When faced with tragedy, the human brain often refuses to accept the information presented to it. We go into denial because the truth doesn’t make sense and it seems like more than we can handle. Eventually though, most people come to grips with reality even as painful as it is. We face the world that took the place of the one we knew. We sort through the beliefs that we once held dear hoping to find some that are still true and replacing those that aren’t. It is a painful but necessary process. It requires one to admit that they were wrong about people and life and sometimes their beliefs about world.
I have spent the last few months sorting through the lies and inaccuracies that I used to believe. I believed that certain people would be there for my family no matter what. I was wrong. I thought that other people were simply acquaintances or peers but they stepped up and stood beside me at my darkest moments. I thought that my children were healthy. I thought that my faith and good works somehow protected me from devastation. I thought life was going to look a certain way and our future held endless possibilities. I was wrong about all of that.
There is one particular lie that has been particularly hard to face lately. I based my goals and dreams on a belief that I now understand all too well is simply not true. Somehow in my naivety and high ambition, I swallowed the propaganda that women can have it all. The truth is that we, or at least I, simply can’t. I can’t parent my children in the way that they need and continue my education as planned. I can’t give everything required to attain an advanced degree and successfully manage a household while my husband works out of town and I have limited support. I can’t plan to work several more years on the degree needed to achieve my goals when I can’t even find childcare for two evenings a month next semester. It is not a matter of being willing to make sacrifices or lean in. The truth is that eventually you run out of things to give up and if I lean any farther I will likely just land on my face. It is not a matter of lacking intelligence, desire or drive. There are simply some hurdles that I am unable to clear.
This semester has been about facing the lies and giving up on unattainable dreams. I made the choice to not pursue a doctorate degree in psychology and stop when I complete my master’s in May. That means that I will not be qualified for the positions that I have dreamed of and worked towards for years. It means that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of trying to decide on a new direction with graduation looming only a few months away. It also means that I will be available for therapy appointments and hospital visits, field trips and homework. I may even be able to reintroduce my family to the concept of a home cooked meal.
At the moment, I think that I am making the right choice but that doesn’t make it any less painful. Taking the blinders off and recognizing the limitations in this life hurts. Coming to grips with the fact that the way things are is in no way close to the way I thought that they should be is a difficult process. I understand why some people choose to live like an ostrich and keep their heads buried deep enough that they do not have to acknowledge the world burning down all around them. I have to believe though that at some point beauty will come from the ashes. I can’t see the positive yet but at least I am a little closer to seeing the truth and that’s progress for me.