June 18, 2016

Closure and Moving On

It is a blessed Saturday here in sunny and HOT Phoenix. The high today is expected to be in the mid-110s, so everyone is "battening down the hatches" in preparation for the day -- and -- the week ahead.

I have to admit that I do not like the summer time in Phoenix. I never minded it as much as when my parents had their pool. It was the highlight of the day to go over to their house for a late afternoon swim. We always had a lot of fun playing games in the pool and spending time with them (dinner, cards afterwards). Now, though, we live in a lovely rented home, but there is no pool for us to use on these awfully hot days. Still, God has provided a good place for us, and for that, I am thankful.

News and Notes

My interview went well yesterday, but I have no knowledge of whether or not I "passed" this first round. If the recruiter liked my answers (they were on video), then I will receive a phone invitation. I am not sure of the process, but I am guessing that once I interview with the recruiter, I would then pass to the next phase, which would be an in-person interview with the department manager or the team. I am feeling confident in some ways, and not-so confident in other ways. Yesterday, I had a great sense of peace about this decision. Today, doubts are starting to creep in, and I am second-guessing my decision to apply. The curious thing is that this is the first action I have received on an application for a full-time position. Most of the jobs I have applied for have not produced any results at all (nada, nothing). In some ways, I feel confident that this is what the Lord wants for me to do. But in other ways, I am wrestling with my decision to leave teaching, even though I see that path as non-viable now (for permanent, I mean). I simply feel that the door to teaching has closed on me, and while I am accepted at a couple schools, none of these schools will hire me for a full-time position. Perhaps in time, I mean, perhaps in several years -- but for now -- the best I can do is continue to work adjunct, and that is not going to provide enough income to cover my daily needs. Yes, the writing is on the wall; the obvious truth is evident. I just have to recognize it as such and then move on.

I hope to hear some positive news in the next couple days. I hope to be called for a phone interview, and then proceed through the process in ready fashion. I would like to have a "plan" in place by the end of the month (if possible), just so I can let the schools know I will not be able to teach for them. Common courtesy dictates that I need to give notice, and for schools, that means as much notice as possible so they can make other arrangements for staff. My prayer is that the Lord will cover me. He will provide a quick way out for me, and then make a smooth transition from one job to another. I need to know that I can wrap up this phase of my life and move on with the least amount of upset. I have my own worries, but I also do want to be considerate to the schools that were gracious to hire me to teach for them. I know the Lord knows my heart, and my prayer today is for His covering as I close out this way, and begin to travel on this uncharted path that leads to new adventures and exciting opportunities in my future.

In more sad news, I learned yesterday that my father-in-law was failing in health. This dear man has been a part of my life for now on 34 years. He was a big part of my young adult years, and he was an ardent supporter of my son, especially his music interest. I love this man, but over the course of the past few years, we have been separated by distance. It has been a difficult change to process, but because of my separation and subsequent divorce, our relationship ended. Today, I received the email saying that he was moved to hospice care. I anticipate that I will receive word soon that he has passed.

The funny thing is that my FIL has been near death for so long. It was back in 1993, when he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and disabled for life. He was a trooper, always a trooper. He lived a good long life, in less than ideal conditions, and always had such a beautiful outlook. I loved him, I still do, but as my life took such a difficult path, I found that the only way I could deal with the stress and strain of a broken marriage was to distance myself from my former in-laws. I did my best to remain connected, via email and cards, and an occasional phone call. My in-laws wanted me to visit, but it was awkward to do that considering that my ex-husband had other relationships. It was just difficult for me to continue to function in the role of daughter-in-law when there was no hope of my marriage ever being restored.

I think they finally understood that I need to break free from them, but it took time. I tried very hard to move on, and the only way I could do it was to create a barrier, to choose to disconnect myself from their family. My prayer today is that my FIL doesn't last long. He is ready to go home. He wants to go home, and it is time for him to be released. As my former uncle-in-law likes to say, "he is waiting to be promoted to glory." I pray it comes soon. He has tarried on this earth for 23 years in a disabled and difficult way, yet through it all, he never lost hope or his faith in his blessed Savior.

