It’s been baby-shower-season in my life. My youngest daughter’s daughter will be here soon, and it’s been fun to shop with my daughter, chat through her concerns and plans, and, in general, do life together. I’m sure, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll hear about my grandparenting adventures in the months and years to come. For a short time longer, it’s a bit theoretical. Based on my values, experiences, and personality, there are some assumptions I make about what I believe my grandparenting style will be. However, as my sister recently pointed out, it’s sort of like becoming a parent: I probably don’t know for sure until that season of my life actually begins and reality sets in.
In the meantime, I’ll do life with my family in each season we’re in. In preparation for one of the baby showers, I sorted through tubs of photos to pull several of my daughter for a slideshow. So many photos brought smiles to my face. Some brought sadness and even anger. Photos of my ex and me enjoying ourselves and making memories are hard to see in the context of the sudden and disrespectful way he chose to leave the marriage and family and the way he has disregarded the far-reaching fractures among family and friends. It was tempting to toss some of the photos aside and purge those tubs of family memories, but I know someday my girls will go through those tubs. They will have their own reactions and can decide what to do with those photos. I’m not taking that process and potentially healing experience from them, even if I know it will be difficult.
Around that same time, a friend posted a photo of she and her husband, one of my ex’s best friends, with their grandkids. It reminded me of the fun of the anticipation of becoming a grandparent and the sadness of not getting to co-grandparent with the person I enjoyed doing life with.
Sometimes I share these struggles on my blog because it’s important for others to realize they aren’t alone, that we can have some conflicting yet co-existing reactions to life’s transitions and adjustments. Of course, I am still grieving the loss of my marriage as well as continuing to deal with the way it has impacted my family. Deception and disrespect leaves a trail of sludge that others have to find a way to wade through to find higher ground. But even among the continued remnants and layers of all that ugliness is a contentment. That grief for what isn’t and won’t be lives alongside the peace with knowing my life is good, filled with so many abundant blessings. I thought my faith was healthy when the mayhem hit, and through the trials and challenges, it has only deepened. Being authentic and doing the deep wounding with my girls has deepened our relationships. Being authentic and reaching out to others has deepened friendships and ministry.
Sometimes the juxtaposition of our experiences aren’t conflict as much as co-existence. It’s not all good, and it’s not all bad. It’s simply life. We can’t choose only what we want to deal with and toss the rest aside. If we want to grow through something and help those alongside us grow, too, we need to work through it all. We need to take a humble look at ourselves and take every opportunity to grow. We need to approach others with grace and respond with accountability and forgiveness.
I’ve seen issues and transitions handled in different ways, and I’ve seen the effects approaches have on people. Refusal to face, admit, and process truth has devastating effects on self and others. Many times, I think people choose that approach thinking it will have the exact opposite result; they believe they are being respectful and establishing good boundaries by not sharing with others. They disguise the truth even from themselves because it’s too harsh to face. The light of truth can be blinding for those who have grown accustomed to the darkness around and inside them.
Regardless of your situation, if you’re dealing with trials, don’t be surprised if you have mixed responses to it. You might be taking care of a parent or other loved one and appreciate the fact that you have the opportunity to do so, yet you also get tired and frustrated. You might wish you had a different work schedule so you could help family members more often, yet you are grateful for the job you have and all it pours into your life. You might welcome the joys of retirement but struggle with redefining purpose and refocusing. You might have decided to break ties with someone but wasn’t prepared for some of the ripple effects. You might have thought having more control over your finances or other area of your life would give you freedom, but you begin to realize you still can’t control everything and everybody. You might have longed for children, yet you still get exhausted and frustrated with them. You might have welcomed a season of your life with less people and responsibilities, but you find you are lonely from time to time.
Sometimes that juxtaposition is a prompt to change something. Other times, it’s a reality check that life is filled with the innuendos of jagged remnants being placed into beautiful purpose.