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Spinster Is An Ugly Word

 

 

Spinster Is an Ugly Word

Recently, I watched a BBC video of Jane Austen narrated by Lucy Worsely. For almost an hour, Worsely explains what it would’ve been like for young women to live in the British social class of the 19th century. In short, Austen never had a chance at the life she dreamed of. Daughters were to be married off, but Austen mostly due to her father being a pastor couldn’t offer much in a dowry to any eligible man who had an interest in her. It was also a hard sell for women who wanted to write and sell fiction. As they weren’t taken seriously as a man would’ve been in her position. I suspect it wasn’t expected for women to dream of more than a husband and a family of your own. I wonder if she had married, would we still know Jane Austen the author who changed the world of literature.

At the relatively young age of 41 years, Austen died penniless, alone and a spinster. Never to experience the life and lavishness that the characters in her books did. From a quiet and unknown woman came stories that have and will continue to entertain and foster her reader’s appetite for the kind of life that she hoped and dreamed of but fell short because fiction isn’t reality.

Austen was so much more than just a spinster, she had written novels that would transform the world of literature and even beyond. Sadly, she was never able to see or enjoy the status her writing gained years after her death. I could say I have a lot in common with Jane Austen but I don’t. She didn’t live past her 41st year, she lived in the UK, and most importantly she in the 19th century. But as I watched this video, I realized how fortunate I am to live in the present. I don’t know where the ideas came from those women who in the eyes of that particular era had no potential beyond the roles as a wife and mother.

Dejected and Sad

That was the one emotion that fluttered its wings inside of me as I watched an actress play act out (in the documentary) what Austen might’ve been thinking or hope for. In her situation, hope was in low supply. She didn’t leave home to start university or, nor did she harbor dreams to live on her own, however, Austen did for a period of time. She worked on her writing and kept sending her manuscripts out to the publishers.

I’m single, and I am 41 years old turning 42 in less than two months. As I viewed this video, I didn’t see the similarities to Austen rather all the opposites. If I had been alive in the 19th century I might be more like Jane Austen relying on the kindness of others. Instead, I live on my own and I don’t rely on others to pay my rent, bills, groceries and any other extras. When I think about all I have compared to young women in the 19th century without a substantial dowry to catch the eye of an eligible man of the marriageable age. I don’t have a lot in savings, I have a school loan that I am slowly chipping away at. I would like to plan for the future but I don’t have plans for the single version of me. I have plans for the married version of me, and even that has grown smaller as I am trying to remain in the present, trying to enjoy myself now. I love living on my own and having my own space. In the last ten years, I have been able to see why it’s good to be single, and just do what I want and when I want.

Sometimes I feel this stigma of being single, even though statistics tell me that I’m not in short supply. But I am not a part of the hookup era, nor am I looking for a filler until the real deal comes in. I’m in this obvious meanwhile I wait phase, the place where you wonder, you dabble in things that you might not do when you’re otherwise married. This is my time to fly, to flourish but like Jane Austen, it is a hard place to occupy.

A lot of women like reading about the Regency era because it’s time period has this romantic element to it. It’s so foreign to our understanding. There was no rush, no time restraints as we experience them now. We have answers to a lot of what made life hard and difficult. I could list pros and cons to both periods. Most women want the romantic daydreams of their childhood even if no one is able to truly live up to those ridiculously handsome and debonair men.

And sometimes I have these tiny voices echoing all over the place reminding me that where I am and who I am isn’t enough when I know it is more than enough. Just being in a place and liking, even enjoying where you have been placed. Not worrying about society’s expectations. Don’t get me wrong it is important to keep those hopes and desires, but to many of us, it’s a heavy burden to carry as the years continue to pass. I’ve told God more than once to take the desires away, but they remain and so it tells me a couple of things…

Persist. Hope. Trust.

If you were in my interior like God is, you would know this not what I want to do. This is not natural to me because I have made living my life the very opposite of these three things. It’s slightly annoying but I think it’s a bit of an inside joke on me. I can’t see my potential but I am going forward blinded to what is possible. What is conceivable is that yes my prayers will be answered. If I have learned one thing about God it is that He isn’t in a rush. My perceived deadlines are just my impulse to want to control a situation that isn’t in my doable skills set. I don’t think I will next Jane Austen, far from it, but her tenacity to continue writing despite her situation is a token to me that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed to least of those.