His death, signals for me, the first of many closed doors. It is the ending of a relationship, a strained and stressful relationship. My MIL is in very poor health too, and I would expect that she would pass soon after her husband. They have been married for 65 years and they always said they wanted to go to heaven together. My hope is that this is so. I pray for their release to come soon.

More Change Ahead

As I prepare for this new adventure, I realize that I have some emotional work to do so that I can close out my experience as a teacher, an instructor, a professor. This is an important step for me to take because in many ways, it is the ending of a long-awaited and deeply loved relationship. Yes, for me, the desire to be a professor has been something that has resonated inside me for 23 years. I can stretch that back further and say that I have had this desire to teach since I was a child. I was blessed to finally engage in the profession recently, and for the past three years, I have worked as an adjunct instructor at several schools in the Phoenix area. I have enjoyed my time as a teacher, loved my students, and valued the experience of learning how to create curriculum, present lectures, and affirm and encourage (mentor) students in academic writing. However, the downside of the profession has simply been the viability of the work. I think it is a sign of the times more than anything else. Colleges and universities are no longer hiring full-time faculty and are choosing to hire associate faculty (part-time) to fill gaps. This is a cost saving measure, and it is easier on the schools to manage part-time employees (no benefits to pay out, no long-term contracts, etc.). The rub is that right now there are hundreds, if not thousands of unemployed teachers out there. There are more applicants than jobs available, so the opportunities are limited. I found myself at the bottom of the pool, and that meant that without the requisite experience, I was often looked over quickly. My skills, my previous work history didn't matter at all. I simply didn't meet the needs -- specific, demanding, and required -- to be considered for employment.

I could wait things out, which has been my MO for the past three years. I knew I would need 3-5 years of experience before I would get hired to teach full-time. As I moved through my PhD program, however, it became more clear to me when I took a class on academic writing for publication. My professor, the associate dean of our school, taught the course and basically gave us the "inside track" on tenure positions. The truth was difficult to hear, and while not dashing our hopes completely, he was honest (he is a Godly man) with us. I appreciated his honesty, and I learned from him that perseverance and persistence does pay off.  But, I also learned that there is a point when a writer or scholar must cut their losses, when it is time to move on. He was blunt about it, and I think if anything, I realized that in the business of higher education, the process is often impersonal. It is important to remain objective, and not become emotionally invested in the work we produce. This means that it is important to realize that just because you may be emotionally attached to a particular thing, doesn't necessarily mean that a prospective employer or journal will have the same "value" attachment as you do. In short, it hurts to be criticized, to be looked over, to be left unrecognized, but it is part of the business of academic life.

Now that I have received interest (finally) regarding my resume and application, I am thinking about this process of leaving the past behind. I am thinking about moving on, moving into new places, new by-ways, and new experiences. I am thinking about change and how I don't really like change. I don't like closing doors. I don't like moving on, but sometimes you have to let go of your grip on old things so you can be free to receive new things. You can only hold onto so many things at once, and sometimes, you just have to let some things go.

Closure is Good, but Hard at Times

This line of thinking brings me to the topic of closure. In my view, closure is a good thing. Closure can bring healing when a relationship ends. In romantic relationships, closure typically is the first step taken after the break up. It involves an honest and open assessment -- by both parties -- as to why the relationship ended. It requires two people, who still care enough about each other to be direct, honest, and compassionate, in order to allow the process of closure and of healing to complete itself.

“Time doesn't heal all wounds, only distance can lessen the sting of them.” ― Shannon L. Alder

The saying, "time heals all wounds," is partly correct. Sometimes, time is not the healer at all, but rather it is the emotional unpacking of baggage, the distancing of the hurt, and the final "good bye" that allows the relationship to end. Sometimes relationships end, though, and there is no closure involved. This might be the case with a spouse who leaves, a boss who fires you, or a company that has laid you off. You are stuck not really knowing what you did wrong and why the relationship ended so badly. In other cases, you might be the one who hasn't experienced closure, and the reason may simply be an unwillingness on your part to let the relationship go.

