In December, I received my Master’s Degree in Violin Performance. It was 2 years of hard work. I juggled practicing, performances, papers, teaching, and parenting. Plus, I still did some freelancing on the side. I loved every minute of it, but I’m not going to lie, it was tiring.
In the years prior to returning to school, life was extremely challenging. Anyone who has a loved one who deals with serious mental health issues will understand how difficult it can be to stand back helplessly and watching your loved one suffer. Mental illness is NOT a character flaw or a judgment against the person who has it, (or against those of us who love someone with a mental illness), and there is way more to it than the person merely being “crazy”. If my husband had cancer, if he had received a brain injury in some kind of accident, if he had any other kind of “respectable” illness, then things might be different. Instead, there is a lot of stigma, ignorance, and judgment towards mental illness. There can be very little in the way of help and support, even from the programs designed to help. To further complicate things, one of the biggest challenges is that the person doesn’t always realize how ill they actually are. To get them to cooperate in their own care can be a battle. Legally, as long as they are not hurting themselves or others, if they don’t want to get help, they are within their rights to remain ill.
Navigating the stormy waters of mental illness is, in a word, exhausting.
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you REST: a period of inactivity, tranquility: mental or spiritual calm.
Since I graduated in December, I've not been able to answer the number one question I’ve been asked: “so what are you going to do now?"
It bothered me at first, because after all, I have a child to feed and clothe. I have to keep her healthy and keep a roof over her head. I have to keep gas in the car, I need to keep the lights on…I have responsibilities. And to be honest, a musician’s unstable schedule (and income) does not go well with solo parenting. I confess I’ve been in a slight panic trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life. It’s one thing to be in that position when you’re 20-something…but at 40-something with a minor child in your care, it can produce major anxiety!
Then, I realized that I have been given a gift, a “treasure in darkness”. Even though I may not have a “real job” right now, what I do have is something better:
For one thing, I have provision. Our needs are being met. Between my freelancing and teaching income, and a wonderful supportive family, my daughter and I have been taken care of. Just at the right moment, I get a call about a gig or some opportunity to earn money. Or a family member calls and asks me “hey, what do you need right now?” My daughter lacks for nothing in her life, and has never gone hungry. I’ve seen what real poverty looks like, and trust me…we’re anything BUT “poor.”
One thing I’ve learned over the years is this: money does NOT equal provision. I’ve never had an overflowing bank account, but I have always been well provided for. Especially in these years when my husband has been unable to provide for us, God has blown me away time and time again with blessing me and my daughter abundantly. I’d take that over money any day.
Secondly, I’ve been given the gift of TIME. These days, I have some extra time on my hands. Time to rest, time to think and get my head together, time to figure out who I am and who I want to be. I’ve been able to write a little more. I don’t have to rush around to be here or there, and most of all, I’ve been able to be there for my daughter. I can be more present in her life emotionally and spiritually.
As far as my future is concerned, I am about to dive into a new book by a gentleman named Jeff Goins. It’s called The Art of Work and I’d say that it looks promising for me at this juncture of my life:
Abandon the status quo and live a life that matters.
The path to your life's work is both difficult and mysterious, which is why few finish the journey. The Art of Work is about discovering your true calling—that thing you were born to do.
I’ve never been one to follow the status quo. In my life, I’ve been a missionary, a teacher, a musician, done some ministry, and I have aspirations to write. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not about pursuing money or “career”. I’m looking to be useful, to inspire, to touch people’s lives in some way. My personality type is INFP through and through! I’m hoping this book will inspire me to find that thing I was born to do.
Meanwhile, I have time to rest my mind, my body, and my spirit…I didn’t even know I needed this rest, but I’ve finally given myself permission to receive it.
When you find yourself in an awkward season of life, what is the first thing you do? Do you feel anxious or on the verge of panic? Or are you able to find the “treasure” in the opportunity presented to you?