Embracing Grief

Carla: Wow. I mean really, wow. The response to our post on jealousy is astonishing and challenging and inspiring and heartbreaking. Thank you all for your engagement and vulnerability. I know some of you have taken some hits and I am so glad you’re sticking around so we can all find our way through these issues together. Clearly, none of us knows quite what to do with the intense emotions that pool together to create jealousy and I’m grateful for the chance to work it out with all of you wise women and men.

Reading all of the comments and thinking more on my own, I’ve started to wonder if jealousy isn’t part of the grieving process. I realize that I wasn’t really jealous of other people when I was in my 20s and I think it’s because I just assumed my life would play out a certain way, that there would be a time when I would have or be or do all of the things I saw in other people that I wanted or admired. The future was wide open and I had no reason to expect that my life would be anything other what what I wanted it to be.

While I didn’t deal with jealousy, I did struggle with commitment. I had a terrible time finding a career path. I was hesitant to get married. I was iffy about kids. All of those things felt like a kind of death to me (bear with me here!) because chosing one thing–a graduate program, a husband, a pregnancy–meant not choosing so many other paths. Once I made those choices, that’s when the jealousy started to roll in.

For me, jealousy comes from seeing something I don’t have and knowing that I’m probably not going to have it–at least not for a very long time. What I feel isn’t really even envy. It’s sadness and loss and longing. I don’t begrudge other people having what I want, I am sad that I don’t have it myself. In other words, it’s grief.

So what if we started to think about jealousy in terms of grief? How would that change the way we experience jealousy? How would it change the way we talk to each other about it? When someone is grieving the loss of a parent or a child or a friend, we don’t tell them to get over it. We don’t tell them that they need to stop focusing on the loss of the person they loved. We give them space to talk about their loss, time to feel it and move through it. We wait patiently for them to come out on the other side, knowing they are different because of what they’ve lost.

I truly believe that the loss of a dream, the loss of our hopes for what we thought our lives would look like is a very real loss, a very real death. There are losses that come from being married and realizing your relationship is never going to be what you hoped it would be. Or the loss that comes with becoming a mother and finding out that you don’t love it or that it’s hard or that you aren’t the mom you wanted to be or that your kids aren’t who you thought they would be. There is the loss that comes when we try to develop close friendships and they just don’t seem to come–believe me I’ve been there. Sometimes we can’t even name what’s been lost, we just know the life we have is not the one we planned on. We don’t feel these losses all at once, but a little bit at a time, sometimes over years and years.

So I wonder if the way through our jealousy is to figure out what we’ve lost, to name it and grieve it and find a way to let ourselves be changed because of it. And when I say figure out what we’ve lost, I mean really dig in. My therapist once told me that the two most basic human needs are to be known and to feel like we matter. I wonder if most of our jealousy comes from those needs.

Today, I am jealous of my friend who’s husband is whisking her off for a kid-less weekend at a resort in the woods. My husband, dear sweet fellow that he is, will never do that. But my longing for more romance in my marriage is not really about romance. It’s about wanting to feel like I matter. So I need to figure out how to get that need met in the marriage I have, not the marriage I wish I had.

While I’ve been writing this, Cindy posted this comment on our previous post:

“When we are jealous of someone, does longing for the thing that triggers that jealousy mask a deeper longing for something else, like connectedness, a place in the world, significance, being the most important person to someone else, a need to be needed, a longing to leave something behind that will outlast us. And instead of being able to accurately recognize what we’re longing for, we long for the symbol of that thing we see that someone else has. The longing is real and legitimate, but God may have a different way of fulfilling that longing for us than the thing we see on someone’s facebook status.”

I think it’s time for Cindy to be a guest blogger.

Caryn: If I were to tell you that I’ve just been writing about grieving—as a foundation to loving life—you probably wouldn’t believe me. (Thank goodness my writer’s group saw early drafts of this last month—-a good timeline in case Carla decides to sue, thinking I stole her idea!)

