Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Ideal Set Up

After getting divorced I have wondered if there is life after the "ideal set up". You know the two parents, 2.5 kids- all biologically related to the said parents. The American family, neatly arranged and worked out as planned.

I have come to realize that in reality there may not be an ideal set up and most things don't go as planned. No set up is guaranteed. Even when you have that set up, something can come in and take it away, like with my sister and cancer. Many circumstances may effect a family's set up including: loss of a loved one, adoption, mixed race adoption, blended families, or an addition of a aging parent. These are just a few that come to mind.

So, how do we rise above changes, mishaps, and contortions in the family structure?

Even families that have all the "right factors" may struggle more than a family that has chosen to blend/morph and work through things. Now I am not trying to kid myself or others here. I know that families experiencing major changes can bring about special challenges. Any special circumstance will. I guess the question is: what you do with the challenge?

I believe that when people are intentional- loving and patient, thoughtful and purposeful, things usually work out. Communication seems to be key- being clear about needs, wants, feelings, concerns and keeping an open dialog to address them along the way. And, most of all, I believe that where there is love, the sense of family will prevail. Celebrating what is going right seems to be on the list too.

I don't know all the answers when it comes to how to deal with mishaps, changes or unexpected opportunities, but I do know that these circumstances are more the norm than the oddity. I think that acknowledgement of the challenge, trying to learn coping and growing strategies and a whole lot of prayer is in order. With intention, I can honestly say, that "we shall overcome" trials and tribulations. The main goal is to experience the rich sweetness of love and grace that comes by putting your heart out there and working for the ideal you want- the shared ideal you create.


Mars Girl said...

I wonder about people who seem to live the "normal" life, who have always known what they wanted to do for a career and are happy doing it; who find the right person to marry and stay together; who have kids where nothing major happens. My mom is one of these people. I dont know if anything's ever disrupted her norm. I'm sometimes jealous of it. On the other hand, I think my character has grown a lot due to things in my life that have left the highly trafficked road of life... Not that I'm happy about all the divergences I've had to steer around, but I'm glad I didn't let them destroy me. Could someone living always in the norm--undisrupted--say the same thing when faced with circumstances that fell off the beaten path?

Frank said...

I guess the question is: Ideal in what sense? There are good reasons why two parents, 2.5 kids and all that is a good idea. Our society is set up for it. It seems ideal.

But those are just circumstances. A loving household is really the ultimate ideal.

Besides, people don't know what they are talking about when it comes to ideal. Some people say that a handicapped child would not be ideal, but people who have grown up with handicapped siblings often say it was a treasure for them. They love their sibling just the way they are, and besides, they learned compassion, empathy, and had to learn how to relate to someone different from them.

Reminds me of my post on Mother Theresa (if I may shamelessly plug my own blog!) Too often, people in the non-profit world think you have to "look like" the people you serve, but I think that reflects a profound lack of faith in people. Mother Theresa couldn't have looked any more different from the people she served and couldn't have served them better. The same goes for families.

A lot of families get lazy. A blended family knows they have to continually work at the relationships and the obstacles in front of them. As a result, they sometimes do better than traditional family structures, because they keep working at it.

Erin said...

I have learned that trials and tribulations and changing circumstances actually has given me the ability to have compassion for others and other's journeys. I do think it makes us stronger.

I think possibilities can be endless and it is all about riding the wave instead of swimming against the tide. Those who focus on riding the wave seem to fair better.

But, I agree that things going as planned can be a beautiful thing too.

I guess it is all a crapshoot from my vantage point- and life, in essence is what you make it.

I guess I am searching for the answer to how to rise above, ride the wave with style- when these things happen.

And, as time passes, I realize how precious these moments are- I want to experience all the goodness from life that I can.

Mars Girl said...

Erin, that's kind of where I'm at. I had specific ideas about how my life would turn out... and those were pretty much blown (and have been blown all along the way). It's hard not to look at happily married people, for example, and not eat my own heart out with jealous because I had that once.

Still, I have to look at the whole. Here I am, keeping the rain off my head in a house of own, working to raise money to keep that house, I can afford to feed myself, and I can have fun sometimes too. So, in the long run, I guess I'm not doing too bad. I try to focus on that more than the fact that I lost my husband. Focusing on the positive helps you not dwell in the negative...

