As I have been struggling to figure out how to live my life with gratitude, joy, reverence and love – I realized I had never considered the wisdom my MIL might have to offer.
A brief synopsis of our major struggle at the moment:
Right now, our family situation is difficult. I always try to recognize, and usually am, deeply thankful for the many wonderful things about our life. But we’re still going through major stresses. Dh is starting his own business, but in he’s in the early stages = not much money. He has been without work, except for a couple of small jobs, for 2.5 years. Very, very hard on him on so many levels.
I am employed (thank God) but teaching elementary French is so difficult for me compared to teaching high school science. I guess it’s not a surprise as I did do my degree in science, and so feel (and know myself to be) more competent in teaching it – as well as being more comfortable with adolescent kids. Teaching a language (which I’ve used but not really studied in depth), is so different. Classroom management is different. Recess duty, the issues the kids have, what they need, all the hundreds of decisions I have to make quickly every day – it is all different. I am applying to get back to highschool but there aren’t many job postings and I don’t have connections. (elementary and secondary are considered quite separate, and I am an external candidate so my elementary experience isn’t actually helpful to getting an interview for secondary, unless the experience is relevant to that job). The good thing is, I do love teaching – perhaps I will come to love what I’m doing now, given the time to gain experience and knowledge. But I am still applying to get back to where I feel more – competent. It has been very hard to feel like I’m not competent, and not doing a good job.
As you can imagine there is financial stress too. When we bought this house, and made other decisions, we had alot more income than one teacher’s salary. We’ve been pulling out of savings to get by. That cannot go on forever as the savings are starting to wear thin. It’s been hard to talk about finances as I am so drained with trying to deal with this new career, and DH is (I am guessing) feels the sting that we’re in this situation because he is not (yet) pulling in money.
So: MIL was up visiting the other weekend. I suddenly realized that many things in her life did not go according to her hopes, dreams, and plans either.
Example: MIL grew up in the “old country” in Eastern Europe. She has a grade 8 education. She was a good, eager student, and loved learning. She would have LOVED to go on to highschool. But her father wasn’t willing to put out the money for her to go, so … no more learning languages, math, geography. Manual labour – farming, cleaning, etc. became the path of her life.
She and FIL emigrated to Canada, with nothing but 2 suitcases and 2 children … no knowledge of English, and knowing only some of FIL’s family who had settled here. Those were hard years, very dependent on FIL’s family. MIL saw an opportunity – if she could go to English classes, and go to college, maybe she could have an office type of job. But. There was nobody willing to look after the kids. FIL didn’t understand or wasn’t supportive, and ditto for the rest of the family. (many of them have good hearts in their own way, but they are not the most open minded). Another chance, another dream gone. Now MIL is in her early 60’s and still doing hard physical work, cleaning houses and in an institution. She enjoys her work, is spectacular at it, and is able to set her own schedule a good deal of the time, but she is suffering from the constant demands on her body.
She would have loved to learn music, but there was no time or money for that. She would have enjoyed the chance to travel, especially to Alaska and Russia. (DH and I talked about how we’d love to send them on an anniversary cruise or something at some time). She would appreciate being able to relax about finances, but that is not possible as FIL lost his job a few years ago, and there are still kids to put through post-secondary school, and others who are struggling to find good paying work in this economy. (MIL and FIL had 8 kids over the course of 23 years … one of the reasons that DH and I really didn’t think IF was in our future … )
So I asked her – how did you cope with these disappointments? Didn’t you feel angry? (I could have listed other feelings that I have sometimes – resentful, sorry for myself, caught in these circumstances, despairing, hopeless … fortunately I don’t feel that way often but when I do, it’s not pretty.)
She shrugged a bit and said something like, “Well, that’s just how things were. God will provide and help you through it. You do what you can, but sometimes that’s just how it is.”
It makes me think she & I have very different expectations of life. She probably grew up thinking life was difficult, based on what she saw around her. That her dreams would not necessarily come true. I guess I grew up thinking that having kids when you wanted them, having financial security, a job you find personally rewarding – all that was the norm. I knew you had to sacrifice things – ie. you wouldn’t have money for vacation if you bought new furniture, or whatever – but the basics were kind of a given. We didn’t (thank God) have many major health crises or personal crises.
But I didn’t really internalize the “life is tough and then you die” idea, which I think does have some merit. I think my mom grew up expecting life to be hard, and as far as I know things basically turned out much better than she expected – but then, when your expectations are for a constant struggle, you would have so much more to rejoice in when things go well! (She did work very hard to achieve security, excel at her job, be a good mom, etc … between good planning and good fortune, there were not many shocks out of left field, as far as I know, to upset my mom’s life when I was growing up).
Perhaps I feel – entitled to having dreams come true. Perhaps I didn’t expect things to be such a struggle, so when things are not what I hoped for – it is a surprise. Instead of realizing that children may or may not be part of the future, I thought we could “plan” and it would all work out. Instead of being thankful that I have a job which can support us (though we may have to sell the house, etc) I feel that something is wrong because it isn’t a job whereI feel I am excelling and personally fulfilled. Taking physical and mental health as a given. Just expecting your marriage will be strong, close, etc. instead of realizing that (a) you are so lucky to find your partner and (b) you do need to make an effort to stay close or it can all come off the rails. (It was a huge shock to me when we had some rocky times in our marriage about 10 years ago – I had always been GOOD at relationships, how could this be happening to us?)
I am seeking the grace to accept today as it is, even as I work towards a better tomorrow. I am seeking a way to accept and rejoice in the gifts brought by both the good and the bad in my situation today. I am seeking out the wisdom from those who are in similar situations, for different reasons – how do they manage? how do they deal? what can I learn??
My dear friend and her dh who have decided to life childfree after trying to their limit to have a child. How did they learn to accept it, and still find joy and be strong in their faith? And they are often around kids, given family circumstances and their church.
Another dear friend who wanted more than anything to marry her soulmate and have a family, who is still single and not in the job she wants (after the private college where she persued a degree to qualify for what she wanted, folded a month before she graduated so all the money and time was for nought.) She has courage and determination – now she is doing that education part time, while working … it will take a few years yet. (And hopefully she will meet Mr Right along the way.)
A former colleague, whose career is skyrocketing along a path she is passionate about (all good) but who was off work for a year recovering from an accident that has left her with likely permanent mobility issues due to injury in her foot and leg. When discussing future vacation plans she mentioned how she and her sweetie are really enjoying scuba diving holidays “because my foot doesn’t slow me down in the water!” And then, how she has the grace to come to this point without, as far as I know, having a strong faith in God.
Hm – it looks like I have quite a few wise women in my life from whom I am seeking wisdom. I also must mention the inspirational blog women whom I follow … you can see many of them in the side bar … Road Less Travelled (living CF after loss and IF), Portraits in Sepia (persuing adoption), Just Being … (figuring out how to deal with IF, what path to take). There are several I still want to add – Mrs Spit (IF, loss), Pamela Jeanne at Coming to Terms (CF after loss) among them. There are others I check up on, too – maybe this summer I can update! It is a gift to receive from everyone those nuggets of wisdom, hope, comfort, inspiration, faith. Sometimes I feel I can help in a way when I say a prayer for the blogger or friend engaged in battle. Sometimes I am changed by their perspective and honesty they share so generously.
It is amazing how many wise women there are in my life.