But the need to grieve has been on my mind a lot lately–because like you and Cindy and a lot of other insightful Revolutionaries commented, I know this jealousy thing that tends to consume me is a flag for something else: the yearning for life I thought I’d have, the life I wanted (and sometimes still want), or even the life I used to have.

So it occurred to me somewhere in the midst of my pain and loss and jealousy (and this is what I’m in the middle of writing about right now on the other project) that grieving what was or what I dreamt might be is more than just okay; it’s actually GOOD to do.

So I’ve done it. I’ve almost forced my “just suck it up and press on” Swedish self to enter into grief, to feel pain, to cry even, about these things in life (the dreams and all) I really thought I wanted but haven’t panned out. I’ve taken it to God, and literally prayed, “This isn’t how it was supposed to be/feel/whatever, and this SUCKS!” It’s kind of a low-country version of Psalm 88.

And I think God really likes these prayers—at least we’ve seen him honor these prayers of some Bible hero types. And I know he’s honored mine. While it may seem like a whiney exercise to engage the Almighty in, I think it’s just an honest lament of a broken, confused woman. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:3-4).

I’ve got to tell you, when I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge what the jealousy usually was about (as you point out so wisely: a real loss) and grieve, when I’ve allowed my spirit to be poor and allowed my heart to mourn, I’ve felt those blessings.

Sorry to totally sap out on you here, but honestly some of the biggest blessings of my life—some fulfillments of my longest-held dreams—were born directly out of some serious crap, major pain, and some deep disappointment. One of those blessings was the book I just wrote (nothing like an identity crisis combined with a desperate need for money to force you to sit down and get writing!). 

 Another one was  just about feeling God’s nearness and his comfort, being amazed by grace, truly falling head over heels for Jesus. Something I’d long wanted to do, but something that’s harder to do when everything’s peachy. (Which is WHY people say religion is a crutch for the weak, I realize. But they just don’t know….)

It took my deep, messy, angry-lunatic grief to get to know that God. I’m glad I did—though I DO wish I could’ve gotten to know him without my parents splitting up and WITH a nice lake house. Just sayin’. 

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24 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kristi on February 21, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Well spoken. My thoughts have been circling around the same idea- well, two ideas: that jealousy is born of grief and/or an unrealistic expectation. When I am able to really look at what and when I feel jealous, I can usually filter it down to one of those two things.

    The jealousy that is inspired by the myth of the perfect housewife and mother- well, that is easy to dismiss when identified. I will never, can never, and never really want to be Martha Stewart meets June Cleaver. Stereotypes just don’t work when creating real-world expectations. My feminist background has given me plenty of practice dismissing those…

    However, the jealousy that is inspired by something deeper inside of me, something I feel is truly missing in my life or which needs to be mourned, that is tougher to dismiss.

    Sometimes, I get terribly jealous of my sister- tall, lean, blonde, married rich, drives super-expensive cars, never worries about anything. Then I realize that it is just because her life seems easy when mine has been so hard. I have had to fight tooth and nail for every little thing I have (not talking material goods here). Society rewards her for traits she had no involvement in developing- beauty.

    However, the funny thing is that when this little green monster starts gnawing on my shoulder, I remember how jealous she is of me- academically inclined, a life full of family, a husband who values and loves me, children to snuggle at night, friends, and sincere well-wishers, and that I am valued for my personhood and not for my breasts.

    When I compare the two, I realize that I am by far the richer of the two of us. Her life is actually pretty empty- Coach looks good in a Porche, but honestly how happy will it make you in the long run? My life is full to the brim with love, her’s barely scrapes temporary acceptance from recent acquaintances.

    I also was initially a little jealous of friends when they bought houses, decorated them with nice coordinating furniture and settled in… until I realized that I was not jealous of their innate talents for interior decorating. I was jealous because I thought that those things symbolized “adulthood,” while my hodge-podge artsy and often recycled/freebie décor screamed “dorm-room chic.” Besides, coordinating, intentional décor sends the message that the lives in that house are planned out somehow, on track, decided. It was a world of stock options and retirement savings. In contrast, my world was one of living week to week on dreams and Ramen. I have since realized that adulthood takes many forms, not just the veneered Pottery Barn version, and that my house is actually far less hodge-podge than I thought.

