February 22, 2017

News and Notes

Happy Hump Day! Yes, it is Wednesday, and I am getting ready to head back to school for this short week. It was so nice having my Monday off. I was able to take care of many things that I had on my to-do list, and in all, I was able to rest well. I would love to have today off too, just to rest and relax, but I am content to get back into the swing of things today. Overall, I am a bit tired, but I feel well. I am also ready to make some life changes, so I guess that is a good thing.

It is a beautiful day here in sunny, and yes, warm Phoenix. The skies are clear and the air has a bit of a crisp chill to it. The day is looking to shape up nicely. I think our expected high is 72 -- almost perfect -- especially for February 23, 2017. It is a lovely day, and I am eager and excited for it. I have had some good news, and right now, I am feeling so blessed, so amazingly and wonderfully blessed. Selah!

Happiness, Peace, and Joy

On the news front, I received really good news from my professor yesterday. I didn’t have a conference call due to the exams taking place on campus, but I did receive confirmation on my chapter four rewrite. I am good to go, which just means that barring no unfortunate circumstances, I am ready to defend. I am working on finishing my chapter 5 rewrite today (I had hoped to finish it last evening, but I ran out of steam). In all, if I send my chapter 5 off today, my professor should green light me to defend the week of March 13th. This means that I am set as far as graduation goes. I just need to do the work to finish this dissertation up.

I am relieved, so relieved. With this good news, I can start to plan my trip. I can begin to envision an end in sight, and with that end comes brand new things -- a job, for one -- but also other new and exciting avenues, opportunities, and open doors. Thus, I am on the threshold, literally the threshold of my next adventure.

I used to think that my next adventure consisted of more school, you know, another degree past this one. But, in truth, I am pretty well done with school. I can remember how I said that I wanted to have all these degrees -- multiple Masters or PhDs. Well, that was before the dissertation, and frankly now, I cannot imagine going through this process again. Once is enough for me. Once is enough in a lifetime.

Now, however, I am content to be where I am. In fact, as I was waking up this morning, I said to the Lord, "Oh, thank you for my life today!" I had been thinking about my younger self, the young woman who wanted to become a teacher -- way back when -- but who chose to get married instead. I was thinking about what my life would have been like had I chosen that other path. I was thinking about how my life would have been blessed financially, materially, and that I would have had such a good life early on. But, then I realized that despite my choice to marry, and despite the heartache and heartbreak, my life has turned out well. I have a blessed son, whom I love, and I have such a good life now. Yes, right NOW. I may not have had the best life before, but God has turned my situation around completely, and the life I have now is incomparable. In truth, I have the best of both worlds. I was married. I had a child. I am now single. I still have that blessed child -- but now he is a young man. I am grown up, and I have handled the hardship and responsibilities of being a single parent well. Now my life is filled with new things, different things, and even though my life didn't turn out as planned (as in I didn't remain married), what I have to show for my life is significant.

My parents, for example, celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary yesterday. Fifty-eight years is a long time to be married, and praise God, they still love one another. I was thinking that this year, 2017, would mark my 33rd year of marriage, had my ex-husband chosen to remain with us and not follow after other women. Even in that thought, though, I realized that while I might be married for 33 years, I would not have the blessed change that I have now. You see, my ex-husband would not have allowed me -- and I say allowed as in given me permission -- to return to school. No way, no how. He says now, "I knew you could do it! I always knew you had it in you!" But this just belies the truth. He never wanted me to succeed in this way, and he forbid me to talk about returning to graduate school, becoming a teacher, and living out this outcome. So, in many ways, the life I have today is the result of that marriage failure. I became someone new as a result of his choice to walk away. In many ways, I became the person I was meant to be because what I am doing today is so much a part of me -- the inner me -- that I cannot even begin to describe what it means to me to do it. I love my work. I love being a teacher, and I can say that I am fulfilling my destiny. Unfortunately, the only way I was able to fulfill this destiny was to lose something that mattered so much to me. I had to be crushed, bruised, and broken in order to begin to see a new life, a new way, and receive a new hope.

I bear testimony that when things turn bad, when the world crushes you, the Lord can take the broken bits and pieces and create something beautiful from it. In truth, He makes beauty from the ashes of sin and sorrow. I am new because He allowed me, gave me permission, to restart my life.

I know that idea of restarting a life after marriage failure sticks in the craw (so to speak) of some conservative Christians. The idea of divorce is anathema to them, and no matter the circumstances, divorced people are some how "less" than ideal Christians. Yet, I can say that while I didn't see divorce coming, and in the dark days leading up to divorce, I didn't want it. In fact, I fought as hard as possible to avoid it, when it eventually came, the realization that I was stuck "in liminality" -- stuck between two states -- separated but still married. I had to make a choice; I had to choose to remain connected to a man who didn't want to live with me, remain married to me OR I had to walk into the unknown, trusting the Lord to provide a way for me.

