Friday, September 07, 2007

Stages of grief


The other day I came across the five stages of grief as I was reading a book.


Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Surrender/Acceptance

I found myself asking, "what stage am I in with the issue of my car?" I find myself teeter tottering between anger, bargaining, and depression. I'm past the denial stage. It didn't last long because I had a picture of the car to look at and signing over the papers in the lot of the body shop and then not having a car to drive for over three months pretty much cured any denial I might have had.

But now I find myself going back and forth with the other stages. I sometimes daydream that somebody bought the car from the junk yard, spent whatever it took to fix it up, and surprised me with it. I sit there and fantasize about it and then come back to the real world a few minutes later. Then, I let my mind go to a new car lot and the possibilities for the future. I picture myself signing the papers to get a new car. I picture myself with a new Mustang. I picture myself with a Sebring. I picture the Stang in silver with a black top, and the Sebring Convertible totally black. I hear the CD player as I turn it up. I imagine myself driving down Lexington Oaks Blvd. I picture myself with the "best case scenario" of a car...and then a lump comes into my throat, I start to cry and I hurry up and get off of the thought and go back to whatever I was doing. Sometimes instead of a lump in my throat and crying, I grit my teeth instead, bang my fist on whatever is near (table, desk, dashboard) and say, "WHY?"

"Are you caught up in materialism?" you might ask. No. This isn't about materialism, it's about sentimentalism. (Is that a word?) If I was caught up in materialism, I would have gone out the next day or week and bought a car. I can afford one. That is not the issue. The reason I still don't have a car in over three months time since the accident is because I can't bring myself to buy one emotionally. It still hurts.

I guess when you get down to it, it's not really about a car, but mine and Larry's journey to get to the point where we could afford another car. As I explained to Pastor T yesterday when I was talking to him about it, it's more about the fact of what Larry and I experienced together in ministry, waiting to get to the point where my car was a possibility. I remember my husband crying (something he rarely if ever does) and saying he wished he could provide better for me. (It was never his fault, and I never made him feel like he didn't provide. It's just that a man knows when his family is struggling. And we both had a commitment to work together no matter how hard it got. Doing that meant that we made a lot of sacrifices over 15 years time. Sometimes we regret it, and at other times we say, "we're so glad we did it." Just all depends on what day it is!)

Anyway, I remember a few times when Larry hung his head and realized...I got rides to my own choir practice. If somebody invited me to speak, I had to find a ride. Our kids qualified for free school lunches. (But we never took them because Larry was embarrassed by it and thought if we did the free school lunch it would make our church look bad to those in the community. Personally I thought, 'let them look bad. It's their fault..." but my husband is much more spiritual on these things than I.) I only got my hair cut twice a year (didn't have money to get it blow dried or styled let alone colored professionally. That's why it looked so ratty when I arrived in Tampa.). Twice a year, sometimes four if we were really blessed - I would get my hair cut and leave with it wet, even in the winter time. I never bought clothes like my friends did. Anything I had with a rare exception, was from somebody else. (I got some great blessings and God always took care of me.) I didn't go with my friends on shopping trips. I really didn't like the mall because I couldn't get anything there. All of us needed serious dental work when we got to Tampa, from a lack of proper care. I could take one packet of chicken and make it stretch a week. (To this day Larry won't eat stewed chicken because it reminds him of when I would make a big pot of that and we had to eat it all week.) My mother in law - bless her heart - helped get our kids school supplies and shoes. And...we never had our own house. I know I've blogged about all this before, but just for any new readers and my own catharsis...this is where we've come from. And really, it's the story of 99.9% of all minister's lives. It's nothing "new" to anybody reading who is in the ministry, I realize that. If you are a pastor reading this you are probably thinking, "she's telling my life story, and all my pastor-friends life stories too...." But while I have a lot of ministers who read my blog there are just as many readers who aren't ministers and might not understand -- this is the journey that a majority of those in ministry go through - especially one where both husband and wife are working for the church exclusively. The first decade of ministry and sometimes even longer than that - is really a challenge in this regard.

