Today I made a big decision. I moved without clearing it with the world. I made a life changing, game-deciding choice. That choice was to be true to myself. I suppose I had never looked at myself and ask what I wanted. I have always looked outward. I aim to please. I do not always succeed, which makes life challenging.
I went to a challenging high school, one where academics were supreme. I was raised in a home
where education was valued. All of these things are motivational and orient the student for success.
Internalizing the value of grades to determine the value of self is unfortunate, but common. In college, I found myself in a familiar environment. The college I chose, however, did not reflect my focus on academia. Something was different; it focused on something more. Regardless, I chose to study hard, become incredibly stressed, not focus my energy on relationships, and instead, lead an unhealthy lifestyle, both emotionally and mentally. Sports were a rescuing outlet. I found myself graduating from college engaged, to someone who took the time to understand and then unwind me. He had plenty of patience. He had immense love. And I had secrets.
Secrets of not being able to love myself. Secrets that kept me from smiling all the way. Secrets that kept me from happiness because I could not measure up to an immeasurable standard.
I had never lived for anything but the grade, the job, the promotion, the expectation. After 3 years of
blissful marriage, something is changing.
Feeling as though I was not achieving my potential, I determined that I was to apply for PA school. I was excited, dreaming about the increase in income, the prestige, and the notoriety that I would receive for again accomplishing another goal-oriented task, related to academia. Did making this decision make me happy? Why would I stop to ask?
He had seen me through school when we were first married, taking 25 credits per semester. I did not stop to eat, sleep, use the restroom, exercise, or hang out with friends. Over the 3 semesters that I was in school, he lessened my abrasive studying ethic and helped me to unwind. My overall scores in classes dropped only 2%. This was tangible. I could feel a difference. I could see a difference. People looked at me differently. Happiness was again starting to squeak through the tiny holes in my façade of academia. Graduation occurred, a job procured. What a joy to just work and then come home! At first. Then, it got hard. But, I learned how to fill my time with hobbies, which I had never been able to do before. I learned about cooking, baking, sewing, crafting. I learned about friends, photography, and balance. For the first time, I did not feel guilty for having fun. Relief. Love of self.
Years passed. Two. Back to school – taking prerequisites for PA school. I had been here before, before we were married. The Lord had given instruction for me to peruse another course of interest. But now, years later, things must be different! I had learned so much in my last program – surely this was the knowledge that I needed to help me in PA school this time around. I signed up for courses. Bought notebooks, textbooks, new pencils and pens. Found the messenger bag, and packed myself around the campus when I wasn't working. Filled with the joy of learning, I shot off into the first chapter. And all was well.
Subtly, a gloom crept into my world. Starting on the outer edges, I could see it only faintly in the
periphery. Days passed, and I grew to match this gloom. Overwhelmed; anxious once again about not
being perfect. Loathe of self.
He could see me slipping. He knew to interfere would be fruitless. I had to make the decision. I called
my dad and worked through a series of interfering thoughts that kept me bound in fear. Fear of
disappointing others. Fear of being seen as less than __. If I did not accomplish this goal, I would be
worthless, in my own eyes.
My dad brought me back to reality. Helped me to remember my priorities. I found peace in that
moment. That night, He and I went for a drive and I revealed to him my decision and asked if he could and would support me in it. He sighs. A giant sigh of relief. He had been waiting for me, patiently. We felt combined, whole, united. Again on the same page. No more PA school.
A glimmer of happiness pushed a piece of the gloom on the periphery off the edge. Gloom knew the tide was changing.
A few more days went by. I needed ice – my teacher had changed the syllabus without giving notice and a new chapter had been added to our exam and cold caffeine was the only way I was going to get through the night. Called a friend, who has known us since we were first married. I ran over, she asked about the stress, I explained briefly, and then she offered to bring dinner the following evening. Dinner? Why? One look, not given purposefully by her, gave me the final clue. She remembered. She remembered.
I went home, studied, and within 4 hours, I realized again what needed to be done. He came home.
Brought dinner since I had not taken time to eat since lunch. 9-10 hours. See the pattern? I chatted with him about the craziness of the night and we laughed. Then, he and I began to earnestly talk as the lights were put out around the house. The lamp above the bed gave a rosy and calming illumination to the room. Blankets wrapped around us; anxiety and fear gave way to tranquility and calm peace.
