Three months ago our kids started playing soccer. When we signed them up we expected it to entail an hour a week for practice with games on the weekend. We should have asked more questions. As info about the season came in we found out our son would have two practices a week with an optional third practice on Fridays and our daughter would have two practices a week. My son’s team needed a coach, so I agreed to do it. We launched into the first weeks of the season with discomfort and regret as we felt the loss of less scheduled evenings, time with family and friends, and presence in our neighborhood.
This week is the final week of soccer for this year, and while I’d expect to feel relieved I actually feel a little sad. I don’t think the change in my emotions has much to do with enjoying soccer or coaching–though I do enjoy both of those things. I think it has much more to do with acclimation. Because as I think back over the past year I remember discomfort when we moved to our current neighborhood and started spending a lot of time with neighbors and people who were a part of our new church. Before that most of our evenings were free and spent as a family. But within months our kids went from struggling with all the people around to being disappointed when there was a single evening without others around. I can remember similar transitions with work schedules, job requirements, and family commitments. It seems like when things change, a little time passes, and we acclimate to the new normal.
So why does this matter?
It matters because we will acclimate to our lives whether we are living intentionally or just letting life happen. Whether we live in ways that are healthy or unhealthy, over time we will acclimate to that way of life and it will feel normal. And once something feels normal, whether it’s life-giving or not, it is really hard to change because change feels hard and abnormal.
We all have ways of living that fit with our values and ways that don’t. How much of your life is lived in line with your values? I can identify quite a few areas where I let life happen to me, acclimate, and move on without thinking about it further. In fact, over time, I come to feel as comfortable in the parts of life that don’t fit my values as I feel in the ones that do.
Not a victim.
To the extent any of us live in ways inconsistent with our values we have the ability to change things–it’s just hard. There is a temptation to believe “there’s nothing I can do about it.” Life is just busy, nothing I can do. My spouse and I don’t get any time to really connect, nothing I can do. I don’t know any of my neighbors, but there’s nothing I can do. The list goes on and on. We pictures ourselves as victims of the harsh dictates of the universe–abdicating any responsibility to change things. But we can change things.
We can give up some of our activities. We can do one thing a day to pursue our spouse. We can go have a beer with a friend instead of turning on the TV. We can connect with God instead of hitting snooze. There are all kinds of things we can do, and we are not victims, but many of us do have an aversion to changing the life to which we’ve become so well acclimated.