Closure, no matter how it happens, is painful. It requires emotional work that for many of us, is often, neglected. The blessing of closure is that it can bring in healing, emotional healing faster, than if there is no closure at all. I read a quote by Ellen Goodman that I think offers good food for thought when it comes to this issue of closing doors and moving on. In many ways, her thoughts echo my own feelings of how closure should resolve itself. She alludes to the importance of validating the past experience, all the while, embracing future opportunities. Goodman says it this way when she writes,
“There’s a trick to the 'graceful exit.' It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.”
In this way, she is stressing that closure is part of growth, and that there is a push-and-a-pull aspect to it. In growth situations, there is always a component of pain. If you remember when you were 10 or 12, you may have experienced growth pains. I sure did. My legs would absolutely ache at night. I would cry out as I would have these sharp shooting pains in my calf and thigh areas. The doctor said to my parents that they should expect a "growth spurt." Sure enough, over the next few months, I sprouted up a couple inches. Growing is hard work, and there is always pain involved in the process.

The same is true for most life lessons. In my classes, my students will always tell me how hard their core subjects are for them. These classes are so much more difficult than the classes they took in high school. In order to pass these classes, these students must really study hard, process detailed information, and then retain it so they can move on to the next level class. It is a process of learning growth, and there is pain involved in moving from one level, say freshman to sophomore. The same can be said for the entire undergraduate experience. There is a big difference between that first freshman class and the last senior class. For most of us, the time in between was a time of refining, of learning, of growing, of changing. We matured between ages 18 and 22. Those four years were foundational to helping us grow up, to move from teenage to young adulthood.

So, closure, the ending of one relationship so another can begin, is a good thing. But for some people, closure never comes. Some people simply are not given the opportunity to experience closure. The relationship ended without any conclusion, without any sense of finality, without any words that say "it is over."

My Response

I've thought a lot about my response to this change in my life. In many ways, I think I have been in a state of change for the past six-seven years. In truth, my life began this massive swing toward change close to ten years ago. I have blogged about my life back then, how I was dealing with some trials in my marriage, and how out of the blue, my ex-husband suffered a heart attack and then a brain hemorrhage.  These two events triggered a cascade failure in my life. The medical emergency that started the process eventually created the crisis that undermined the integrity of my marriage. In causal analysis, the actual breaking point was a weakness, a structural weakness that when pressed hard, resulted in a catastrophic failure. In short, there was weakness in the structure, the foundation of my marriage. Although, my husband and I were both Christians and we were united in Christian marriage, structurally, our foundation was not unilaterally positioned in Christ. We were like a two-legged stool. One of us was seeking Christ, while the other was seeking the world. This push-and-pull resulted in tension and strain on the marriage, and when severe trial came against it, the weakness of the foundation gave way. It is like the Bible story of the man who built his house upon the sand. When the wind and the waves crashed against it, the foundation gave out, and the house was destroyed. Matthew 7:24-27 records the words of Jesus as He strongly taught on this precept:

“So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”

The wise man in this story is described as being far-sighted (future-oriented), practical, and sensible. The foolish man is called stupid (or ignorant). Jesus clearly instructs His followers to be like the wise man, and encourages them to build their faith on the ROCK rather than on the sand.

Likewise, in my own life, I witnessed first-hand the destruction of a house (a marriage) because the foundation was not set deeply on the rock, but rather was set on the shifting nature of the sand. The foundation gave way, and the house (the marriage) was destroyed.

Letting go of my marriage was difficult. I held onto it for a long time afterward, even when my ex-husband asked me for a divorce. I wanted to hold onto the past, despite the difficult aspects of it. It was my life, and I was unwilling to let it go. In the end, of course, I relented. I agreed to the divorce, and I processed the paperwork so I could move on. I closed the relationship at that time. I had a frank and honest conversation with my ex-husband. I didn't point fingers, accuse, or even strip him of his dignity. I simply accepted the fact that our relationship was valid, it produced results (a child), and as such there were good times mixed in with the bad times. I admitted my role in the failure, the ending of the relationship, and while he didn't come out to admit specifics, he did admit to the failure as well. In all, our frank, open, and honest conversation about the events provided the opportunity for us to move on. 