While I never brought any of this up at the time, it was plain as day that we lived this way and Larry could see it. I know it bothered him, yet working together was more important to us. You might wonder why I never brought it up, or how that would be possible for a wife who lived this way. Actually I was able to find contentment in those years most of the time. There were a few times I had to "pray through" on it but the reality is - I loved God and the ministry more. Ministry was more my passion than having a new dress or a house. And it was through keeping my focus there that contentment was found. It still is, only I really realize just how blessed I am to be able to have and do those things now! (Don't ever think that each time I walk into Bealls or JC Penney's I'm not saying "THANK YOU JESUS THAT I CAN DO THIS NOW!!!" If there's anybody grateful for God's blessings it's me. I get totally whipped up when I even buy a $5 bracelet at Bealls Outlet. I mean, it seriously "makes my day"! I'm the type of person if I get even a little gift, I hop up and down over it. And when I give to somebody else I feel the same way. I never lose the wonder that I have a house...and lots of shoes. :-) GOD IS SO AMAZING. He's given me so much and I not only enjoy it but I want to bless others with it.

The day he got me the car as a gift was such a sentimental day...it was my birthday, my 38th. And it was a day when we realized, our lives had truly transitioned into another level where not only did our family not have to get one drink at McDonalds and share it between five people anymore, but I had my own car. I don't think I could stop smiling for at least a week. I loved that car but more than that, I loved what it represented. It really represented "a new day." In fact, I remember putting the top down on the Stang, turning on Avalon's "New Day" and riding down Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa realizing that indeed it WAS a new day. Among the many other things in my life, it represented Galatians 6:8 for me, "Do not be weary in well doing, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you faint not." Truly, anybody who knew a shred of where I came from never begrudged me for having that car.

Well, it's like this. I'm really sick of juggling our schedules with just the van. But not sick enough that I can see myself getting another car. I think I'm depressed some of the time over it but then there are days I just get so darn angry I say to myself, "look at you, you are only on stage two. You are not even to the depression stage yet because you are just so freaking mad about this still."

Larry really would love to have a Charger. He loves them. Part of me doesn't care if he just gets one and I won't have a car...he'll just have two for himself and I'll occasionally drive one of "his cars" when I have to. The other part of me wonders if I will get over this and want a car of my own in a year or so. Surely at some point I will get to the surrender/acceptance stage. But then he won't want to be upside down on a loan or get rid of the Charger in order to get me something... because it just won't be financial wisdom once he gets another car. And my husband is all about financial wisdom. We may have more money now, but his determination to be fiscally responsible is still there which is a good thing. He balances me out.

Larry mentioned to his Sunday School class one day that he loves Chargers. One weekend he rented one and he had a blast with it. So one day a man from his Sunday School class comes up and says to me, "you know, you need to encourage him to get a Charger and you just take the van. It would be good for his self esteem." First of all, I don't think his self esteem is suffering. And second, if it was, he wouldn't need a Charger, he would need counseling.


I don't expect anybody to understand this...I just needed to write it.

2 comments:

Sharon said...

I understand the getting by.
I was raised by parents in the ministry.We got shoes once a year. Our clothes came used from churches-so did birthday and Christmas presents. We had powdered milk...the stories could go on and on.
I understand now why they did it.Didn't then. It raised some major trust issues about God.
But He is faithful.
Now I understand .
God has blessed my husbands business and we love to give.We are not rich in our own right--but we are not holding on to what He gives us.

I too remember after all the years of struggling my husband went out and bought me a new vehicle. I understand the emotion of it all. It was his gift to me. Something he could do after years of having nothing.
I had had it for two years and my son took it out and rolled it last October--it was totaled. I cried. Not for the vehicle but for what it represented.
Now I have an Avalanche and I love it. I look at old pictures of other vehicle and I "morn" but we are making new memories in this one. And I loved how my girls responded when I drove up in it because they would have never pictured me buying something like this.
Don't put me in a box. Just when you think you have me figured--I'll change.
Just my thoughts.
I understand.

Deborah said...

how you touched me today as I read this and we too have been through it all, I remember finding Fred crying in the study because he could not buy our children a sweet sounds stupid but when you can even by a piece of candy for your baby it touches a man deeply, I dont think I will ever understand the pain he went through as a man, but I sure know how I felt. When I look at my own home now I am blown away at the blessing the God had for us, all the time we where going through a valley that we never chose to go through but how people could keep a minister poor. the words I think was LOrd you keep him humble we will keep him poor. Praise Jesus for His promises that are yes and amen.Deanna I pray that your car comes soon!!!! love you D