Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two tragedies?

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it. ~George Bernard Shaw

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this quote, besides that it is deeply thought-provoking. I haven't lost many of "my heart's desires", but I have lost a few. Some of the strongest desires were during my high school and college years - to get married, have lots of kids, and stay at home with them.

I got married at just barely 21, and that desire realized has been an incredible source of joy to me.

But shortly after that, I had a miscarriage. And then I couldn't get pregnant for another year. I cried often and deeply that year, wondering if my next two dreams were impossible. Nearly every other girl I knew during those years had a nearly honeymoon baby, and then more. I realize now that wasn't necessarily the norm, outside our quite conservative church, but it made my heart ache even more. Though perfectly healthy, my two girls have always seemed a bit more miraculous to me because of those first two years, small miracles against brief infertility.

What next? Many kids. I grew up in adoration of my best friend's family of 10 kids. I wanted 4, 5 or 6. I'd still like three or four. But the demands of school for my husband, among plenty of other things, have slowed that dream.

Staying at home? Out of necessity, I initially found myself back in the work force just after my first daughter was born. Out of both near necessity and great enjoyment and passion for education, I have not left since.

My heart still aches at times for the fleeting dreams. But what if life went just according to my plans, mostly just a dream come true? Would it have been tragic in its own way, depriving me of the chance to fully appreciate the husband, children, and hours at home that I do have? Might I be caught in my fulfilling, self-satisfied world, rarely glimpsing the possibility or pain of those whose babies never came, who couldn't afford to keep even one, who single-handedly supported and mothered their families?

I pray for a heart of always increasing gratitude, whether my desires are gained or lost. Because a life without gratitude might be the greatest tragedy of all.


Don said...

I had to think about this post of yours for a several days.

Shaw provides a recipe for despair: he offers the reader a lose/lose. However, you cleverly reject his two options and chose a third: gratitude.

“As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs…” Baca means tears. Some people transform personal tragedies into things like gratitude, appreciation, and compassion.

I have found that suffering helps make us human and provides a common link among people.

Good post! (I’m impressed once again at your reasoning, but my heart ached at the thought of you hurting and crying: I’m your dad.)

joanna said...

Ahhhh - yes, the quote about the Valley of Tears has been a favorite of mine over the years.

And though I want my kids to develop strong character and gratitude, my heart sometimes aches just thinking about watching them go through it.

Piper II said...

I'm a little confused by the fact that having and/or enjoying a career and having children is somehow a bad thing. Personally, I quite enjoyed the fact that my mom had (and has) a career. It means that she was a person before I was born, and that, even though she's my mom, she is still a person now with her own interests and desires. It taught me that I am the ultimate measure of my own self worth. And it taught me to value hard work and the fact that one doesn't have to forgo one dream to pursue another. I don't think you should feel guilty for the fact that you enjoy your work. I think it's important for parents to maintain their own identities even while raising children. I think you have done a good job of that. I don't know if we would have a whole lot to talk about if you weren't like that, quite honestly. :-)

joanna said...

Hi Piper :) - Your comment came at a perfect time to cheer me up, as I bemoan to myself "only" two kiddos yet again. Thanks!

I guess that growing up in an ultra-conservative church, being a stay at home mom was mostly portrayed as the "ultimate" thing that you could do as a woman. I heard that for so long, that now I find myself trying to figure out what it really means to be me - and if staying at home was really _my_ dream or just what I accepted as my ideal.

I don't feel guilty that I work, though it does complicate things sometimes :). In a way, it's kind of changed what I want for me and my kids, which is maybe the best thing about not getting everything we want, right?

So I LOVE to hear you look back on your mom as a role model in her career and being mom, and I hope that my girls will think that way too. I still haven't known a whole lot of women my mom's age (or even mine) who work and have kids (Christian isolation?!), so maybe that's why it is hard for me to see all the good in my kids/life at times. So there, I have chemistry/teaching _and_ kids to talk about. I'm only barely boring! :)

Piper II said...

Yeah, I understand your point about your background. If that's all you know, then it must be hard to re-adjust your concept of self, what it means to be successful, etc. My mom is the best because she just did her thing and somehow it all worked out. So I'm hoping it will work out for me too, because otherwise, I feel like I'm getting old with no husband/kids in sight! And that's not an attitude I want to have! :-P
Oh, and you're not boring at all. I like talking to you and I think it's neat that we have a lot in common despite our different expereinces!

joanna said...

To give PLENTY of credit to my stay at home mom friends though (since I have a lot and I'm practically one by day) - you're all _very_ interesting, and can outdo me on pretty much any subject: literature, photography, women's issues, physical therapy, food, travel, etc.!

Jan said...

I didn't read this post til it had been here a couple weeks, but I want to add something anyway:
What I admire about Joanna:
1) I admire the way you love my son, so much so, that even when I joke, you immediately come to his defense. :-)
2) I admire the way you are a friend to your daughters, teaching them emotionally as well as intellectually.
3) I admire the way you keep your family functioning and moving forward.
4) I admire the way that you allow me to share in your family and life.
I knew about, but didn't know the length of time you grieved your miscarriage. My first mis devastated me, (one group of dutch folks thought I had emotional problems at that time)but it brought me back to a relation ship with the Lord and after 3 1/2 more years, my second son was born.
Here's to you Joanna! I love you!