Dear Maria,

I’ve got an opportunity for another job (I’m working part-time). This would be a different job, but I would work the same hours every day. I would miss dinner with my husband (4-8 p.m.), and possibly meetings at church if there are any. Hubby says he will be a-okay at dinner, so it’s probably me more than him. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit what to do, and waiting for some signs. I’ve seen some…maybe I just need to listen.


Perplexed Polly

Dear Perplexed Polly,

A wise woman once told me about her decision making process regarding a job. She said: “I asked everyone else, except me.” Evaluating a job weighs the practical (pay, hours, commute, etc.) plus family, friends, and in your case church commitments/activities, too. As women, we run the risk of putting everyone else’s needs and opinions ahead of our own. I take it you are currently employed, and that this is a new opportunity, so you have a chance to do some reflection. You’re in a great place to have the time and space to discern. Too often, we rush into a job because we need the money and can’t consider other aspects of the decision.

FB_IMG_1441171120247How do you feel about the new job? Set aside all the details about the hours, dinner, church, etc. and take a few moments of quiet. Imagine yourself walking into the job on a typical day of work. How does it feel to be there? Who are the people you’re working with, and for? How do you get along with them? How about your customers? Does the work bring you a sense of satisfaction? Where do you sit or stand, and what do you, see, hear, and sense around you? Imagine yourself in that spot, and play out some work interactions. Pay attention to the feelings that come up as you do this. You may feel engaged and energized, or heavy and afraid, or a mix of these and other feelings as well. Your feelings will give you insights into which direction you’d like to go. Mix these feelings with the practical details as you think things over.

Any resistance? Try to sort through where it’s coming from. Is it because you feel you’ll let others down if you’re not as available as you once were? Or will you genuinely miss participating in dinner, church meetings, etc.? Try to get a sense of what’s holding you back, and why. You’ve asked for signs, and maybe you’ve received some. Did they point you in a direction that you don’t think you want to go? Take some quiet time and play out those options in your imagination. How do you feel following each path? Wherever it feels life-giving, you’re heading in a good direction. Another discernment tactic is to pretend for a day that you’ve made your choice. So, just for today, act as if you’ve taken the new job. Tomorrow, pretend you’ve turned it down and remain in your current job. Again, pay attention to which direction feels better for you. Now, is the job worth it? Or would you rather stay where you are?

When I faced a similar decision, an advisor suggested I do a “head check, heart check, and gut check” about my options. Your head has considered the details, now explore your feelings to give your heart and guts a say. All input is important. Remember: this is your decision. No one else can or should make it for you. Trust that you have the smarts and intuition to figure this out. Whether you choose the new job, stay where you are, or another opportunity comes along, you will bring your best self to the situation. Good luck!

Dear Maria,

My stepson, who is married and lives in another city, recently tried to commit suicide. After several tenuous days in the hospital, he is recovering. My husband has been very sick and has his own serious health issues. We were already exhausted when he got the call about his son being near death, and to come quickly. My husband and I traveled to see him and spent several days there, which was very hard on us. I’m relieved that things are getting better, but part of me is so angry at my stepson for doing this. It has been a terrible strain on his already struggling dad. I know I should be more understanding. How can I get past this anger?


Sorry I Smashed that Window

Dear Sorry,

I’m sorry your family is dealing with so much right now. Health issues never come at a convenient time, and crises in general don’t schedule themselves well. Your husband and you have enough on your plate as it is. Then add to it the son’s emergency, and you’ve got an overdose of anxiety, stress, grief, and fatigue. I’m not sure there’s any one way to handle this well. We move into crisis management mode, and do the best we can.

Please know that your stepson was not able to consider anyone’s feelings in his decision. People who attempt suicide are in the lowest of low places and in so much pain they only seek relief. The darkness is so vast they do not factor in the impact their actions will have. Worse yet, they may even feel that their loved ones will be better off without them. This isn’t something he did to his family.

His family, however, deals with the repercussions. Your anger is understandable. You’ve reached a breaking point of your own. Your husband’s situation demands your attention and concern, and also brings up other feelings like fear, grief, and anxiety. During this time, stake a claim on radical self-care. Identify 3 to 5 things you must do every day to remain healthy and calm. Your list might include: extra sleep, healthy foods, exercise, prayer or meditation, journaling, etc. Commit to doing these things daily. Put off everything else. Your world will shrink as you say “no” to other people and commitments. That’s okay for now. Your primary focus must be on your own health, and on providing care for your husband. Depending on the level of care he needs, a home healthcare company can give you a break a couple of times a week. Check into caregiver support services in your area. Hopefully, your stepson is getting the counsel and care he needs, so your husband and you can rest easy and not be on edge anticipating another emergency.

Please give yourself a pass on the anger. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, and they give us insights into our own needs. Acknowledging your anger is a brave and healthy step. As Julia Cameron teaches in her touchstone work, The Artist’s Way:

Anger is fuel. We feel it and we want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell those bastards. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it. Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand…. We are meant to use anger as a fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us. With a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.

She continues:

Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly, anger is use-full…. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interest.

I hope your husband is feeling better, and his son continues to improve. Above all, I hope you will do all you can to take care of yourself. Sing this anthem when the anger rushes in:

Looking a gift hammock in the eye

EI April 14 coverThese are my feet, on retreat, in Colorado a few years ago. You may be thinking it’s not a true retreat if the cell phone is at hand. True, but I’m glad I had it to snap the photo. I remember the warm sun, gentle breeze, and taut knotted rope holding me suspended in the air every time I look at it. Gazing at the fluffy clouds in the brilliant blue sky, my breathing slowed to match the gentle sway of the hammock, the day stretching ahead with nothing to do but just be, listen, and rest.

It took some getting used to.

Lying in that hammock was like life: If I could relax into its strength and sway, I’d be at peace. But if I was scared of letting go, or anxious and tried too hard, I’d wind up in a frazzled mess.

That’s why I took a picture of my toes. “I need one of these at home,” I thought.

About a month later, my husband and I were on the way home from the airport after seeing my daughter off for a semester’s adventure abroad. Lost in thought, I nearly missed the sign in our neighbor’s driveway. Attached to a hammock frame, the sign said: FREE.

“Did you see that?” I said.

“Yes, I did,” Steve replied. “Wanna go get it?”

My inner chorus of critics chimed in: “Don’t bother.” “How will you get it home?” “Where would you put it in your tiny backyard?”

My toes tingled and said, “How great is this? Grab it!”

The resistance was tenacious, but weakening. As we pulled into our driveway, my heart was in my throat. I looked at my husband and found my voice. He waited. With more courage than I really should have needed, I said, “I want that hammock!”

“Let’s go get it,” he said.

Giddy, and a little self-conscious, I walked up the street next to him. My hand still gripped the damp Kleenex that consoled me after my daughter faded into the crowded concourse.

The frame was in great shape—a beautiful sage green with grapevine adornments and no rust. Its two sturdy wheels were soon rolling down the street, guided by Steve, into a cozy corner of our shady backyard. I bought a rope hammock that looks a lot like the photo, and created my own little backyard retreat. It’s a sweet haven for lessons in receiving surprises, and letting go.


Dear Readers,

In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.