So I try to keep focus on the fact that I'm alive today. I try to find somethign to enjoy in each day because you never know what will happen. Cant say I do it right every day. But overall, my life has been far more balanced and much less angry now that I've chosen to change how I am thinking about things...

I guess "making the best of the cards that were given to me" is the best way to describe it. My idea of "ideal" is making the best out of a bad situation. Man, I am full of cliches today...

Erin said...

MarsGirl, I can really appreciate your circumstance. I can only imagine what a hole your experience has left you with. My brother-in-law is experiencing the same thing since my sister died.

So, how does one begin again? How do we come to see our situation as a blessing? And, how do we heal enough to open ourselves to another possibility?

Nothing can replace the love once had, but I think a new love can develop. Is there a way to honor th love of the past and open oneself to the possibility of someone new- allowing them a special place in your heart- taking the risk of potentially losing another?

I have often thought that love shared between two remains but just changes form. I don't believe that love can be destroyed (kind of like energy).

I also believe that love is a choice and that there may be many matches out there that could bring about a fullfilling relationship. It sure is nice though when you click with someone in just the right way.

I feel like I am rambling, but it is what is coming for me, and I try to honor what bubbles up.

I believe at times, there is a reason for situations and other times "shit happens" but overall, it is what we do with our circumstances that builds us in the long run.

I think your life sounds interesting. I enjoy reading about your adventures. You frame things in a way I can relate to and I have a sense that we have some commonalities.

Your ability and discipline to focus on the positive is a great way to go- some would even say that positive energy attracts more positive energy.

My sense is that as we experience changes in life (good and bad), there will come a time, if we are open to it, willing to explore it and reach for it, a new opportunity will come and we will be better for it.

You are living it. I am living it too- and sometimes the cards given to us just suck! Other times, it makes us the unique person we are.

And, I am quite unique! I could tell you some doosies :-).

Well for what it is worth I am rooting for you.

Erin said...

My sister planned out how she wanted to die and none of her plan came true before she died. But, creating the plan, inspiring others and sharing her vision impacted others- made a difference in their lives (including mine).

So, was her plan fruitless or not worth doing because it did not come to fruition?- I don't think so.

Do we just stop planning when it seems that nothing goes as intended? Or does the plan somehow morph and contort to something different as we evolve?

All questions and not many answers.

I end up praying for whatever is best and give it my best shot.

I am always looking for that sweet tension where I plan with gusto and let go of the outcome and trust what comes. Ofen times, something even better happens.

I think Alanna got good at that toward the end. I admire her so much. And I miss her so much.

She hasn't visited me yet. A good friend of mine asked me about that today and I have just felt a void. All in good time I suppose.

Frank said...

Plan schman. I learned a long time ago that life doesn't always go according to plan. In fact, in my case, it almost never did. I got to the point where I was hesitant to even plan at all, because the surest way to get a rude awakening by God is to try to announce that I have some kind of plan. Perhaps that's a bit superstitious, but you can say I'm a bit gun shy when it comes to planning. And I found out that God's plan was usually better than mine, anyway.

But you're right, Erin. Its still good to plan. You can't be passive. Just don't expect its going to go that way. There are lots of people with lots of plans, and the universe and God with a plan of their own, so to think that one's plans are always going to come true is unrealistic, since they are bound to come in conflict with those other plans.

It doesn't mean there is something wrong with you because your plans don't work out, it just means that you are swimming in a complicated, crazy universe. I used to say that if your plans always go the way you want, then you aren't challenging yourself enough. You've got to fail some of the time in order to show that you are pushing yourself to the limit and living life to the fullest (this is actually an idea I got from trucking logistics--if your trailers never exceed the capacity you palnned for them, then you are probably not at optimal utilization).

Life sometimes goes the way you want for a while when you're young and determined, but usually only for a short while. There is no way life is going to always be that way. Its hard to find that middle ground where you can activiely work toward something, but continually roll with the changes that life brings. It is easy to err on both extremes--thinking you can control it, or being completely passive.

Erin said...

So, how do we find a sweet balance? A life without goals (or plans) does not seem that appealing. Yet, a life filled with routine or fixed circumstances is choking.

What does God want with me anyhow? What am I uniquely designed to do? How do I know that I am not wasting away into nothingness? I know this sounds dramatic, but one of my fears is that I will look back at life and say-"what was that about?"

I guess a sense of direction and purpose is helpful- without forcing things.

