Thursday, December 9, 2010

learning to listen

it hit me around 11:30 one balmy august night.
my eyes burning with fatigue and the reflections of car lights on the highway, i drug myself over the side porch and into my home. there was robert, sitting patiently on the couch, the couch that used to be imprinted with my shape too. the cushions molding to our relaxing bodies as we watched mindless television, not so mindless of each other's comforting, sweet presence.

and there was pablo. eyes half closed, perched up on his favorite pillow. one paw under his chin. looking so bored and lifeless. in the split seconds before they felt my footsteps on the wood floor and heard the squeaky door fall behind me, i watched them. and i longed for them.

i had been pursuing my master's degree in raleigh, north carolina at a university two hours away. the university i followed robert to, where i spent my undergraduate years with my nose in the books, heart in the future.

life was good there. i learned about the importance of internships, the kindness of quiet professors, and which hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the campus street had the best late-night pizza.

but going back was a different story. the same gentle teachers. the same bleach white halls and freezing cold classrooms. the same courtyard near my favorite english building,with its sweet-smelling trees that dropped their blooms on the sidewalk every spring.

but something had changed. in me. the campus was two hours away--one way. that equaled eight hours of driving a week. and some people might love that. for some, the act of driving is freeing and wonderful, like a movie escape with a radio soundtrack.

however, i had already had a taste of life outside of college. a life of early evening suppers on the back deck and a 10-ish bedtime. of savoring my life outside of work and truly looking forward to my nights.

so, to come home near midnight with the realization that life had happened--real, exciting, sweet life--while i was listening to delilah on the radio or trying to follow along to an audiobook, just broke my heart. i would come home to a clean house, folded laundry and a tired, lonely husband. my family had eaten with nanno without me. my sweet grandpa sat beside an empty chair.

so, two semesters in, i started praying. and i felt the Holy Spirit intercede in my heart stronger than I ever have in my life. never before has something been laid so heavily on my soul.

the morning after that lonely night, i made a decision.

i quit and for a split second i felt bad about it.

but then that guilt was replaced by the most freeing, exhilarating emotion. i can't even describe it. i woke up early that morning and went outside to my front porch swing. with my bare feet dangling onto the cool bricks, i called mama, knowing she'd be awake. i poured out my heart to her and told her of my decision. and like a good mama (and Lord knows, i have a good mama), she understood, cementing my decision.

that was a wednesday. on friday, i applied to johns hopkins.

three weeks later, i was accepted. to the university's first m.a. in communication program completely online. that is correct. not only do i not have to drive eight hours a week anymore, i don't even have to leave my desk at home, with its cherry red paint and tin pail of my favorite books.

all because i listened. to that voice inside me. and whether you call it the Holy Spirit or jiminny cricket, it is powerful.

so i urge you, please listen to yours. it is tiny, but if it goes unanswered, it will grow and before long, it is all-consuming. i am infinitely happier and more at peace with life now. my nights are spent loving on a husband and puppy, and i don't feel like i sacrificed anything at all. if anything, i have been given so much in return.

i used to think the perfect education would make me happy. that having that degree by 23 would somehow change something within me. but tonight would have been a school night. and i have plans to go christmas shopping with robert. to stop by and see mama and dad and hear about their day, and hopefully--yes, hopefully--get in bed by 10. such a different world than before, but so.much.better. {for me}.

and like a hot shower on goosebumped skin, it warms me from the inside out. because i get to spend my days with these folks:

and that little voice makes me want to shout with happiness.


Anonymous said...

this is so lovely :) I'm glad you are doing something that makes you happier. I need to learn to listen to myself much more! :) x

Candice said...

Oh I'm so happy for you! It's always wonderful to know that you made the right decision, and I'm sure you'll love the fact that you now can relax and enjoy life a little bit more! :) It certainly pays to listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit!

sarah nicole said...

Your posts are always the perfect way to start my morning. You are such a talented writer.


Amber Blue Bird said...

how do you do it, how do you manage to always write so honestly and beautifully? This is another great post with a great message and I am so glad that you listened and are happy. Your little family is so cute, I can see why it would be hard to be away from them :)

Oh and I am glad you liked the video and that you love Brooke's music as much as me! I have never seen her live but would love to, her voice is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

wow. that took such an amazing amount of courage. that is seriously awesome. and i loved reading this. i'm going to add it to my "favorites" so when life gets rough i can read it. your life sounds picture perfect. if i were you i would shout for happiness all the time :)

i can't wait to graduate and move on to the next big thing. but i dont' really know what that will be. so maybe i should do some listening.

Jude said...

Congratulations on the acceptance and how terrific you let that inner voice finally be heard! I went through something very similar (2 hours each way too) and then something snapped and I just couldn't do it anymore. But that was one of the best decisions - let me move on to what I really needed to do. I'm sending lots of wonderful thoughts as you continue on this journey, it only gets better, doesn't it? :)

Peaches said...

This is a wonderful post. I'm so glad that you listened to that little voice, so often it is right and truthful...but hard to listen to sometimes. I'm sure it was a difficult choice to stop going to Raleigh but when God closes a door He opens a window.

This is such an encouraging post. Your contentment and happiness with life is contagious. I'm sending you a big virtual hug my dear!! Love!

Blondie's Journal said...

I am so happy that you are content with your decision and that is all that counts. I will take your advice to listen.


Thisisme said...

You certainly made the right decision, that is quite plain! I love the photo of you all together. No wonder you don't want to leave Robert and Pablo. That little dog is just so cute!!

Becca said...

Good for you, Courtney.
I have felt that same reassurance when listening to the Holy Spirit [or jiminy cricket? ha ha that made me laugh], and I'm glad for it.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I am covered in goosebumps. I am always telling people they already know what they need to do and listening to yourself is the key but I think I haven't been doing it for myself lately. I'm thrilled for you. I made a necklace for my shop a while back and it said "listen to your soul", I need to make some more of those I think.

Jessica said...

You made the right decision and it's whats best for you. You're gonna do great! :)

jessica.adams said...

Will you puh-leeeeaze write a book so I can just sit and read chapters of this stuff?? LOVE. IT.

7upkels said...

gosh this is so wonderful.

Shalyn said...

I love that you wrote about this. I have such a hard time listening sometimes (I think I talk way too much) Love the gentle reminder. I call it the Holy Spirit too;-)

Jenni Austria Germany said...

so nice to hear this! and john hopkins is so amazing, too! (my best friend is getting her masters there...she's at the bologna campus now).

Kaity Teer said...

so beautiful and true. thanks for sharing, again, from your heart.

ps: i finally replied to your list of four! :)

Natalie said...

that is a great realization! I am so happy for you!

Jenni said...

Girrrl, I don't think it would matter what you wrote - I would read it. You have such a beautiful way of telling a story; I feel just like I'm reading a book!

This was a well-spun tale, even better cause it's true. I'm so happy for you, and I just KNOW you made the right choice. :)

Ana* said...

What a great decision you made, congratulations on getting accepted to Johns Hopkins!! Oh Courtney, would you pleaaaa-seh write a book?

Mucho love,


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