One simple question tonight: What am I going to be when I grow up? I need your help on this. I've realized that I have no idea what to do with the rest of my life. I can keep putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions one day at a time, but that's not it. The question is not so much about daily activity as overarching purpose. What do I do now?
My purpose has always been you. Even before we graduated from college, when we were dating then engaged, my purpose was you. For the next 34 years everything I did was for you - work at home, work at work, even play - you were the purpose of all I did, all my life. In the early months of widowhood I'd thought I would be putting my focus - my energy and purpose - into my nursing career. But that door seems closed to me. And at my age, I could probably only work another 8-10 years before I had to retire. Then I'd be back in the same place, wondering what the rest of my life was going to be for and about.
I can't - won't - make it about enjoying myself - can't because I don't have the funds for that, won't because it's not right or healthy. Centering my life on any career is iffy with fibromyalgia, anyway. Right now I'm working 3 days a week, which is leaving me too exhausted to do anything but sleep on the other 4. Maybe I need to ask what partially-disabled people do with their lives. And here I have to raise the question: What do normal folk do?
I realize that the majority of married women don't center everything in their lives around their husbands. And of those who do, most widows just find another man to put in the place of the one they lost. But the one I lost was the world's only perfect man, and there is no man who can be put in that place, so that isn't an option for me. Women with children often center their lives around them, but I don't have my own children, and Jen is grown and on her own - that's not an option for me, either. People talk about centering your life around what you love to do, so should I set up that Etsy store, keep knitting for it, and start doing some designing as well? And I still have a small but stubborn and vocal group demanding that I write. That's something I may be able to resume soon. I've needed a year to write nothing but these letters to you, then after enough time has passed and my head has cleared a bit, I'd like to go back to my other writing. But I can't hurry the process. And writing takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Then there's the question of devoting my life to God, and I'm not sure what that looks like in this setting. I felt the monastic call in childhood - which was frustrated by the small detail of being Methodist - and I have to examine that possibility along with the others. With my physical limits, I'm afraid I'd be a burden to a community, rather than an asset.
So here I am: I'm too old to practice my profession, and I'm limited by partial disability that few people believe in because I "don't look sick," whatever than means, and a disability that presents itself differently every day so that my ability to work is unpredictable. Let's face it - I'm not hirable. If money were no object, I could easily opt for writing and knitting/designing, and I'd love to learn how to make my own yarn. Being creative with beautiful things has always been necessary for me. And there are stories in me that have to get out, just have to be written or I'll explode. But money has to be an object - a woman (and a dog, and a cat) has to eat. If I come to the point that I have the time and energy for writing and knitting, I will also have the freedom to do more of the full cycle of monastic prayers here at home, and that would be wonderful, too.
So okay, maybe I've found my dream - pray, knit, write. Get involved in groups that knit together. Maybe take a writers' course at a local college. Remember that all is devoted to God and guard prayer time, keeping as much of the monastic cycle as I can. Occasionally travel to the fiber art shows and keep up on the new trends in knitting. Maybe even teach a class someday. I only have one question: Who pays for this lovely bohemian lifestyle? I have things to contribute, words I want to leave to the world. But how can this be financed?
Maybe that's for the Lord to take care of. I suppose I'll do what of that dream life that I can under the current circumstances, and let Him take care of the rest - let things flower as they can.
Which brings me to something else I've been wanting to ask you. I remember your last December, when you had to sign up for the next year's benefits package. We decided you should sign up to pay extra to increase your life insurance from the $15,000 they give management for free to $45,000. I remember that you did that and sent it in. Then when I got your life insurance, it was only the $15,000. I contacted both Matts and Jeff about it, and they said the amount at your level of management was $15,000. Should I call Panera Benefits and push this? I suspect that you only worked part of one pay period in 2012, and that wasn't enough to meet requirements for the larger amount. But I'd like to hear that from somebody in the benefits department. That extra amount would carry me until I can file for your Social Security benefits in November of 2015. And that will carry me until I can file for my own, and if need be can get a reverse mortgage in November of 2017.
So, what do you think about all of this? I really would like your feedback here, for two reasons: first, you know me much better than I do; and second, you've always been better at hearing the Lord's voice than I am. And I'm in a bit of a quandary about - oh, only everything. I've always come to you with questions like this, and you've always helped so much. Please try to help now, too.
Love you, trust you, lean on your wisdom,