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What’s Your Number?

God has a plan for my life. But I think it was seriously derailed when I was 13 years old.

My Bubi (Hebrew for grandmother) died. Up until that point, I didn’t know life without her, she lived right beside my family.  It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t always be with me. No one told me that grieving was a natural and healthy thing to do when someone dies. I kept playing scenarios in my head of how life would’ve been if she was still alive. I resisted the idea that she wasn’t coming back. All of those what ifs.

A year later my parents separated

This wasn’t what I expected. I expected my parents to stay together despite I knew things weren’t going well. They didn’t have loud arguments or anything that led me to believe they were going to separate. But they did.

For a long time have I was in this oasis of denial because the life I had in my head just didn’t look anything like in my real, real life. Sometimes the one that lives in your head is much easier to take. God had a plan for my life, and I kept thinking that I was waiting for it to take form, not that I was in it right now, living it out day to day. To be honest there was a lot of it that I didn’t like. Like a better earning job, my prince charming, etc.

A year ago, I stopped being friends with someone who on the surface seem like a keeper in terms of friendships. But appearances aren’t a good indicator of who they are on the inside. I was very hurt and disappointed at the turn of events over a year ago. So I started asking the question of why He would let this happen to me. I mean I’ve gone through a lot of people who I thought were friends only to realize that they didn’t really want to get to know me. It sucks. Another reminder that this life we live is unfair and hard.

Nine months later after losing this friend, the Lord brought up my reaction to losing my Bubi. After her death, I kept asking him how my life would’ve looked like had my Bubi still been alive and my parents separated. Would I see her much, would I make the effort to call her? When I was growing up it was easy to see her. I continued this kind of living in my perceived expectations into my adulthood. Why was I looking in on the life I thought I should be living?

He helped me to see that when my Bubi died, it was simply her time. It wasn’t a mistake that she passed away, her toe tag number had come up. People mourn when babies, children, teenagers or young adults die. We expect that they’ll live longer. Not all of us are guaranteed to live past our first birthday, much less your 25th birthday. We expect everyone to grow old, but that’s not what His plan always allows. I thought about how I had peace about my Bubi’s death, and how I had finally come to accept that it was her time.

I pray every day that the doors that are closed stay that way, so it allows the news windows of opportunity and the doors of consolation to open and breathe new life into our cobwebbed lives. I was truly blessed to know Muriel Petigorsky Flesher, my Bubi and to be so close to her. I didn’t really lose anything that I won’t gain again. As for my former friend, my best description of that period of time is it was a time of learning. I learned a lot about myself about what I need, and who I am, and what I am not willing to give up for a friend. True friends are hard to come by, but I have learned that I do have one, and she is a treasure.

I have lost many clients due to death

I have a client who celebrated her 90th birthday last month. Her parents and all of her sibling are gone, and I know she doesn’t want stick around any longer than she has to. She is in pain every day partly due to her age, but also because when she was in her 30’s, she was in a car accident and she suffered devastating effects. Some of her pain today is the result of that accident. She was literally crushed, but she has never given up. Neither her husband or the driver of the truck that caused the accident was affected such as she was. Despite all her sufferings, she has always persisted in anything she has done. She was the one who told me that her Dad would always talk about how everyone had a toe tag, and when their time was up, it just meant that it was their toe tag that was being called. Death is a natural progression of life. Just like the different seasons of life that we experience. We might not know just when we exit one season only to enter another.

A few weeks ago, I called one of my more quiet clients the night before I was to see him the next day. However, the next day when I went to go knock on his door he didn’t answer. I tried a couple more times. This man kept to himself, and I was probably the only person he would see in a whole week. It was weird because I knew for a fact, that if I didn’t call the night before he wouldn’t answer his door, but if I did call him and he was expecting me and then he would come to the door. So a couple weeks had gone by and still nothing. I told my program manager and she checked around and found nothing.

I found out early last week that he had passed. I realized that quite possibly that I was the last person to speak to him before he died. I wasn’t upset but God had thought to include me in his life. I always have the choice whether or not to accept the client that I am given. This man was a heavy smoker, and I am a non-smoker so I could’ve chosen not to keep him, but I continued because he let me do my work and he always showed me respect.