    So, I guess what I am saying is that I agree with you- grief is huge in resolving the jealousy. However, it takes some courage to find out what it is that is really being mourned. I mean, referring back to the FB discussion, do you really care who baked cookies today or went to the museum? Or are you projecting values into those statements such as “she is a better mother than me,” “she likes spending time with her kids more than I do,” “She can afford those pricey museum admissions,” or other statements that really have nothing to do with the commenter’s life or intentions?

    It is difficult and constant work in a world of commercialism, material value statements, and hugely unrealistic expectations on what can really be accomplished in a day. However, I am grateful every day for having had a hard start to adulthood- it created a different level of values in my life that I am not sure I would ever have had if I were not forced to take a hard look at what is really important.

    When looking jealously at the good, try to remember the real-world environment in which that snapshot was taken- homemakers spend more time with their children but crave adult relationships. Working mothers spend time being productive in a workplace, doing lunches, and making phone calls that are not interrupted by tantrums, but they often wish for more time with their children. Rich people can buy anything they want, but get caught up in materialism (often, not always.) The less wealthy can’t buy anything but value the things in their life far more.

    You see someone who took their child to the museum? Remember, that also includes dealing with naptimes while out, packing lunches, publicly changing diapers or breastfeeding, lugging around a diaper bag and seeing the same exhibit they have seen 100 times yet again while pretending to be amazed. Baking cookies? That is amazing- but I would hate to do all those dishes tonight, thank you very much! Promotion? It feels great to be rewarded for your work- but does this mean less time at home or more stress on the job?

    No one has it perfect.

    Disclaimer: I realize this is full of generalizations. They are just being used so I don’t spend a ton of time tiptoeing around an idea to be PC. Please understand that I know that nothing is true for everyone in any group. I am certainly not trying to be offensive.

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  2. Posted by April G. on February 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Embracing Grief – what a topic! This is one dear to my heart because I think embracing pain and grief is probably one of the healthiest and best things we can do in our lives. Unfortunately as a society (especially in our culture) we tend to run from anything that causes pain. My husband often talks about a book entitled Pain, the Gift Nobody Wants. It is written by a man who did a lot of ground-breaking work with lepers. They found that lepers lost limbs and eyesight because they could not feel pain and therefore caused lasting damage to their bodies. For example, lepers lose the uncomfortable feeling of dryness in eyes that causes us to blink. Therefore, they do not blink. Dust and dryness eventually cause blindness. Lepers in India would often wake in the morning to find fingers or other body parts missing. They could not feel the rats eating them in the night. I know this is a strong and powerful image. But I think not allowing ourselves to feel pain does the same thing to our inner selves. We slowly die inside because we close the doors to emotion and the grief eats us alive. When we embrace grief in our lives and the lives of those around us, we open the door to real relationships. There is no room for hostile jealousy because we see beyond our walls to the real person.

    My sister came out for to visit me before my wedding several years ago. It was less than a year after her son died. She was miserable, and she wanted everyone else to be also. She complained about everything, and we ended up in some pretty good fights. It finally dawned on me that she was constantly complaining because she was in pain and she needed us to feel that pain as well. I sat down with her, and we had an honest conversation about it. I called her out on her complaining and told her why I thought she was doing it, and we cried together over the loss of her son. She needed me to embrace her pain with her. Things weren’t perfect after that, but something changed and it was much different. The people I know in my life who are the most sensitive and loving are the ones who have gone through the greatest pain and have embraced rather than run from it. (Several of them have lost children.) There is a tenderness in brokenness that nothing but grief can give us. Those are the people in my life that reached out to my sister in her loss. Their pain allowed them to offer her comfort.

    Kristi, your sister never worries about anything? Really? At least one of you is lying.

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  3. Posted by April's Sister on February 21, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    April is right. When I came to visit her, I was miserable. I was so absorbed in my own grief and sadness and longing that it was hard to celebrate anyone else’s happiness; even when that happiness was for my sister’s wedding.