Yet at times, I have felt the need to set boundaries and make a stand. I guess that is a type of forcing.

I think most of all, I need to listen to my internal guide and trust it. When I doubt or stay conflicted- I think life has the ability to pass by without meaning.

I think meaning is what it is all about.

I am all for failing if it has some purpose and the risk was one worth taking. I believe that often taking the risk is better than living in fear or standing by the sidelines.

Frank said...

I think dialogue is the key. Just asking the questions, giving it a try, trying this, trying that.

One thing I am sure is that it won't come with a simple answer that we can check off a list and be done with. It will require a lifetime of asking questions, checking in, re-evaluating, planning then adjusting, trying then not trying, activie and passive and everything in between. It will not be either this or that, but both/and, sometimes this, sometimes that.

Mars Girl said...


I'm not always perfect at finding the positive. I've been in a pretty crappy mood the last couple days (as exhibited on my blog) due to frustrations with my job situation and, I guess, feeling a little let down with myself for coming back to Ohio after living in Colorado. I'm having one of those "second guess" moments where I feel like I've failed myself or that I'm just running around in circles like one of those little wind up toys that move...

Frank's right in that really having a plan is good to give you a general idea of where to go... But, in the end, nothing ever really completely goes according to your plan, so you just have to roll with the punches. Finding a positive means deciding that though something really sucked (ie, the death of my husband), I did learn something from the experience. (In the case of my husband, I learned an empathy for others that I never had before. Do I think that was teh best way in my life that I could have ever learned empathy? Not really. But it was the end result of what happened to me... And it made me embrace life more, focusing on the more important things such as love and friendship and contributing my life to the greater common good.)

Finding love again? Well, that wouldnt be as hard as one would think. Yeah, I had an absolutely wonderful husband who really, really, I believe, was my soul mate. I loved someone, for the first time ever, unconditionally, even knowing his flaws. I got unconditional love back. It was the best thing I ever experienced in my life because most of the love in my life--that of my family--comes with conditions. Mike supported me on whatever ridiculous mission I was hell-bent on persuing (whereas the parents always questioned the logic of my moves). I would have supported any crazy idea he had. We were both trying to achieve the common goal of sailing through our lives together... it was no longer a solo journey, but something we took together, supporting each other and helping each other along the way. Yin and yang; my weaknesses were his strengths and his weaknesses my strengths. It was a systematic, working partnership. And it wasnt always perfect either, but we wanted it to work, so we tried to work through our differences.

The way I look at it when it comes to finding new love is that I had the best example of what great love can be... therefore, I will know when I find it again... and I know now that I dont have to settle because that kind of love is possible.

So... if anything, he taught me what love is... and I use that example in my search. Though, admittedly, I fight with comparing men I date to him. But at least I recognize that I have this problem. The truth is, love with different people is always different and I have to realize that I will never have EXACTLY the same thing as I had with my husband...

Erin said...

MarsGirl,I got this in my inbox today. I get an inpiring message everyday from Richard Blackstone. I copied and pasted it here for you. I don't think there are any easy answers to your quest.

I often toggle between the thought of really feeling the pain I am in and believing in moving forward and making the best of my situation. Both have pros and cons. It has been interesting being relationship with Frank. He is a testimony to really acknowledging his feelings and resting awhile with them. He often encourages me to just "be" with him on his journey- especially when dealing with the rough spots in life, things like fear, anger, disappointments etc. I have always been a person to dust myself off and put the negative behind me. I have often ignored the "truth" to get to something better and I have, at times, been able to bluff some things. It think both methods can be rooted in health and both in dysfunction. I think some kind of balance is needed. Not sure if I have found it yet.

Here is that email I got:
When you let the achievement of joy be your standard of success, then everything else
will fall into place.

Live in love,
Richard D. Blackstone

Just think about that Erin, when you are on a quest for the things in life that you
desire like money, fame, love or an ice cream cone, you can achieve these things and call
it a success. I might just suggest that you prioritize joy over all other achievements
and then your quest for everything else is a lot more fun and a heck of a lot easier.

As for love, it will come, and I think you are right that it may look, feel and smell different than what you had. But that does not mean it is not good enough- just different. And, maybe, just maybe, if you are open, it can bring you joy.

Mars Girl said...

Thanks, Erin. I actually needed that today... I just today blogged about my discontent...