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new hallelijah

When I was younger, I gave up easily, the world all around me seemed impossible to penetrate, and I couldn’t see any possibilities. My attitude towards believing in myself was empty. So much was going on that there was a thick fog wrapped around my mind, and I wasn’t able to see through it.  Instead of moving forward like I wanted, I kept taking steps backward. There is this spirit of persistence that has steadily grown inside of me with time. My understanding of my younger self is fuller and more forgiving.  Every day, He fills me with a new song, some of them are loud and some are whispered. Each time I run to the desert, he comes looking for me. He knows where all of his children are. His mercy goes on forever.

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Confessing Your Heart

The associate priest at my parish dispenses the sacrament of Reconciliation, or better known as confession every second Saturday. He’s been pastoring at my parish for almost three years, normally it’s two years for the new priests, but sometimes they stay longer like three or four years. I was taught that it’s good to have a regular confessor to regularly hear your sins so the priest might be able to see certain paths that cause you to commit a particular sin. So when I go to confession, I make sure it’s the week that Fr. Bryan is celebrating Mass, which means he will be in the confessional from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., Saturday afternoon.

Becoming acquainted with the language of your heart should be easy…right? Is riding a bicycle easy the first few times, not usually. I am trying to learn the ways of the heart, accepting what is in front of me and go! But sometimes I am left still watching everyone in front of me. Still trying to copy what they do, still not getting that the journey I am on is different. I might be similar, or have something in common with others.

Sometimes I don’t want to know what my heart or what the Lord wants of me. Inside of me, something is not right. Fear has leaked in, mixing in with peace and love. The tips of my toes wobble back and forth as something is played out in my mind. Am I ready to run or am I steady with courage?

What stops me from running the race?

Not knowing the end result even though it’s the depth of the journey that matters the most. In many ways, the destination doesn’t exist outside of a place to rest in His plan. Sometimes, it’s the running that makes me aware that I can talk about, and that I need to talk about why I keep my heart in seclusion. The language of your heart wants to live out loud, not in darkness or in anger.

I kneel on the one side of the grille, and the priest is on the other side. Most won’t look at you, but once I have listed the sins I remember committing, I will pick a ‘sin’ to discuss. There is no life, no fresh air in what I talk about. I am held back by doubts, fears, unknowns, and other people’s judgments on themselves. Maybe it is a judgment on myself, but the other is more likely acting something out that was planted in their life, long before you enter into it. Yes, I need to take responsibility for what is my part, but I also must let go, of my anger to see my part, my place in what is called this present time.

There is no man on the other side of your heart but Jesus. In the secret places of our heart, we render to what is God’s. Nothing that I take is forever. I may stash away what I believe are parts of my heart, but nothing physically can claim the language that takes an area in the place that is only hinted at.

But what if you speak and no one hears you… I mean really hears your heart

Do it anyway. It’s like a dialect with different clicks, nuances, and tones. Keep speaking it until someone, a small group of intelligent individuals nods their heads in appreciation.

 

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Don’t Ignore the Signs…

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Whole

I asked that I be made whole, and 16 years later I think I may be at that point. Don’t get me wrong, I am nowhere near perfection.

Six years ago

I had just graduated from a Professional Writing program, and I was looking for a job to cover my rent and bills so I could continue to look for a job using the skills I had gained through the program. The first job I started was at Subway.  It should’ve been a no-brainer because I had prior experience working with food. But this was the real world, and I hadn’t spent much time on it after spending a whole year off (on medical leave) from work. The world and depression don’t mix, kind of like water and oil. One always sits on the top and refuses to move. In school, it was nicely warm and way too comfortable, I didn’t have to worry about a job, and I just did assignment after assignment.

The problem wasn’t Subway per say, but the owner who watched me like a hawk, and when I am watched I always mess up. Did you know that you have to memorize each sub and what is on it? And that’s not the only thing you need to remember. I could feel my anxiety kicking in and I wanted out. I felt like I had just come out of being in the warm waters for way too long. I was cold and wrinkled.

