“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
I have been thinking a great deal about change and about relationships. I understand that both of these continual factors in our lives are hard, but how meaningless and dull would life be without them. Yet, these two things, more than any other, can often make us feel as if we live lives of quiet desperation. I am going through a season of endings right now. I am feeling as if the time to grieve what was isn’t long enough, or poignant enough to close that chapter. Sometimes things that feel as if they should be a celebration turn into something that breaks your heart. Other times things that feel as if they should break us actually rejuvenate and free us. A friend of mine expressed these feelings to me this way, “I can’t be in the life I have, because I’m stuck in the life I don’t have.” I found that poetic.
I graduated with my Masters this past May and began the process of job hunting after a six year sabbatical from the official work force. I have spent day after day, sitting at my computer, working at reinventing myself for this new economy, decade, millennium. I have submitted resume after resume, job application after job application, to no avail. My ex and his girlfriend had expressed in the past the desire to have the boys and I closer to them. On my graduation weekend, he sat down and talked to me, issuing a very gracious invitation to come to Knoxville and asking me if I had a drop-dead date in mind to make a decision. I said, “July 15th.” Graduation day was bitter sweet as I sat with my cohort waiting to take my walk and be hooded. Something I had deeply enjoyed was ending and the future seemed very unclear. As we prayed the invocation I whispered these words to God, “Lord, I need a job by July 15th. If I don’t get one, I will accept that for some reason I cannot see, you want the boys and me in Knoxville.” With those words I threw my hopes, my dreams, my future up to the heavens and breathed in the “peace that passes all understanding.”
Since May 5th, I have hung onto that peace fairly well. I have had moments of depression, as each day, I looked at my e-mail and still had no response to my resumes, but they didn’t last. When July 15th came I wrote out my official notice to vacate to my landlord. I cried, a little. There were some frantic phone calls to friends and family during the weeks surrounding that decision. I realized that I was giving up the freedom and independence I had fought so hard for in a city I love. For a brief moment in time, God had graced me with everything I had wanted. I had the house at the beaches, just a bike ride to sand and surf. I had a close circle of smart, spiritual, educated and intuitive friends. My kids were thriving at school and in their youth group at church. The one thing I lacked was steady income in a meaningful, new career.
The thing about change in our lives is that they often touch more lives than just our own. In the case of deciding to move the decision not only affects me but my boys, their dad, and his girlfriend. It was four conversations that gave me clarity regarding my feelings about this move. The first one was with the ex. He tends to beat people over the head with the logic stick and I tend to make decisions from an emotional place. He called me and proceeded to pummel me with logic, which made me feel as if I was being belittled and attacked. This only made me more emotional about my concerns and sadness over the move. In turn, this only frustrated him. It was a non-productive phone call.
I then called my niece and she brought some things to light that gave me some clarity. She said that I had the boys for the hard months of the year, when life was full of school, and that the ex had them for the good times, like holidays and the summer. Their life with me was all work and no play; and their life with their dad was all play with no resemblance to reality. Additionally, when they were with their dad I had no control and no input on their behaviors and activities. My values and beliefs weren’t represented. By closing the physical gap between their dad and myself it forced a balance in their lives where both parents had to honor and respect the wishes of the other. She said, “You’re lucky that you and he can discuss the boys calmly and respectfully. You are lucky that you still care for each other enough to maintain a relationship for the good of your kids. This is a blessing.” I had to admit that she was right.
The next conversation was with his girlfriend who I called to discuss openly my concerns. I will have to live with them for an indefinite period of time until I get a job. The potential for drama is limitless. I don’t think it’s fair to her or me, but there is no other way to make this move. She acknowledged my concerns and admitted that she shared them with me. However, she said, “Rhoda, I can’t get past the feeling that the only way to make this new situation work for all of us the way you want it to work, is for us to be together. Sometimes, you have to welcome the drama, then face it, to get over the past and create a better tomorrow.” I like her. She is often very wise. She also said, “When Richard hung up the phone with you he started crying and said, ‘This is my fault. I did this.’ So, honey, he gets it and wants to make things better.” One day he will find a way to say those things to me, but I was grateful none the less.
Finally, I talked to my boys. I expressed my sadness and my concerns. They listened like men and remained calm and objective. When I asked them, “How do you feel?” They said, “We like Knoxville and would really like both of our parents to be a daily part of our lives.” They want both parents at band concerts and football games. They want both parents with them to celebrate their birthday and the fourth of July. They understand why their dad and I aren’t together, probably better than I do, but don’t want to give up their sense of family. Thankfully, I have raised them with big hearts, where love is freely given and there is always room for one more.
Since that conversation a couple of things have happened that made me feel lighter and more hopeful. On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, I finalized my divorce. The night before I felt a little grief over what might have been; but, as I walked out of the courthouse on that bright morning all I felt was relief. There really isn’t anything left now for the boys dad and I to argue about. Joy Bevere once said, “When you face the thing you fear, you become fearless.” My divorce was my greatest fear. Facing that fear and accepting that failure has made me fearless.
The boys and I wrapped up a two weekend garage sale and started loading what was left into the van to donate to charity. The next day we moved the boxes we had packed into the garage and, even with the bulk of my household goods stacked in there, it felt empty. Letting go of what no longer serves you can help you see the possibilities. As the boys and I stood looking at the garage I said, “I’m getting kind of excited.” Then Adam responded, “That’s so good. It’s so much better to be excited than it is to be sad.” What a wise son!
God is deeply concerned about relationships – our relationship with Him and our relationships with each other. It is why He created us and why He sent His Son to us. Changes in ourselves and in our lives often can make or break those relationships. Those changes that signify an ending are often the hardest ones to face. The end of school, the end of a marriage, the end of a career, the end of a time spent in a specific house or city, can send us into turmoil, leaving us to emote all over our relationships. Times of change, or lack of change, can make us feel that we are living lives of quiet desperation, but like Adam said it’s better be excited than to be sad. It is also good to remember the second part of Thoreau’s statement. Despite our moments of desperation most of us will go to our graves with the song still in our hearts, and that is a very good thing.
Check out these two boards on my Pinterest Account that illustrate changes in my life – the boards are a tool for processing and assessing my life changes. They are a work in progress so click the follow button to join me on this journey!
Make a list of your major life changes and how long ago they occurred – Change affects our stress level and stress affects our state of mind, our health and skews our perspective. After evaluating your life changes make a list of good things you can do to alleviate stress and calm your spirit.