Chasing Contentment

Thursday, January 5

As we go through difficult situations, I have this image of myself standing still with winds swirling around me. But as I stand there, the air around me is still. That's my ideal... for me to be able to stand strong and firm in the calm of the eye of the storm, letting all of the difficulty and craziness swirl about me.

But that's ideal, and reality is rarely ideal, I find. The truth of the matter is that some days, the winds of difficulty knock me to the ground. And there are lots of days when I manage to keep standing but only with great effort and certainly not with much calm.

In my ideal image, there is this buffer zone of still air around me, protecting me from the raging winds. But in this reality, my hair's all messy from the wind whipping around me. Much as I'd like to think that we can avoid it, the truth of the matter - for my life at least - is that the external situations we deal with do, indeed, affect who I am.

Mike's been working on his doctorate for a very long time. Griff was in diapers and barely walking when Mike began his coursework, and now Griff is a second-grader. Mike and I have both been changed by this work of his, and our marriage has changed because of it, as well. Griff has been shaped by it. This is all he knows.

At dinner last night, we were doing our best and worst, and Mike talked about how he was coming along on the changes to his dissertation. I leaned over and asked Griff if he thought Mike would ever finish his degree, and Griff took a minute to think before answering.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "When he told us last time that he was going to be finished, I thought he would. But then he didn't, and now I don't."

We all kinda laughed, but I think his little muddled sentence sums up how this has affected us all. This little boy has been living this with us for so long that he's experienced the setbacks and the disallusionment of having something not happen at the right time. And now he's cynical. Seven-year-old cynicism is funny, but only to a point.

I want to be supportive of Mike and this never-ending endeavor, but, like Griff, I've been promised one time too often that this was it. And now, I'm not at all sure that I don't agree with Griff in his assessment of the situation. I've had a graduation card for Mike tucked away in a folder for more than two years now, having been told that I'd need it way back when.

I know that Griff and I sometimes feel battered and left alone by all of this work Mike's been doing for so long, but I also know that some days we do get that lovely little buffer of calm air separating us from the stormy winds. Poor Mike's out the being buffeted around in the storm all the time.

If I told the truth about it, I would have to say that I honestly can't imagine a life without this, simply because it has been our life for so long. And Griff and Eliza have never known a life other than this. When I was pregnant with Eliza, I cried for Griffin. Mike will be finished with this doctoral pursuit (in theory) by the time Eliza develops the cognitive ability to remember it. So she'll always have a daddy who had time for her. But my Griffin will always remember Mike being gone and Mike having to say 'no' so he could work.

And I flip back and forth between being sad for all of us and hopeful for Mike to finish. And some days, rather than going with one of those, I settle instead into angry... at how this has been and at how I wish it were over. (Those are usually the days when the winds knock me to the ground.)

One of the things I try to do is to look for God in all things, to look for His blessings where I wouldn't expect to find them. And the blessings I find in this are... my strong relationship with Griff, which might not be the same if we hadn't spent so much time alone together... my faith in a Heavenly Father who protects me even when I very much act like I don't deserve protecting... and a marriage that has withstood the winds of change and time and difficulty.

Some days, in both my ideal and real images, I'm not standing alone in the eye of the storm... Mike stands with me, holding my hand.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, January 05, 2006  ]


I envy how grounded you are in your faith. I was raised Christian and still have the beliefs. I just got so mixed up in all of the "knowing" that I lost sight of the "believing." I've stayed away from the church quite a bit over the past few years, in part because I wanted to have the chance to develop that personal relationship before involving others back into the mix. Your post reminds me of the praise song "If I Could Just Sit with You a While." I long to be able to experience that type of faith again, and I'm sure that I will. I've already begun the journey.

By Blogger me, at 10:37 AM  

Thank you. I tend to feel whiney when I talk about the doctoral journey we've been on. I appreciate that you see something different - better! - in these words.

Faith, for whatever reason, comes easy to me. I'm working on the knowledge part.

By Blogger Chel, at 2:25 PM  

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