I have missed blogging. I haven’t been away because of busyness. One thing about having an empty nest–I have so much more free time than I ever thought possible. No, it hasn’t been the busyness of parenting or homeschooling that has kept me away from writing. It hasn’t even been illness, although that has definitely been a struggle many days. What has kept me away has been the loss of yet another laptop. For several years I had a red Dell laptop that I loved. I guess computers don’t live forever, for about a year ago, the charging port died on my beloved laptop. We replaced that with a red HP. (Do you see a theme in color??) That has turned out to be a bad purchase decision. The HP has serious connectivity issues that even my techie husband has been unable to fix. So, I have been forced to use an old Toshiba which works, but has serious keyboard issues. <sigh>
All that said, in my absence of being able to blog online, I at least have been able to keep up the old fashioned way–with pen and paper in my journal. The absence of blogging, though, has not meant that my heart and mind haven’t been full of swirling thoughts and emotions and passionate internal debate on subjects near and dear to me–or even subjects that I wish were not a part of me but have become so despite my wishing the contrary. One of those subjects reared its ugly head yesterday.
Feeling inferior to others and feeling like a misfit is nothing new to me. I have honestly written in the past about times in my life where it has been blatantly obvious that I was not welcomed or that I didn’t fit in with a group of people I found myself surrounded by. When illness became such a major part of my life, though, I found that I was not put in that kind of position very often. Most of my days are spent at home, either alone or in the company of immediate family members such as my husband or my daughter and grandson. There is no awkwardness there of course. But once in a while, I find myself in a situation where I am literally the only one in a group that has absolutely nothing to contribute because I do not understand the context of the conversation. Yesterday I found myself in that very spot.
My husband had been invited to attend a going away party for a person he worked with. The invitees were selective, for his leaving was not necessarily voluntary. There were and are some very hard feelings over all that took place. My husband has worked for this company for over three years and was (still is) very close with the guy who left. In those years I have met only one of his colleagues and that was while traveling with him in South Dakota. I had kept the car to go visit a special family and when I went back to the client to pick him up, he was walking out with this guy and he introduced me to him. Beyond that, I have not attended any function that would have allowed me to meet anyone. I only know names from what my husband talks about at home, but have never had faces to put with the names. I do now. I was nervous leading up to the party, but I told myself that others would have spouses that were in a similar situation like me.
I. Was. Wrong.
Everyone there knew each other. In fact, the majority of the people there were former employees of the company. Spouses that were there had all been to numerous company functions in the many years their husbands had worked together. It was like a big reunion and I was the guest that no one knew. To make me feel even worse, the wife of the guy who planned the party asked me what I did for a living. I should have expected that question, but I guess I haven’t been out in so long, I had forgotten that it is a standard question among those in the business world. My reply used to be that I homeschool my children, but that is no longer the case. Instead, I fumbled for words to say that didn’t make me sound like a lazy person. I finally said that I used to homeschool my children, but they have all grown and moved out so now I just stay home. The reply took the hostess by surprise, I think, for her response was simply, “Oh.” I couldn’t tell if it was in disdain or if she simply didn’t quite know what to say to that. I tried to quickly explain that part of the year I did work from home in a professional job in the field of education, but I think she had tuned out by then. I got no response or interest. The rest of the evening found me sitting and listening to everyone else talk about management and engagements and staff and all the other things this group of people had in common. A sub-group of people, comprised of a recently retired couple (the husband had worked for the company for years) and a few others talked about their extensive travels around the world. To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement. To say it made me feel insignificant is also an understatement. I fought back tears as we left and made the long drive home.
In my hurt, I posted a Facebook status about the evening I had just had. Friends commented, reminding me that I had raised four children, had homeschooled them, and that my worth is really found in Jesus. I appreciate their comments and the fact that they cared enough to comment. I certainly don’t underestimate the influence being a full time mom had on my kids. I am thankful for the investment I poured into them. In reality, I wouldn’t trade those hard years of full time mothering and homeschooling for anything. Still, (and unless one has been in this situation I suspect it is quite hard to understand) when put in a situation where everyone else in the room works or has worked in a professional career, it is nearly impossible to feel like your life has any value. Even my husband does not really understand why the tears fell so hard last night. He didn’t struggle last night–he had much to contribute to the conversation. Similarly, he always has an answer when someone outside of his circle asks him what he does. The answer to that question always brings interest and intrigue from the one who asked. And rightly so. After all, he does have a job that is different and sometimes exciting. It is just expected, I guess, that everyone has an answer to that question. Maybe not every job is confusing like my husband’s so that not everyone has to explain what they do like he does, but answers like “I’m a teacher” or “I’m an engineer” or “I’m a financial adviser” bring nods of understanding and respect from those listening. “I’m an empty nester”? Not so much. The response to that is usually a blank stare–and that makes me want to crawl away and hide from all people.