I chose to trust the Lord. I chose to believe that the Lord was able to make my life better, to restore what was lost, and to give life back to what was dead. I chose to walk in faith, and in doing so, I chose a new way, His way, as my path to follow. And, seven years later, I can say that I am the better for that choice. My life has improved greatly as a single person. My life has improved 10-fold, no -- 100-fold -- over the life I once shared with my husband. My son is happy and content. He has a great path and plan to follow as well, and he is mentally, emotionally, and yes, spiritually thriving. My home life, while not perfect at this time, is improved as well. I have a good home, I have the comfort of my parents, and I have a nice quality of life.

In fact, I would say that I beat the odds when it come to life improvement after divorce. I am not sure of the statistics, but generally, it is said that men do better financially than women after divorce. Most women suffer with financial struggle, whereas most men, are able to move on with ease. Of course, this is not always the case, as my good friend will testify. Some men do not recover financially, but I think in the general case where the man has a good job and say the wife stays at home, doesn't work, etc., the divorced woman with children often does suffer more (financially, I mean).

Along these lines, there is research out of the UK that has suggested that while my statement that men and women differ on financial accounts post divorce -- women the study says -- appear to be better able to handle life change then men. Thus, according to a study conducted by Professor Yannis Georgellis, Director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society at Kingston Business School, the results showed that despite the fact that most women live longer in poverty, they are actually more happier after the divorce occurs (The Daily Mail, 2013). The study was based on "10,000 people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 60 who were regularly questioned and asked to rate their own happiness before and after major milestones in their lives" (para. 9). The research suggested that the reason why women fair better is because women cope better when major life change occurs. Furthermore, the study also revealed that for men, losing one's job is more significant than losing a spouse or a loved one. Thus, for men, divorce might not be as difficult if they have a solid job, a good income, and the means to financially carry on. As strange as this may sound, the study also suggested that women involved in an unhappy marriage see hope and possibility on the horizon after divorce. They look at it as though their life can only get better. In this way, many women in this study said they felt liberated after the divorce. 

With this aside, what is interesting to me is the fact that while I was devastated at the life change, I also saw the change as a positive one (after a time). My faith in God was integral to that sense of hope. I felt that if the Lord permitted this to happen to me, He had to have a good reason for it. I was not happy about the change, of course, and I didn't know what to do for a long while after it happened. But, I trusted the Lord enough to realize that no matter what happened to me or my son, there would be "life" after it.  This means that today, as I sit here and survey my life, I realize that I have learned to cope with this change, and instead of just moving on, making ends meet, I have embraced the change and worked hard to make a better life for myself. 

In this way, I have been able to adapt to being single much more readily than other people I know. For example, I know many divorced men and women who loathe being single. The long for companionship, and as such, they jump in and out of relationships -- hoping that the next one -- will be IT for them. I didn't do that, and while I read about the time it takes to realize closure after divorce (one study suggested it took 1 year for every 5 years of marriage before the divorced person can even begin to process the change), I took the time to wait for a relationship, to wait until I felt that I had no longer any animosity for my ex-husband, and where I could feel confident and comfortable engaging in relationship behavior. Unfortunately, for me, this has been more difficult than I thought. I had family and friends say to me, "You'll find someone else, Carol!" I didn't want to find anyone else, and often, I would say that to them. They would reply with, "In time, you'll be ready to move on," as if losing someone in divorce was just a matter of time until you could replace them with a newer model. In my view, I didn't want anyone at all. I guess that is the imperative here. I didn't want a husband. I had one already, and while my marriage wasn't great, it wasn't all that bad either. But, after experiencing a husband for nearly 26 years, I welcomed the freedom that came with being single. In this way, I was very content to be single for a long time. I was, and I still am, very content to do things "my way."

I guess all this is to say that as my life has changed, from ashes into this beautiful thing, I have come to realize how much I have endured and grown through the process. I have come to understand my needs and wants really well, and in that way, I have also come to understand what I no longer will put up with or accept (as in behavior, attitude or even personality). I simply am content to be on my own for ever. This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the differences between men and women, and that I don't enjoy relationships with men, because I do. It just means that I am not sure I want to endure another life change now. I am very happy with the direction of my life, the way my life is going, the prosperity I am experiencing, and well, I don't know if I want to let all this go. I feel like the Lord has set me free, and I don't want to exchange my freedom for any reason or anyone. This must sound really harsh, but after what I endured during my marriage, I simply am happy to be free. I am happy to be where I am, content in and through it all, and for that I thank the Lord for His goodness and His graciousness in my life.
In Closing

This day, I am thankful to the Lord for opening my eyes to see just how blessed my life really is, and for giving me the opportunity to explore and experience new opportunities and open doors. I am ready for His next steps, and that means that I am eager and excited to do what He is calling me to do. I want so much to go and do His work, and I want to enjoy my life -- my everyday life. I am content to remain as I am, to live and to do this good work, and I am happy, filled with peace and joy at the thought that this is the life the Lord has chosen for me. Selah!

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