Intertwined epiphanies

English: A colorful depiction of Maslow's Hier...

I had two major epiphanies today. They seem to be intertwined, and you and I are going to explore them to see how.

First epiphany

As I’ve been losing more weight (almost 90 lbs now), I’ve shed my frumpy clothes and shoes in favor of a more becoming style. Through this, I’ve developed an understanding of and a love for shoes. I have discovered that it’s the way I feel wearing them that makes me love them. Today, a dear friend teased me about a website from which I particularly enjoy purchasing my boots (their shoes fit my feet and personal style very well), telling me that I was addicted to the site. I smiled and laughed at her comment, because it was very sweet. But it’s not the site to which I am addicted. It’s that, for the first time since I was 17 years old, I feel truly beautiful. I can now revel in my beauty and uniqueness.

Why did I stop believing that at 17? Because I listened to someone who said I would be beautiful only if I lost more weight. At that time, I was 5’8″ (still am) and 152 lbs. (not even close to that right now!) and thought I was pretty hot, which I probably was. To have my boyfriend on whom I hung the moon tell me that I was fat, then cheat on me with my friend, devastated my self-esteem. Did I leave him? No, I married him because I thought he was my very last chance. For the record, the marriage lasted a year on paper, but only about 3 months in reality. Upon later reflection, dissolving that union was one of my wiser choices because he was slowly eroding every speck of self-esteem.

Does this mean that I haven’t been told that I’m beautiful since then? No. My beloved husband has told me that I’m beautiful every single day for almost 13 years. I simply haven’t been able to hear him because I was deafened at 17. Why did it take shoes to cure the hearing loss? I don’t know, but I’m glad it did. I am beautiful both inside and out.

Second epiphany

I’m going to state something very bluntly that I’ve been dancing around saying for a while. My reticence has been because many of my colleagues and former students have seen this blog and its Facebook link, which I dissolved today. I think if they really want to know me, they need to come here and read. If they’re not interested, that’s fine and they don’t need to look.

Ok, here goes. I need a better job.

God, that took courage to say it so bluntly. I feel ashamed for wanting better because so many people simply need a job and here I want better. But my motivations are not simply materialistic. My family and I have been living with my parents because of economic distress because of the recession here in the U.S. and my Rheumatoid Arthritis pain that caused me to relinquish a solid source of income. It is truly a symbiotic relationship, as they are aging and truly need our help. However, we went from living in 1800 square feet to having two bedrooms and a bathroom for the four of us. Most of our stuff is in storage, and I experience terrible grief every time I have to go to the storage unit. I’ve been able to pass through the grief by telling myself that it will all be better soon.

This past week, my daughter’s psychologist triggered my self-pity when she heard this part of my family’s story. She was truly awed by the amount of stress that our family has had, and me in particular. As we have been living with my parents, my daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD (yes, it’s a correct diagnosis, ok?) and we have been working with counseling and medication to get the symptoms under control. Add that to a cramped living situation and my grief/depression/anxiety about trying to get us into a better living situation and you can get somewhat of a picture of what’s happening. I’m getting a lump in my throat as I write this because I’m touching on a very deeply felt pain.

Have I been trying to improve my job? I now have a Doctorate, have been doing all the doctoral expectations of publishing and scholarship, and have applied to about 400-500 jobs. I’ve been to seven (yes, seven) final-round interviews, and have come in second place seven times. Yes, I know I’m in the toughest sector of the job market (academia) in a very poor economy. Yes, I realize that to come in second out of about 400 applicants (as my interviewers have told me a few times)is terrific. But second place doesn’t improve my family’s situation.

Add to that the inner conflict about the probability of a physical relocation that could potentially be very far away from my aging parents, and you now see the entire situation.

Here’s the epiphany: I’ve been praying for stability for my family all along. It hit me today that we already have stability. Living with my parents has eased the terrible burden that decreasing income leveled on my family. We are no longer in fear of where the next week’s grocery money will come from or if we will be able to pay the rent or utility bills next month. Thank God for that! I need to refine my prayer, though.

So here’s where the epiphanies become intertwined. I am beautiful, brilliant, and uniquely skilled as an educator. On top of that, I love teaching my adult students because I can relate so well to them and their struggles and serve as both a teacher and a role model. My family and I need to find work that acknowledges who I am and compensates me fairly for it. More than that, I need to be able to grow professionally and my family needs to have the freedom to grow as they need. We’ve all been living in a semi-limbo state for a while as I interview time and time again. As our needs have evolved, so must my prayer.

This is my prayer for now, born of these epiphanies:

God grant me and my family the opportunity we need

to grow individually and together,

to be esteemed for the beauty and talent with which you have bestowed each of us,

to find the peace that we seek,

and to grow in love that we may love You more fully.

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