    So I was jealous of her happiness and I struggled with the part of me that loves my sister and wants her to be happy, and the part of me that was hurting and aching for a piece of that happiness that I used to know and wanted for myself.

    At least now, I am able to honestly celebrate her blessings and her joys, but that doesn’t mean I don’t long for what she has. But that is okay, because I know I am blessed in other ways.

    And let me just say, that this has also proved a blessing for me. Because while I know that others on this blog may not know the pain of losing a child, they do understand loss and grieving in their own way. And as Thomas Jefferson once said, “Who then can so softly bind the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself?”

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  4. Posted by Bookgirl on February 21, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    April: You’re reading my mind again. Sheesh. Stop it! But that very book and its companion, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” completely shifted my ideas about pain and suffering. They are two of the strongest books on the subject I’ve ever read.

    “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” goes through every system in the human body, offering spiritual parallels. It’s a tiny but profound book.

    The first is a little difficult to track down because it was later published under a new title.

    http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Pain-Paul-Brand/dp/0310221447/ref=pd_sim_b_1

    http://www.amazon.com/Fearfully-Wonderfully-Made-Philip-Yancey/dp/031035451X

    And if you don’t have time for the books, reading a little bit about the pioneering leprosy doctor is worth a few minutes of your day.

    http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/4786.htm

    Carla and Cindy: Thank you for another thought-provoking post.

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  5. Posted by Bookgirl on February 21, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    I think my comment got lost, so forgive me if this appears twice, in different forms, but April is reading my mind again.

    The book she mentioned is a favorite of mine, but it’s hard to track down because the title has changed.

    “The Gift of Pain,” By Paul Brand and Philip Yancey — and its tiny companion: “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.”

    Both of them changed my perspective on pain dramatically.

    Paul Brand was an amazing man.

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  6. Posted by Bookgirl on February 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Carla and Cindy: Another great post.

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  7. Posted by Kristi on February 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I am sure she does, but that is why I wrote the disclaimer at the bottom… 😉

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  8. Posted by April G. on February 21, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    I thought I would share what is probably my favorite passage in the Bible. It has given me comfort and hope since I was a child. My sister and I endured quite a lot growing up. Our parents divorced when we were very young, and we lived with our mother who was mentally ill and an alcoholic. I often struggled to find some meaning in it all. This passaged helped me find some. It comes from the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. It really applies to the acceptance of grief theme. Until we embrace our grief, we cannot reach out to those around us. (Hey, even Paul was suicidal at times!)

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
    We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

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  9. Posted by Cindy on February 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    There’s a phrase that’s kind of rambling around my scattery brain: the emptiness of the charmed life.
    No one has a perfect life, but some sure do seem easier than others. But for those of us not charmed, there’s something truly wonderful that can happen amidst the grief and pain. Depth. The more we have to struggle and cope and submit and fight our circumstances, the stronger we are. Unless we surrender to despair, we come out the other end rich beyond measure. More honest, more compassionate. Kind of like a spoiled child; if he doesn’t have to work for it, he doesn’t value it.
    A really bad example: my 18-year-old has been a gymnast for 10 years. Up until a year-and-a-half ago he worked out 20 hours a week. He loves high bar and put in lots of extra time on that. His hands were caloused beyond belief. It was the calouses , in part, that made him able to be good at high bar. Last week he went to an open gym for the first time in 18 months and swung high bar. He did some tricks, still had the timing and strength, but his hands ripped and bled and he couldn’t last very long.
    Maybe that doesn’t work too well–I mean, being caloused has a negative meaning. But I think you get what I mean. Suffering creates a toughness that makes it possible to endure. And yet, the endurance makes (or should make us) tender to the suffering of others. There should be a companionability that comes from having endured, and we can come alongside each other and help each other to endure.
    It’s late, I’m tired. Forgive me if I’m not making sense. I value all the wisdom I see here. Thanks!

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  10. Posted by Bookgirl on February 21, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    No Cindy, you make a lot of sense. That’s a very good example.

