Friday, August 20, 2010

Loaded Suitcase

Last Tuesday, the UPS man left a big box on our front porch.
How exiting, I thought, tearing it open. I hadn't ordered anything.

It was a suitcase. Who had sent us a brand new suitcase? Why?
I opened the envelope tucked in the front and read the title.
Million Miler? According to the note, my husband had logged over a million miles on Delta, so the airline was rewarding him with a suitcase and a card.

"Where's my gift?" I harrumphed. "I'm the one who deserves the present."
For over twenty years of parenthood, Todd has worked for Michelin. It's an international company, and most positions required him to travel. A lot of travel. Over a million miles, apparently.
That's a lot of dinners out, while I'm home making macaroni and cheese.
A lot of quiet evenings in the hotel, while I was changing diapers, staying up with sick kids, refereeing arguments. That's a lot of solo homework duty, of managing the drama of adolescent friendships, of navigating the fears and tears, not to mention all the household drudgery he's missed.
Where's my present, Delta?

As I dragged the suitcase through the kitchen, a memory popped into my head.
It was a Saturday night and Todd had just come home from another trip overseas. We had gone through our family ritual of opening his carry-on bag, pulling out the sack of pastries he'd bought at the airport 19 hours ago, the magazines for Sarah and me, the candy for Ben and Sam. We sat down at the table to eat dinner together, to celebrate Todd's homecoming, after a week and a half away.

As we passed the food around, Ben spoke up.
"Evan's dad asked where you were at soccer, and I said you were on a trip again. He said that he just couldn't do it. If he had your job, he'd have to quit, cause he loves his kids too much to have to travel with work."

Todd's face fell. I could see the pain in his eyes as the comment hung in the air.
"What a thing for him to say" I barked.
"Yeah," said Sarah. "Daddy loves us every bit as much as Mr. Johnson loves his kids. Probably more!"
"I know!" Ben said. "I didn't say anything, but I wanted to tell him that it's just how Daddy's job is. He can't help it that he has to be gone sometimes."

The memory dissolved, and I looked at the suitcase.
I'm sorry, Todd.
My flurry of resentment and envy hijacked my brain, blocking the view of the beauty in my own life. Of all that I've been lucky enough to experience. The closeness we both have with our children. The treasure of being present in so many everyday moments.

The resentment and envy felt familiar.
It reminded me of the mommy wars, the judging words I've heard fly between moms "who work" and those who stay home. I've participated in that too, from both sides at different times.

I've heard women say, "I just love my kids too much to let somebody else raise them," and I've nodded along.
What loaded words.

When I was back at work full time, waving goodbye to my 4 and 6 year old, the same words wounded me.
I'd insist on helping my four year old get dressed, even though he could dress himself, just for an excuse to touch his little body, to smooth his hair, to straighten his shirt. I didn't love him any less than anyone else. I needed to work. I wanted to work.

Yet, at times, the envy and resentment I felt towards others blocked the view of the beauty of my own life.

God, help me battle envy and resentment. Give me the strength to resist the attraction to negativity, to turn my focus to the beauty you have given me in my present circumstances. Help me, once again, keep my eyes on my own paper, Lord. Help me remember to live in my blessings--and to celebrate them!

Are any of you wise or sensible? Then show it by living right and by being humble and wise in everything you do. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don't brag or lie to cover up the truth. That kind of wisdom doesn't come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself. Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things. But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.
James 3:13-18

What about you?
Do you ever battle resentment? Do you long to live where the grass is greener? What helps you in your struggles?

Have a wonder-full weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky

Photo by Robert S. Donovan, creative commons


Susie said...

Beautiful post Becky! Wondering where Kevin's suitcase is?! He had to leave on this last trip with my flowered carry-on with the broken wheels because he lent his manly suitcase to Tyler to move to college.Hopefully the other men didn't make fun of him!

Mompriest said...

I've realized that if you can't find contentment in your own backyard you aren't going to find it in some other so called greener yard. I don't aim for happiness any longer, that's a fleeting, temporary emotion. I do strive for peace, acceptance, and a sense of being content without also becoming resentful or bitter or thinking my life "should" be something else.

