-written by Rebecca, a current graduate wife
Yesterday, I spent the morning hand mending threadbare couch-covers, well worn by years of students and their families. On breaks from the mending, I checked on the home-made chicken stock simmering on our tiny stove-top, made from the previous night’s roast chicken and a months worth of frozen vegetable scraps frugally saved up. With the mending finished, another successful day of home-school accomplished, and the delicious chicken soup (made with the scrap-stock) in its final stages, I feel quite satisfied.
This is a far cry from life back in the States. I had my dream car (yes, it was a minivan), lovely sofas which I spent weeks choosing, a beautiful full-sized stainless steel gas oven/range and was surrounded by friends and family. In addition, my husband had a fantastic job with a pending promotion. Pretty easy life, right? We were very happy. However, we knew it was not where we belonged quite yet. We had big plans to leave it all to go to a university a world away.
My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years, 10 of which he has spent attending university either full or part-time. We have moved several times accumulating academic and seminary degrees. Life has thrown some major ups and downs our way during this unconventional graduate life of ours. Leaving homes we loved, enduring multiple miscarriages, unemployment, you name it, we have probably been through it. I have had many opportunities to complain and derail the whole dream.
Now here we are, living an ocean away from so much we love, and I am full of joy. I made an important choice a long time ago; I chose joy.
Certainly, I am not perfect, and it does not mean I don’t have bad days or that I am living in a la-la land of denial. It just means I am in control of how I feel about my life. It has been a hard learned lesson. When I was a young woman, I was counseled by my dad (who is now a marriage and family counselor) how even though I cannot control what life or people throw my way, nothing (and no one) can make me feel a certain way. I decide how I react. It’s my choice.
When my children have a hard day, or miss their friends back in the States, I try to never dismiss their feelings. We talk about them. We honor them. But, the next step is to talk about choices. We can choose to bathe in the feelings of loss or sadness or anger allowing them to fester within us, to change us, to ruin a potentially great day, week, month or even years. On the other hand, we can choose to say okay, I feel sad about “_”, and it’s okay and normal, but now I am choosing to think about the good things, to look forward to our next adventure and to focus on the positive. The main thing is to realize that nothing has the power to make you feel a certain way. We have a choice over how we respond.
As a mother of three, I realize how significant my influence is upon the mood of my family. On my bad days (and they do come) my children fight more, they think more about the things they miss and the downward spiral begins. I have to regain my focus, involve them in planning a fun day trip, talk about “home” and then about the amazing adventures we have been on over the last several years. They know I miss things and people; I don’t try to hide it from them. However, they also understand that I simply refuse to wallow in it.
My oldest child and I had a conversation last week while we walked to the store for groceries. She said she was missing the luxury of just hopping into the van, speeding down to Target or Trader Joe’s and buying whatever we needed. I told her I miss it as well. I went on to tell her how, just like when we moved from North Carolina to Texas; we missed parts of our life that had been left behind. Or, when we moved from Texas back to North Carolina; we missed our life in Texas. Now, we miss aspects of life back in the States. No matter where we are, we will always look back at the highlights of the places we have been. Nevertheless, we must make certain that we don’t let the thoughts of the things we miss become so primary that we end up missing this amazing leg of our journey. Our conversation soon moved to what we love about Scotland and what we will look back on and miss. We made a complete 180 from missing our van to choosing to live in the “now” and enjoying what we have here, while we have it.
Perspective! I hope and pray this idea, that we have a choice, will stick with my children. My heartfelt desire is that we will always choose to live joyfully in the present, not looking back in regret, or rushing through to the next best thing. It would be a great loss to miss the amazing adventure of this life we have been given now.
In this graduate wife life, how do you choose joy?