Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What Grief feels like: Living Plan B

Every semester, I give a talk to students called "Preparing for Jobs that Don't Exist Yet: and other impossible things." During that class, I present the idea to students that the idea of having a "Plan B" to vet school way to live. So, instead, I posit the premise that students recognize the "parallel plan" that exists in preparing for life, whether that is to be a candidate for vet school, grad school, or working. Who wants to live their life as "this is my plan B"? NOBODY! 


Last week, like a ton of bricks - or more aptly, a bucket containing all your reasons "why" was knocked off your head - it hit me.

plan b. 

except plan b, for me, it's not a plan. it's some impossible reality that i'm living. 

but it's not impossible. it is reality.

Fifteen years ago, I was a senior graduating from college. And "my dream job" at that time was this: get married, have kids, be a professional volunteer in my community. [essentially, be my mom] Reality was that I was graduating having been on an average of 1 date/year of college - which meant that my 'dream husband' hadn't materialized in those four years. So, I had to go to plan B: get a job. build a career. figure out what God wanted me to do with my life. 

My "Plan B" was putting my degree to use. :) In college, I developed myself as a professional - but never put a lot of thought into constructing or identifying a path. I just identified what captured my heart, and identified those as "good fits." Then, after a brief, "failed" stint at the DNR, I identified the 3 things I wanted most in my next job. ...and TRIO Educational Talent Search fit that incredibly well.

During that time of living my Plan B, I grew in so many ways - but the primary two would have been spiritually and professionally. While living my "Plan B," I began to discover what I was capable of as a professional. I realized that pursuing a Master's degree so that I could obtain jobs where I could apply my strengths to do more good was necessary - so, I did it. Because of my spiritual life, I realized that the best path for me in that education was agricultural education...because, even though I'd been "living Plan B," my heart still yearned for the rolling hills - for the life that 18-year-old dreamed of: the wife of a farmer, the mom of farm kids, impacting her community. 

...and God opened a window. 

April 29, 2008. 

I met Dan Kiesling, the graduate student shepherd at the Iowa State Sheep Teaching Farm. (I didn't even know that was a thing) He was the 2000 Michigan FFA State President. He was interesting to talk to. He was funny. He was interested in me. He enjoyed talking to me. He danced with me. He asked me out that night. ...and even, when I had plans for Friday night, he pressed for Saturday instead. ...and when I had plans for Saturday night - and I countered with a late night dessert - he accepted. 

If you know our story, you know that it was immediate. ...and it wasn't. It wasn't quick. It wasn't easy. Both of us had our own mountains that stood in our way. ...and when we (individually) realized that we couldn't stand in the way of a great opportunity, a great person...then, the breeze came in through the window. 

You guys, that is what Dan represented in my life: the breath of fresh air. Breath. Life. 

Being married to Dan gave a breath to my life that...I knew I was meant for. I knew I was meant to be a wife. And I thought I was meant to be a mom. For those five years that I was Dan's wife, my life wasn't easy - but it was full of life - of breath - of richness - of purpose - of love. It was full.

I was full. 

My cup overflowed.

Last week, through a series of events, I was jarred to reality: I. am. empty. 

Are you familiar with the idea of "filling your bucket"? The idea is that encounters in our day either fill our bucket or empty the bucket. When working with others, the premise is that we fill others' buckets through our own - but also that they are filling ours' in return, so that we never go empty.

My image on Friday was this: a bucket filled with little slips of paper, carried on my head, was knocked - violently - to the ground...and my bucket and its contents were strewn all over the ground.

...and, I. was. shattered. 



My dream job...a wife and mom. 

My reality...a widow at 36. a childless widow. working at her husband's alma mater, in his office suite, his dream job for his beloved department, pouring into students' development - and getting raked for those efforts being not enough and too much - longing for grace, understanding, love... 



A life of confetti paper littering the ground.

That is what grief feels like.

The past ten months, I have done what I knew to do: keep going. I did my job. I tried to focus. I fulfilled my commitments. I put on pants when others would have stayed home. I poured it out. All that action: I tried to fill the void. Not consciously, but the void Dan left, I tried to fill. 

...and now (instead), I am feeling it. I feel the void. I feel the emptiness. 

...and now, I am going to sit on the ground with my confetti life, and I am going to pay reverence to them. I am going to honor and recognize the love that has been poured into my life. 

For the foreseeable future, I am going to just sit with my bucket...and I am going to let God fill my soul with breath.

This is what healing looks like. This is what hope is.

1 comment:

PJ Colando said...

Oh. My. God. - and yours, my sweet J

Grasp the handle of the bucket and hang on - HOPE!