When my kids were young I did both - sometimes I was a stay at home mom, sometimes I worked. Whichever way it was not about what made me love my kids more - but about what I needed to do financially or emotionally for me to be the person I need to be - for myself, my husband, my kids. But wow, to say I love my kids too much to....just seems like it packs a whole lot of potential resentment behind it....

we all do the best we can. And that is simple all there is too it and good enough.

(thanks for giving me much to think about in this reflection)...

Jean Wise said...

Wow great post and much to think about.

You know if we keep our hearts on God all we can do is make the best decisions we can and just go on. All discernment comes with "baggage" - the good and the bad. We have to weigh what we can live with.

And your point about what we are carrying around - bitterness, anger, second guessing ourselves. I know I hold my breath each time I lug a suitcase to get on a plane wondering if I am over the weight limit - Guess I need to evaluate what baggage I carry in my heart too.

Thanks for the good thoughts

adrienne said...

This post hit home - my life got turned a little upside down recently, so resentment has been an issue. There's a Buddha quote that helps remind me to let go:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Becky, oh, I've come such a long way with this, but probably have much more to go. Still, I feel that I've become wider, my vision has widened. I used to be envious of people whose husbands didn't work horrid retail hours. Then I remembered the ones who travel. Or, wish my husband's job were higher-paying so there would be more freedoms. Then I realized that sometimes, oftentimes, the higher paying jobs come at a cost, too, though in other ways perhaps than financial. The grass IS always greener and we can only live the best life we can based on our particular blessings. It is freedom to realize this, but we will falter at times. Of course. We're human. :)

Sharon said...

Once again, Becky, you plucked at a deep place that I know about. I am also blessed by the rich wisdom in each of these comments.

I have been hurt to be on the receiving end of "throw away" comments like your son heard about his dad. And I also fear that, even more often, I have tossed something "helpful" or "right" out of my mouth, unwittingly wounding someone.

When I start seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence, sometimes it makes me envious of that over there. But more often it is a sign that my own garden has been neglected, so anything else would look great! I know this, but it still sneaks up on me sometimes! And then the unpacking begins ... again!

Emily said...

We struggle with the same judgments of our family of five, with my husband traveling frequently for work in a community where most people have lived here their entire lives and don't travel at all. You are so right to focus on your own life -- but sometimes, it's difficult. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Olga said...

Thank you so much for posting this. We all, myself included, get caught up in the daily motions and have our not-so-graceful moments but it's important to wake up and remember what's really important. Your post served as my reminder for today.

Dawn said...

Goodness, I've been battling a new round with bitterness and envy just in the last thirty minutes. I'm so glad the Lord directed me to you blog now!

Kat said...

What a beautiful post!
Unfortunately I am stuck on what that frightful man said in front of your boy. Don't people think before they say things? Makes me SO MAD. But HOORAY for you children for sticking up for their daddy and HOORAY to your husband for making them so secure in his love for them (and that is a credit to you as well).

I have always wanted to be a stay at home mom. It is a dream come true for me. My husband is a very sought after attorney in our state. He has much acclaim and deep respect from all who know him. He asks for something to be done and people run to get it done. My husband takes time out to workout and run everyday and is in fabulous shape and is a very handsome man.
I change diapers all day. I loose my temper too much and yell at the very children I love the most. When I ask that something be done I get ignored or eyes rolled at me (of course they are just children, but still). My meals aren't always fabulous. I certainly don't always look my best. I rarely get to work out these days.
Sometimes there is resentment. Which is ridiculous to me since I have the very life I've always wanted.

Graceful said...

I love your honesty here, Becky. Come to think of it, you are ALWAYS honest -- that's what I love about you so much. I would have surely harumphed and complained when I saw the suitcase, too -- I would have bitterly reviewed all the extra single parenting I'd done over the years. It takes a lot of courage -- and the grace of God -- to realize when you are falling prey to resentment and envy and admit it out loud to yourself and others. I commend you for that!

lotusgirl said...

