Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Reason, A Season, or a Lifetime

I feel like I'm going through a transitional period in my life. Friends I thought I'd have forever are fading into the mist, I'm entering a new phase of my marriage as we look toward becoming homeowners, my parents are, unfortunately, entering a new phase as well due to layoffs, a slowed economy and the mortgage crisis. Times they are a-changing, and I often feel quite lost.

It's during these transitional phases that I start questioning why I'm here. It's a question, perhaps a conundrum, that is more difficult, I think, for the childfree person. Parents have an easy default answer: I'm here to raise my kids and be a good parent, they'll often say. But when you don't have something that the world at large finds so valuable, so central to their own lives, how do you find a place in the world and say what your purpose is?

In the past few years, my husband and I have boarded displaced friends and family members. But is that our life calling? I don't think so, especially when the overwhelming evidence shows that we haven't made a difference in their lives once they emerge from under our roof. C returned to her abusive home after beginning to become a grown-up (at 28) and immediately regressed to her destructive childish behavior. E responds to attempts to help with a blanket "you don't understand me" and continues to refuse to take accountability for her actions. J, our current boarder and my husband's cousin, is doing better, but after being removed from the drama and destruction of her family home, I'm seeing her begin to seek it out elsewhere, as if her life is incomplete without the constant dysfunction.

I used to wonder, and still often do, whether we might have it in us to be foster parents one day. My experience helping these troubled friends is talking me out of it.

"Sometimes somethin's so broke can't BE fixed."

I used to feel like we made a difference in the lives of these people we take into our homes, the friends I take into my heart, but they fall back into their same destructive patterns until I'm so exhausted I don't know how to help, that I need to admit defeat because I was never the one who could save them in the first place. We've shown people who've never seen a healthy relationship what one looks like, we've shown them love, and it's never enough because sometimes somethin's so broke can't be fixed.

Deep down I know that the problems are due to mental illness, to broken minds paired unfortunately with good hearts, but often I wonder if I could have done more. If I didn't out of laziness or fear, if there was a magic way to reach them and encourage them to get the help they need and I just missed it.

I expect too much. I want it to be easy, but it's not. I cannot save them all, and I cannot save who doesn't want to be saved. I find it so difficult to distance myself from the damaged person I care about, and just when I think I'm being a good friend, helping someone make major changes, they go back to the abusive home, the self-destructive promiscuity, the relationship-wrecking stubbornness, the debilitating depression, and I feel like I've failed, especially since I'm resented by the very person I tried to help out of pure love.

It's not in me, I couldn't deal with that. It's hard enough dealing with it from friends and family, but to experience it from a child placed in my care... I cringe thinking about it because deep down I don't want to care for a child, I want to fix somebody. I want to say "see, I turned this person into a better person," but I want it to be easy and that's just not realistic.

I think a lot of people enter parenthood with these idealistic goals. They want to raise a good person and they want it to be easy. What does my outlook say about me? Does it say that I'm enlightened, knowing myself enough that I wouldn't be able to handle such pressure, or does it say I'm a defeatist, giving up before I try when there's a possibility to do such good? I don't know.

I just know that there's nothing in this world that I hate quite as much as when I feel this way, when this powerlessness overwhelms me, and I sure as hell don't want to subject myself or my husband to a life sentence of this uncertainty. This, this right here and now, this will pass soon and I will feel better because the root of it will be gone soon, faded away with the friendship as sad as that is. Friendships come and go. A child never really leaves. There are no do-overs, and there's no saying "oh well, I tried my best and this failed. Better luck next time."

I know that I am going to be in the somewhat unique position of challenging myself to find the quick answer to the question "why am I here". And, to be honest, I'm glad for that. I'm glad because instead of just defaulting to an "easy" answer, my life's quest will require more thought, consideration, and an adventure totally unique to my husband and me.

As the seasons end for some of my friendships, many of which I thought were "lifetime" ones, I'm reevaluating everything. It's painful, but I know it's giving me strength. I can only hope it does the same, on whatever level, for those that I've loved.


k said...

Hi Stasha,

I am a 46-year-old childfree that happened upon your blog. I too want to help others and sometimes wonder what my purpose in life is, since I'm not having kids.

I've decided that I definitely want to give back to the world, since I am not taking the difficult road of parenting a child. I just don't know how I'm going to do this, or when I wold start doing this, since my life seems too busy now to find time to exercise, stretch, or even update my website.

Plus, I am writing a book right now called Kidfree & Lovin' It on the childfree, and am months behind my budgeted time to finish it. I have a Kidfree Survey that I would love you to take, if you haven't already. Over 1,800 CFs around the world have taken it, and you can remain anonymous if you like. Here's the link:

If it's any consolation, once you're in your 40s I think it's easier to be childfree than in your 30s. Most of my friends kids are grown and out of the house. Plus, no one asks me when Brian & I are going to have kids, like they did for years!

Anyway, I'm determined to find my purpose in life that does NOT include procreating, and hopefully it will entail making the world a better place.

Take Care!

Kidfree Kaye

Samantha said...

Those with good hearts are often the ones who are hurt most. It might not seem like you've made a difference in the lives of those you've taken in but you have. For the short time that they were with you and your husband, they knew true friendship, love and respect. What they do after they leave your care has no merit on what you did for them. It was their choice to go back to their old ways and nothing you could have done would stop that.

The difference with foster children, like you said, is that they never leave your care. Plus, you would have the aid of counselors, teachers, case workers, etc. to help you out. Don't rule foster care out entirely based on the outcome of your friendships. If you decide not to do foster care, do it for other reasons.

It's obvious that you are a very loving and caring person. You are here to make a difference in this world. You've helped your friends, those who have needed shelter and those who you may not have even known you've helped. Look beyond the more dramatic cases and study those you've never thought of. I guarentee you've made a difference in their lives. All of your friends are very lucky to have you.

Heidi said...

I often feel the same way and for the same reasons. I have come to the conclusion that a person's purpose in life may not be just one thing, but many things that change day to day. Today's purpose is helping your friend in need. Tomorrow's purpose is chatting up that guy at the busstop. Perhaps he was thinking about suicide until someone was nice to him. You know what I mean.

Also, since I have so many random interests and goals, I have made a journal of them all. They all have a section, and then I write down bite-size goals toward each of them. For instance, I am going back to school this fall. A bite-size goal for that section would be "Turn in name-change form". "Research notebook computers". Like that.

Also, I have realized that there are so many things I want to do in my life, but there is only one that I could (at this moment) picture myself doing forever, and that is writing. So I've decided to just focus on that until my path becomes more clear to me. Maybe along the way I'll realize that writing is all I need. Or maybe I'll figure out the next stage of my life along the way.

I love your blog, by the way. Maybe get in touch with me sometime if you have a spare moment? myspace.com/etnsugr_headfirst

Anonymous said...

Stasha, are you quitting this blog? I hope you didn't give in to your inlaws. I just found your blog and it got me through another day...I hope you come back soon.

Anonymous said...

Part of why I chose to not have kids is because I don't think I should be here. My parents divorced when I was just 3.

I was not born of love between two people.

I should have never been born. My parents did not belong together, as I do not belong here.