    Here’s another, from nature:

    I live in a cold climate. When I moved here, I learned a lot about gardening. I learned that a few of the plants I grew up with would not survive here. But on the other hand, peonies, lilacs and tulips won’t grow without the cold and dormancy of winter.

    And every time there’s a devastating wildfire (in the west, here in Minnesota in the BWCA), we read about the seedpods and plants and flowers that emerge only because they’ve been through the flames.

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  11. Posted by Bookgirl on February 21, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    I would love to hear people’s thoughts on Carla’s point, here:

    ————————————————————-
    “So what if we started to think about jealousy in terms of grief? How would that change the way we experience jealousy? How would it change the way we talk to each other about it? When someone is grieving the loss of a parent or a child or a friend, we don’t tell them to get over it. We don’t tell them that they need to stop focusing on the loss of the person they loved. We give them space to talk about their loss, time to feel it and move through it. We wait patiently for them to come out on the other side, knowing they are different because of what they’ve lost.

    I truly believe that the loss of a dream, the loss of our hopes for what we thought our lives would look like is a very real loss, a very real death.”
    ———————————————————
    Because I think in our culture, and in our churches, even those BIG losses, the deaths of loved ones, are glossed over. We don’t MEAN to do it, but we do. And yes, some people and some churches are better at dealing with grief than others. But a lot of it isn’t handled very well.

    And then I think of all the other losses … dreams, breakups, even just life’s routine disappointments … I especially think of my friends experiencing job losses right now. And I know I posted on this before, but it seems like in church, we’re so quick to hear: “Get over it and praise God! Enough grief already!” And maybe that’s not the intended message, but I think that’s what people hear.

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  12. Posted by April G. on February 22, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Bookgirl,

    I agree to a point that those things are glossed over, but I really think it depends on the church and the person. Again, when my nephew died, the church of the school I worked at (I didn’t even attend there) really rallied around my sister and her family. They sent the pastor for the weekend to another state to minister to her and do the funeral. The ladies who had lost children got together with her to pray with and minister to her. Some of them still send her cards on special days. The principal’s sister (who I didn’t even know!) spent a whole day with me putting together a collage of pictures. I could go on… It was truly unbelievable. On the other hand, the church I was attending at the time was large, and I didn’t really feel connected there. Nobody did anything. The people I knew there didn’t even want to talk about it because it seemed to make them uncomfortable. It was night and day…

    Ok…I had more thoughts, but my family is asking for buttermilk-wildrice pancakes. (Don’t be jealous!)

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  13. Posted by Bookgirl on February 22, 2009 at 10:59 am

    April, I’ve been in both kinds of churches. Pastoral care and community are beautiful gifts. But sometimes I’ve seen more understanding of grief in the secular workplace, actually, because people aren’t so quick to throw a “Christian” platitude at you. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty extraordinary displays of community on the job.

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  14. Posted by Jorie C. on February 23, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Talking about jealousy in terms of grief is very different than beating it down with prayer and self-discipline.

    My first instinct is dual: It makes gut-sense and the 2 feel as related as you’ve so eloquently described. In addition, though, equating ‘petty jealousy’ to grief feels self indulgent and overly self involved– it’s giving in to the baser, dissatisfied impulses that lurk behind all these corners and statuses and relationships. Grief is supposed to be for things that aren’t your fault– people dying, something failing after you’ve done all you can, etc. It’s not for me feeling like my life is over at 31 because it’s not what I thought and she convinced me to trust that she’d be there and now she’s not, and I don’t know how to summon up the wherewithal to be about something else.

    Focusing on the behavior modification approach to jealousy only seems to go so far though, obviously. It leads to comparing yourself to others who are worse off in order to force gratitude, and that has never sat right. “well, you’re a little overweight but at least you’re not that guy” etc.

    I don’t think I’m right about this; I have this fear of being consumed with myself and my needs and spiraling into this person who can’t see beyond their own nose. Not acknowledging yourself though, and the reasons behind stuff – this just seems to contribute to the cycle. Ugh.