As I think about closure in this way, I realize that I have not always had closure in other areas of my life. In my work-life, I have walked away from jobs because of emotional issues -- hurt, pain, or even contention -- rather than leaving based on facts or rational decision-making. For example, I chose to leave University of Phoenix for physical reasons. I was not able to continue to do the work as required. It was physically taxing, difficult, so I looked for a less stressful job. The choice to leave UOPX was a good one since it was built on solid, rational reasons for doing so. Conversely, when I left CVS, I did so for emotional reasons. I was upset at the way the company handled the crisis we were in and the way they treated the people in my group. I left a good job because I was angry at the company for its perceived lack of justice.

This time around, my goal is to leave teaching as a profession for non-emotional reasons. I am not leaving because I don't enjoy the work. I am not leaving because I am upset at the lack of opportunities or for being passed over when I applied for work. Rather, I am leaving for rational reasons. There is a lack of job, lack of pay, lack of viability for advancement. I am leaving for good reasons that are valid. Furthermore, as I leave, I am validating the past, exploring the relationships that I formed with students, the blessing of learning how to teach and speak publicly, and the opportunities I experienced to participate in academic life. In all, the past three years were great in this regard. The only thing missing was regular, steady employment and a good solid paycheck.

Embracing Adventure

I blogged yesterday about how I saw my future, not as a easy downhill trek, but rather as a series of majestic climbs over difficult, rocky, and distant peaks. My future will not be easy for me. It will not be a cake-walk. It is going to be filled with challenging assignments, difficult tasks, and yes, even dark moments that will test and prove my faith. But, this is the case with all followers of Christ. Our walk, our faith journey, is not easy. While the Lord eases our burden, helps to carry our load, we are never promised an easy, carefree life. Instead, we are told from Scripture,

John 16:33 (NIV) "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

James 1:12 (NIV) "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor's crown, the life God has promised to those who love him."

1 Pet 4:12-13 (NIV) "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

Rev 2:10 (NIV) "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Thus, it is up to us to determine how we will view these trials, tests, and yes, even persecutions. Will we shirk back in fear, fade away or choose to turn and follow Him no more? Or will we press on, moving forward, eagerly waiting for the prize, the reward of our faith?

In my view, I have two choices right now. I can choose to see the closure of my time as a teacher in a negative way, as a bad decision or a poor choice. Or, I can see it as a learning lesson, an experience that helped make me into the person I am today. I can see it as a good thing, a blessed thing, and while I didn't earn nearly as much income as I would had I stayed in business, I certainly did gain valuable insight and developed relationships that were just as important, nay even as critical, to my development as a mentor and an exhorter for the Kingdom of Christ.

The next adventure is open-ended. I don't know how long the Lord intends for me to walk on this path. I have made the decision, though, that I would stay put simply because at this point in my life, I cannot keep changing jobs. I need to remain steady, and work at one job (emphasis, I mean) or one company. It is in my best interest to develop a longevity strategy that will provide for me long-term. Therefore, I am committed to following this path because it will provide well for my life. I have let go my emotional attachment needs, my desire for position, title, etc., if the motivation is to bolster my identity. My identity is founded in Christ, my foundation is set upon the bedrock of my faith in Jesus. I do not need a hat, a title, a placard to say "I am approved." He has approved me. He has called me a daughter of the King, thus I am already given the best title in the world. I am His child, a princess, and a joint-heir with Jesus. I need no worldly measures or means to say to me that I am well, I am good, or I am smart, educated, etc.

I am already all these things. I am well-educated. I am smart. I am good. I am well. But, not because of any achievement on my part, but only because of His abilities, His gifts, and His strength as it has been given to me. It is all of grace, and thus, I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the adoration this good, good day.

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