Love sometimes wants to do us a great favor: hold us upside-down and shake all the nonsense out. –Hafiz
God’s love is not all sweetness and light. Often it takes the form of “tough love,” and it tends to shake us out of our routines and beliefs at some of the most inconvenient times. This shaking is uncomfortable and sometimes frightening. Everything you thought was true turns out to be false. Or not true in your case. I know all of these experiences were generated because of God’s intent that I evolve and grow to meet the challenges of life. Still, the experiences of the “school of hard knocks” is not always pleasant, and it’s hard to remember, sometimes, that they are a function of God’s unconditional love.
The first time I had the nonsense shaken out of me was when I got married and realized that my girlish fantasies were not going to come true. My marriage was not going to be like “Ozzie and Harriet” or “Father Knows Best” on TV. It wasn’t going to solve all my problems, and it wasn’t going to be the “meeting of the minds” that I longed for, either. And it wasn’t going to involve motherhood. Instead, the experience of marrying a man outside my culture and living in his country had the effect of peeling me like an onion, until I began to recognize what I really believed in and what I could let go. Being in a relationship with a man who was not an intellectual was another challenge for me. It made me, ultimately, more sensitive to people who don’t function on the mental plane, and I think I have come to a sense of appreciation for such Souls. Not that I would want to marry a non-intellectual again. Once was enough.
The second time I got the nonsense shaken out of me was after my divorce, when I had to face the reality of having to get my needs met all by myself. If I wanted something, I had to earn the money to buy it myself. If I wanted something fixed, I had to fix it myself or find someone else who could – for a fee, usually. If I wanted company, I had to go out and make friends. I learned to make important decisions all by myself, but I also learned to value the advice and help of others.
When I returned to the United States, I had some more nonsense shaken out of me. I thought for sure I’d find a nice American man to marry. Wrong. I thought I could teach in the public schools without getting a master’s degree. False. I thought the trend of teaching Japanese in public high schools would continue. Not. I thought I could get along without learning to drive. No way, José. I stayed single, got my master’s degree, found a job teaching English as a Second Language with the growing Hmong population in St. Paul, MN, and finally learned to drive and bought a car.
Cancer shook a lot of nonsense out of me, too. I learned what I could and could not expect of my friends. I learned what I could and could not expect of myself. I learned that no matter how spiritual a focus you have in your life, you have to take care of the body. Period.
My latest “shake” has been these last few years as a retiree. I have learned that if you haven’t saved money before you retired, you will just have to live on less. I learned just how important it was to get out of debt before retirement. (I did, just barely, and I’m so glad!) I learned that you have to re-define yourself when you retire, and that you have to re-build your life from the ground up, especially if you have no grandchildren to cozy up to and if you move away from your friends. I learned that I am who I think I am, and that I am not who I was a few years ago. And I am learning that anything is possible. 🙂