physical and occupational therapies. It wouldn’t be easy to be away from home, but we also knew it was the best option for us.
On that afternoon, I allowed myself to feel whatever I needed to feel about missing out on life at home. I let the sadness wash over me. As it did, my pathway to acceptance was right before me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and then opened them up to see so many gifts around that were ripe for the picking.
We weren’t visiting our favorite Central Iowa pumpkin patches that fall. Instead, we drove into the city on my husband’s day off, went to museums and ate deep dish pizza.
My kids weren’t enrolled in soccer or dance lessons with their friends. But they were making new friends in our apartment building that we still keep in touch with today.
Our school year was not off to a brilliant start, and our homeschooling progress was not up to my typical standards. But we regularly visited my husband at the rehab center. We filled that place with the joy and laughter that only children can bring. My kids learned the value of lifting the spirits of those in need.
Do you ever experience the fear of missing out, or “FOMO” as we often call it? I think I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t.
The Joy of Missing Out
My experiences of actually missing out have taught me a lot about embracing the joy of missing out.
When I miss out on something due to circumstances I can’t control I’m more willing to accept it and find joy where I can.
When I am afraid of what I might miss out on and agonize over the choices before me, I’m much less content. The fact is, having choices is a luxury that can lead me to disappointment if I choose fear rather than joy.
Today I’m enjoying circumstances that are not marked by the loss of options. Sure, most of the choices before me have their pros and cons. But they are typically ALL good options! It turns out the most important choices I make are not about what I may or may not be missing out on. They are about embracing fear or joy regardless of how I spend my time or who I spend it with.
Today I want to embrace the joy of missing out.