Lovely way to put this. My husband has done a lot of travel over the years, too. For a long time I wished I could travel like he did and go to all the cool places he went. Travel was wasted on him. He hated it. I've come to realize that the way most business people travel is no fun at all. It's just a long drawn out trip to a meeting. So my solution for envy is to really evaluate the positives and negatives of what I think I envy.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

As usual, I'm just touched by your honest comments, your willingness to share your own truths about resentment and envy. I guess it's a human thing, so it's not going anywhere. Thank goodness for grace and for Christ, who shows us a way out, if we can dare to try to follow. Love y'all!

roundballrev said...

Wonderful post, Becky!

As a father whose face has fallen more than once(but nowhere near the roadwarrior that Todd is!), I am grateful for the way you have captured, Mom, Dad and kids--all together--in this reflection.

And the bridge to the "mommy-wars" was nothing short of brilliant.

You should hone and develop this one to be a signature devotion as you work on other modes of dissemination of your work.

Especially well done!

And BTW, congrats to you, Todd, Sarah, Ben and Sam for being an amazing family through it all (not "in spite of it all," mind you, because this "all" is an important part of what makes you all who you are!).

Beki - TheRustedChain said...

This is beautiful, Becky!

Your writing is amazing.

Geekwif said...

Perfect timing. My husband hasn't had to travel much lately (he used to travel 3-4 days most weeks) but there's a good possibility he'll be getting a new job soon which will require him to travel a lot - possibly even more than before. I'm trying to reject the temptation to be whiny and ornery about him being gone so much.

I am proud of him, and grateful for how hard he works to provide for us (my job pays about 1/4 of what he makes now). I think it comes down to choosing to focus on that rather than letting myself wallow in self-pity.

Anonymous said...

Great post Becky! I have always had to remind myself that the grass may be greener on the other side...until you have to mow it! In other words, what may seem like a great life others have, it is not always what it seems to be. Once you really start to look deeper into other's lives, they may share with you that it really is not all that great. As humans we are real good at hiding how things really are and cover up the mess our lives may be in. We don't want people to know that we are flawed. When my husband was deployed to Italy for 5 months one time, I was in a griping mood and one military guy down the street told me how much they really want to be home with their families when they are away in those places and they cannot share it with us and it can be quite lonely for them. I was thankful that he reminded me of that because I really hate it when I cannot be with my family when I go to somewhere nice once in a blue moon!
Tammy Whitley

Amy Sullivan said...

Wow, what a jerk! I can't believe the things people say. I always enjoy visiting. Your posts are very real.

Resentment? Yes, but too embarrassed even to mention what it's about. Just something I know I have to work on.

Jojo said...

At 54 I'm an odd member of my generation in that both my parents always worked and my Dad traveled constantly. Needless to say, it wasn't normal to have parents present and most of our activities (there were 5 kids) but the activities they did make it to stand out in my mind. I never had issues with resentment or envy. It was just normal for our family but my mother, raising 5 kids and working, still has issues with the situation (and my Dad is deceased). We've had many discussions about realizing that his efforts provided for the family, all sorts of extras that we wouldn't have had otherwise and she "retired" at 40. It has been really sad to see someone harbor such resentment and my guess is she will take it to her grave. To me and my siblings we saw blessings but to my mom she saw burden.

Your suitcase has been with you all along and it is filled with all the extra memories that you've been given with your children because you've had extra opportunities without your husband there. You've made abundant memories.

Laura said...

My reaction to that suitcase would have mirrored yours, Becky. But this line of yours will help me in the future: "Keep your eyes on your own paper"! Love that!

Angie Muresan said...

I agree with you, and I'm tearing up reading this. So many people offer opinions without really thinking of what they are saying. Maybe they intend to be hurtful, maybe not. But I am all for examining every thought and word before speaking.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Love you all.

Jenny said...

plant seeds of peace....good/wonderful idea/goal. Thank you rebecca!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oooh, what a gut-honest post, Rebecca. And I've felt it too. Sometimes I feel SO bitter because I've sat back and pushed the rest of them forward and for what I wonder...