In May 2010, I applied to an organization that provided services for and to seniors. I personally knew some of the Homemakers, so I asked one the girls if I could have the name of her manager. Honestly, I didn’t know what position I was applying for. I had this desire to work att his organization, and I had no idea why. Nothing I could put into words. I gave my resume in, only to find out that they didn’t need anyone at the moment…

Fast forward to September 2010

I was working part-time in a call centre and not liking it at all. I needed something that would pay my rent and bills, I didn’t think I was asking for too much. I didn’t want to work in retail as I looked for a writing job. Preferably, this job would be Monday to Friday with the weekends off. Then out of the blue, I got called in at the organization that I had originally applied back in the spring.

In the first couple years, I would question the Lord as each year passed, but He remained quiet, so I continue on working as a homemaker. Taking the time when I got a case of, ‘I don’t want to be here!’ I would remind myself of all that I had, and all of it was good. This job has given me much as it has pushed me to be a better person, to practise my active listening skills and so much more. However, the last couple months has brought some things into the light, and it initiated me to wonder: is the Lord asking me to leave?

Chaos Ensuing

For six years, I have worked under the same supervisor, and we worked well together. Sure, there were some things I wasn’t a fan of, but in general, things ran well. About the end of September, something happened and be honest I don’t know what it was except my safe and reliable supervisor wasn’t around when I needed the support.

About a year ago, I read about a Virtual Assistant, someone who could work anywhere in the world, and have their clients situated anywhere…Kind of like a personal assistant, but your clients are all over the world. At first, it didn’t interest me as something I could do, but the last time I spoke with my Spiritual Director she brought up my desire to work from home. At this point, I had no idea what to do from home, but I knew it was a desire. I know I could potentially do well working from home. I know that I can structure my days to work, and it’s something that interests me.

I keep reminding myself that God takes His time when it comes to answering specific prayer requests for me. They are the ones that are close to my heart, therefore even nearer to His. Under his care, every little detail will be taken into consideration. It’s custom built.

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Not Yet

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In the beginning, when I began working in my current job, most clients would ask me if I was married, did I have children…but as time passed, it happened less. Just this past week, I gained a new client and she asked the question of the hour:  Was I married?

I told her no.

“Good for you!”  This answer shocked me because I wasn’t expecting from it her. She is Muslim, so it really mystified me. I have never had a client be happy that I was still single. It threw me off for a minute.

Before I continued the conversation, I choose my words carefully, “Did you choose your husband?” I asked this question gingerly because she is Muslim, and I didn’t know what might be the custom. She is originally from Iraq

“No, I was in love with my husband for four years before we married.” She paused and then continued. “When l married I died.”

She didn’t offer anything else, and I didn’t ask since this was my first time meeting her, and I thought  curbing my curiosity would serve me well.

I must admit I don’t know much about the Muslim religion except what I hear from media, online resources and acquaintances

Usually my clients want to know if I’m married, or when I am getting married. If I knew God’s whole plan for me, I would be planning ahead, but I don’t so…I wait and persist.

I am not really that good at being persistent or persisting in an activity, or situation, but I have also learned that God is not in a hurry, at least not in my life. Maybe in yours He speeds through all the red lights, but in mine, He stops when he sees the green light turn to the yellow caution. If I was in charge, God would only get green lights, and there would be no reason or thought to stop. So I am trying to take pleasure in all things, even the not so good because this time won’t ever return to me.

From outside appearances, everyone looks polished and great in their spiffy new outfit, but I am still wearing the same tops that I had last year. Truly, I shop at second-hand shop which is by necessity and choice. I love scoring a deal. Last Saturday, I bought three tops, one skort and one pair of slacks for $18.75! Yes, living below the poverty line does have its advantages. It allows one to live simply without out all the deemed ‘extras.’ And right beside me is a list of all the things I need when the Lord deems to give me my very own money tree.

As I wait for the Lord, he reminds me to thank him for everything, even the things I  do not like or want. I am thankful for what he has done in my life. For all the things I didn’t think of, like him healing my heart that needed a lot more attention than I was willing to give it. For over ten years, God hasn’t been idle in my life, not that I can say the same thing about myself, in my trust in Him and to see how He can truly make the broken pieces in my life to appear better than they were.

I am starting to see why I need to trust, why I need to wait because whateverHhe has planned, it will take my trust and His strength to bring everything together in His timing.