I had started reading Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl yesterday after hearing someone reference it. I had heard of the often quoted book, but never read it, so I decided to change that. I can understand why it is such a life changing book for so many people. To find meaning in life in what was quite literally, hell on earth - a Nazi concentration camp, seems impossible, but it can be done. It WAS done. Fortunately, we don't have to be within an inch of death to learn from the experiences of these people.
I don't blog too much about our current financial/living situation, and if I do, it's pretty vague. I still won't share a lot of details, but suffice it to say my husband is underemployed with a Master's degree, his grandmother who we live with is facing foreclosure, and we care for our two nieces who stay with us on the weekdays. A year ago we turned down a job in Honolulu to come here to Maui, 1) because the job was only a year long and then we had no idea what would happen after that and 2) because we had a feeling that our family on Maui needed us. So we came. Little did I know that in a few months we'd end up caring for two other children as our own.
If you have children, you know that your relationship and your feeling for them is different from any other relationship you may have with someone else's kids. Children (especially older children) from other families are raised differently with different expectations, different mannerisms, different personalities. They belong to their parents in a way that is inexplicable. So when a child is absorbed into another family, the transition can be tough for both parties, especially if it wasn't planned as it was in our case.
In the beginning it was HARD. Temper tantrums, lots of crying, anger, resentment, impatience, depression. All growing pain as we tried to figure out what our life together should look like. I had a hard time understanding those girls because I hadn't raised them from birth. They behaved in ways that didn't make sense to me. They still do, but I know a little better what to expect, and they know what to expect from me.
Now, several months later I still feel sorry for myself sometimes. I STILL resent my situation because this isn't how I thought motherhood would be.
I didn't think I would have to raise someone else's kids and juggle them between families (right now there are several people in their life who have a parental role - Keola and I, their birth parents, Keola's grandma who we live with, Keola's Mom, and their paternal grandparents).
I didn't think we'd be staying so long with family, unable to live life completely on our own terms.
I didn't think I'd have to share my parental authority with other people who weren't my husband.
In short, I had expectations for my life, and I felt that these expectations were not being met.
We spent the last year feeling like our life was on "pause," because we weren't really moving forward to a goal. It's a horrible place to be, in liminality neither here nor there, waiting for the next thing to happen. I resented our whole situation because I thought it was preventing me from achieving what I perceived as "my purpose in life" which in part is to be a good wife and mother, and in part to find my passion. I'm still not sure if I have a passion outside of motherhood, maybe I don't, but I don't feel free to develop and explore those things because all my time was taken up with kids that weren't mine.
POOR, POOR ME.
Then I read this quote this afternoon:
"We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life-daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. 'Life' does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life's tasks are also very real and concrete."
Up until reading this passage I thought that finding my passion, my reason for existing, what would become my life's work, having some grand accomplishment credited to my name would give my life meaning, and that my life had no meaning because I was being held back by this unfortunate situation. The thought that life's meaning is made as it happens is something I grew up knowing but never heard it said quite this way. We are given different tasks and situations in life and it is up to us to rise to the occasion. My life can (and MUST) have meaning now. There's no such thing as waiting for life to begin. Your life's meaning and purpose is whatever is set before you to do.
"...it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us."
There I was thinking that life had somehow given me the short end of the stick, when in actuality I was not giving my all to the task before me. I was not rising to the occasion - to be a force for good in the lives of two children, to teach them that they are special and good and worth my time, that they are loved.
It's not about getting the best from life, it's being our best no matter what life throws at us.
Needless to say, in the hours since learning this lesson, I've begun to adjust my attitude. All of a sudden, my life has more meaning, and what was a drudgery just earlier this afternoon ended with dancing and stories and prayers tonight.
It seems like magic, but I know that I will constantly have to remind myself that I am in the midst of my life's work, and that I can't sit around and wait for my situation to change in order for my "life to start." My life is now, and my work is to love those girls along with my own daughter. It won't always be that way, but it is now and what we do now is what matters most.