“Do you think I should drop this class?” I asked, anxious a little. I explained my doubts in myself and my future. “What will the children think? So and so has a MS degree and I…”
“Only have 2 degrees and you’re brilliant,” He said.
My gloom gave a shudder…struggling to hold on.
“Do you think you would be happier?” He asked, concerned that I would not see the pattern repeating.
“I know I would be happier. But what would I tell other people? I would feel ashamed, but I know that I need to do something different.”
Feeling encouraged, I explained that I knew I could make the choice and stand by it. I felt that my
priorities were changing. I wanted to work to support my family and have a happy countenance. I knew myself well enough to know that being in school with my current mental attitude would undo all of the progress that I had made within the past year and a half. Gone would be the love of self. Gone would be the happiness of creating something from scratch. Gone would be the ability to support as well as I could someone who deserved all of that support.
If I continued with this class, I would undo all of my progress:
Academic progress < personal progress.
Personal progress > academic progress.
Simple equation, harsh reality, over T.
T = time.
Time remembered gave me the strength to overcome my biggest battle yet – the war I was at with
Sleep took us. Morning woke us.
I woke up, overjoyed. Just happy. Simply happy. No reason at the break of my dawn, just happiness. As I awoke more fully, I felt the gloom slip past the borders of my periphery. The sunbeams of happiness dashed the dreadful dream to pieces. I was at peace with myself.
Never before had I made this type of decision and been so rewarded.
I wanted to tell everyone! Shouting at early morning hours will surely not bring joy to others, and as
much as I have changed, I still aim to please a little.
I called the institution of higher education, explained my plan. Called Tyler, and as I sat at the computer, with the cursor hovering over the “Drop Class” button, I asked, in a pleading tone, “Will you give me the go ahead?”
“I give you full permission. Ready, set, Go!” He cried.
So, dinner tonight was delish! I have to share this recipe with you. I
thought about taking pictures, but didn't. Oh well. It is quite simple
and cooks in the crock-pot! High or low. Which means, you can make this
fast or slow!
Chicken & White Bean Stew - Better Homes and Gardens
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces (1")
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbs olive oil
2 10-oz pkg refrigerated light Alfredo sauce*
1 15-oz can white kidney beans, rinsed, drained
1 cup reduced-sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 cup chopped red onion (I used a white onion)
1 4-oz can diced green chilies, undrained
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Fresh parsley, or the dried herb for a garnish
*I use a to-die-for homemade Alfredo sauce, if I do say so myself. I substituted this homemade sauce for the 2 pkgs of Alfredo.
1/2 cup butter
8 oz of cream cheese
1 cup half-n-half (do not use fat free!!!! fat free keeps things from mixing into a smooth solution)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
Pepper to taste
Herbs after if you'd like
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Once butter is almost melted, cut up cream cheese and add it.
- Once butter and cream cheese are mixed well, add the Half-n-half, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and pepper. Stir until well mixed.
- Take off burner once its sauce-like and set aside to let it thicken.
1. Sprinkle chicken with cumin and
black pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook
chicken, half at a time, in hot oil until brown, or cooked completely.
Place chicken in a crock pot.
2. Make Alfredo sauce here if you're using mine, or one of your own!
3. Stir in Alfredo sauce, beans, broth, onion, chili peppers, and garlic.
Cover and cook on low heat setting for 4-5 hours or on high heat for
2-2 1/2 hours. If desired, sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese and
I would consider adding tomatoes, chopped, to the
stew at the end of its cooking time - maybe 5 minutes before you're
ready to serve. I think they would taste great. If you don't like
tomatoes, add some tabasco sauce. Tyler can't live without it.
I hope you like it! Its perfect for the fall! Add "You've Got
Mail" to your background music and you've got one perfect fall afternoon
ahead of you! Oh, and the Serendipity Soundtrack.
"Are we not the framers of our own destiny? Are we not the arbitrators of our fate? . . . It is our privilege to determine our own exaltation or degradation; it is our privilege to determine our own happiness or misery in the world to come." John Taylor
"We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; now let us commit it to life."