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  15. Posted by Robyn on February 23, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I’m struggling with this conversation, and here’s why. Historically, I’ve been very hard on myself. I’ve hated myself for not being perfect. I’ve been clinically depressed and suicidal. I’ve slogged through self-doubt, battled my own expectations and those of society, beaten myself up over every real (and perceived) flaw and mistake.

    And now, I’m mostly content. I like myself. I’ve embraced my choices, and I feel confident in them. I’ve acknowledged the sadness of opportunities lost, mistakes made (even big ones), paths not taken. I revel in my blessings: a fulfilling career, a good husband, a daughter I love with my life. Yes, we have a lot of debt that we are clawing our way out of. Yes, I get tired and stressed and overwhelmed. My life is far from perfect. Honestly, sometimes I am afraid I should hold tight to this season in my life so that I can remember it when the hard times come again. But, I’m happy.

    Is it wrong for me to be happy? Does it mean my life and my character lack depth? Should I feel guilty about this when confronted with someone who is going through trials?

    P.S. I have found my experience with those who are grieving very different from what others are describing. Grief, pain–it seems more like people are hesitant to express them because that expression makes us vulnerable to rejection, but when they are expressed in my circles (friends, small group, family) the reaction is overwhelming empathy, comfort and support rather than platitudes.

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  16. Posted by Bookgirl on February 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Robyn: From what you’ve posted, I seriously doubt that you lack depth. It sounds like you’ve slogged through a lot and have a huge amount of empathy and compassion. I hope you keep posting.

    I have seen grief handled well, but I’ve definitely seen the opposite too: Platitudes, mostly because I believe people really don’t know what to say.

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  17. Posted by Cindy on February 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Robyn,

    I sounds like you’ve done the hard work and come out the other end. That doesn’t mean you won’t have more to work out, but it does mean that you can be a wonderful encourager to those still trying to put the pieces together.

    You aren’t shallow at all! You’ve worked really hard and are bearing fruit now. You’re perspective is valuable. You didn’t arrive at the place of relative content without exploring why you were depressed!

    To me there are two levels of this kind of jealousy. on the one level, there’s the “Oh, I love that dress. Wish I’d look that good in it. I hate her!” Not, of course, really hating her, but wishing I could pull it off. Dwelling in this place is selfish, I think.

    Then there’s the gut-wrenching longing, not for a dress, but for a life that reveals, when we look, a deep grief in our life. One needs to dwell here for awhile, in order to take a good, hard look at what the real issue is and deal with it. Often we need help with that. There is surrender and tears, then the long, slow climb to health. To stay here longer than necessary would, I think, but selfish and self-indulgent. But to do the work, and then move on produces good fruit.

    The people in our lives who have been there and done that are more likely to be comfortable with our grief. Most people aren’t–they are uncomfortable because it makes them look at their own lives. We need to make sure that we’re tender with those who are in the depths, however it expresses itself.

    Now, back to work!

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  18. Posted by Robyn on February 23, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I suspect we have more than one “Kristi” commenting here, and a surname initial might help?

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  19. Posted by Kellie on February 24, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Carla’s statement about not wanting to choose a life path due to the possibility of excluding other options has created a minor firestorm in my brain. I want to raise my children that suggests that living life has compromises. I don’t feel like I had that. I was teethed not so much on the American Dream as the Rugged Individual, the idea that any person if they put their will and determination to it could have the life they wanted. Though a housewife, my mother was a child of the 60’s and a strong woman who raised a couple of strong girls with the idea that we could be anything we wanted to be and that your career will fulfill you. I could have pursued music but didn’t want to practice 8 hours a day, almost went into academics but recognized that the competitive field was not making me more gentle & caring. Today I am working a job in a field I never expected and I stay here because of the work environment and the people but mostly because it pays the bills. My son spends his days with another woman & I am thankful that we have found a loving home environment if he has to be away from family. My life is full and I feel fulfilled through my family & friends (I don’t believe anymore that everyone is blessed with the opportunity to be fulfilled in their work)…except that sometimes I look at everything I could have been or could have done or could have had and it makes me sad. I was told I could have it all, even as a woman, but no one ever mentioned the compromises, that in life you have to give a little and sometimes a lot, to get what you want. I wouldn’t go back on the sacrifices I made and I would still refuse the sacrifices that were too much for me. Still some days I feel compromised instead of the radiant champion of my world and I feel cheated.

