I am a planner.
I like to put order and organization into my life. I am also creative and spontaneous, and if I start a project, I often find myself bored of it half way through, needing a distraction before finishing. (Thus, I am a fantastic multi-tasker. And, sadly, have a load of projects I’ve started and not finished to prove it).
But, back to the planning.
I think I can safely say that we all have ‘plans’ for our lives. Some plans have worked out, some have not; some have been painful, some joyous, and others just downright crazy. As a graduate wife, I’ve placed my plans on hold, given some of my plans up, and accomplished others with perfection. Each plan represented pieces of me, often lessons learned, and in almost every way made me who I am today. My father calls that character building.
I’ve written before about my ‘plan’ to be home with my son, and how that hasn’t worked out. Instead, that plan has handed me a career at an amazing company. I’ve watched other graduate wives forgo their own academic plans for the loves of their life. That plan handed them a supporting role, often without any structure or sense, causing a massive shift of identity that leaves more questions than answers.
Recently, while running with a friend, I lamented one of my life plans that hadn’t developed in the timely manner I wanted and expected it to. As she listened to me process it aloud, hearing and feeling my pain, she then said, “Maybe you need time and space to allow yourself to grieve your plan.”
The power of her words absolutely pierced me. I hadn’t thought of an unmet plan as something to be grieved; I mostly just thought of it as a disappointment to be discarded of before moving on to the next thing. The life of a graduate wife necessitates sacrifice, often forcing us to bypass our own emotional well being because we’re operating in survival mode: bills need to be paid, jobs worked, kids taken care of, lunches made, clothes laundered, the house cleaned, and last but not least, a husband/ fiancé/partner to be emotionally supported.
It doesn’t leave much time for our own emotional well being, so we move on.
After my run, I spent some time thinking about what it means to grieve a dream or a plan that doesn’t work out, and what that means for me. I allowed myself to feel the pain from the loss of that life plan, even though the crushing weight of sadness was immense.
But, what does that look like going forward? I’m finding it’s a daily process, and sometimes I take three steps forward, and then four backwards. But, in the process, I’m learning, growing, and taking care of my emotional self.
I’ve identified some of the ways I’m grieving, although admittedly, it looks different everyday.
Journaling. I am not what you would call a journaler. But I do find writing to be therapeutic. By articulating on paper the inner turmoil or sadness I’m feeling, it helps me identify places I am healing, and places I’m still struggling.
Friendship. I’ve identified two people in my life to walk me through this process. I use them as sounding boards, airing my frustrations when and if I need to. Other than that, I don’t talk about it with others.
Crying. It feels silly to write that, as I am not a particularly emotional person. But, I’ve found in the last few months that keeping that extra emotion bottled up doesn’t help me. It’s good to let it out once in awhile.
Prayer. I know not everyone who reads this blog shares the same beliefs as I do. I’m okay with that. But I can honestly say that my faith has played an enormous part in my graduate wife journey. I cannot even pretend to separate the two. So, I find prayer to be soothing, and I don’t hesitate to ask God, “Why?” sometimes. It helps me to know He is listening, and it is often a reminder that there is something larger than myself working around me.
Spouse. Given that I’m an internal processor, it was awhile before I could bring myself to explain this process to my husband. When I did though, he was supportive, and affirming. He continues to be, often giving me the space I need to heal.
My heart is hopeful that I will see my plan actualized one day, but if it isn’t, I am glad that I will be able to look back and identify a time in my life where I learned to let it go.
As a graduate wife, what are you doing to grieve the unmet plans in your life?