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  20. I just read the following passage in Joy Jordan-Lake’s book _Working Families_ and thought it was appropriate to the discussion. The quote is from Peggy Wehmeyer, former ABC News religion correspondent and currently the spokesperson for World Vision:

    “You have to grieve those dreams you can’t pursue, what you lose, and be grateful for what you have. Demanding to have it all is what children do. Being a mom and being a professional are both callings, but you have to know ahead of time where you first calling is. You can’t wait until they collide.” As her life and her commitment to her own family demonstrate, at some point all parents must give up something—or lots of somethings—in their professional lives. But, she added, “Only grieving what you’ve given up makes you cynical and negative; only being grateful means you’re in denial. You have to grieve AND be grateful and hold those in tension.”

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  21. Posted by Jennifer on February 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

    -Jorie (cool name) I agree with your struggle with the topic….I too have a fear of being self-indulgent. When I have been jealous I have found that if I dig deep to find out what the root is sometimes I find it’s just plain materialism, or vanity, or ingratitude that is driving my emotions.

    Discovering what is sin and what is legitimate longing/grief takes work! It’s unpleasant to find shallow and selfish things about myself. I would like to think I am above being jealous of my friend’s legs (seriously, I have this friend with AMAZING legs; when she wears shorts I turn green, try to hide my varicose veins and tell her she should have been a Rockette) but alas, I am not.

    Now, about the all too real topic of grief… I have always thought that eventually grief made you stronger, more resilient. Has anyone else found that it has made you more vulnerable? I sense this weakness in myself that I never experienced in my 20’s. The more pain I experience the more sensitive I am to it and it feels somewhat like I can’t fully recover.

    Am I doing something wrong? I pray, forgive, seek forgiveness, restoration… When do I toughen up and accept the world as a hard place to be?

    Reply

  22. Posted by Robyn on February 24, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    As soon as I said that I am happy and content, I find myself today awash in jealousy of friends who don’t carry the (enormous) debt that we are slowing climbing out of and who speak of pregnancy so casually that it makes me want to cry. And I find that this blog and its wise commenters are getting me through today, helping me recognize that this is what I am feeling,

    “For me, jealousy comes from seeing something I don’t have and knowing that I’m probably not going to have it–at least not for a very long time. What I feel isn’t really even envy. It’s sadness and loss and longing. I don’t begrudge other people having what I want, I am sad that I don’t have it myself. In other words, it’s grief.”

    So I come to this, “Only grieving what you’ve given up makes you cynical and negative; only being grateful means you’re in denial. You have to grieve AND be grateful and hold those in tension.”

    And that is where I am determined to rest. But it’s a DAILY struggle that ultimately I hope will draw me closer to my Father, who loves me NO MATTER WHAT.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Bookgirl on February 24, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Wow, ladies. Thank you so much for your honesty.

    I love this forum.

    Reply

  24. Posted by smile4ang on February 24, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Grieving can be so hard. I feel that not only do I have to permit myself to grieve, and it is not easy. Reading the earlier comments about pain (lepors) I wonder if that lack of pain is depression, when we don’t allow ourselves to properly grieve, we become numb and mangled. I struggle with this. I work in a profession where children are suffering, and sometimes they die, this is very hard, but if I beacme a blubbering idiot every time my patient’s condition worsened, I would be useless as a nurse. I have found that this leads to pent up grief that finds very odd times to be released, and also to numbness. I do feel very sad, but I do not allow myself to express it very often, and I think this is partially a learned response (think platitudes). I love the passage from Paul earlier, and the other great insight here. I will have to get those books about leprosy, I find them very interesting. I think that this is more than a blog , it is building a community, thanks for letting me in:)

    Reply

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