Monday, May 30, 2011
Handling disappointment with wisdom
The stress is building for Rob as Celia’s full-time employability as a music teacher becomes increasingly questionable. Celia feels both guilty and discouraged.
Every day at the afterschool program felt precious now that Celia knew the grant for it had not been renewed. Paul, the church intern who ran the program, was disappointed, too, but he had gathered material for his seminary thesis and had gained valuable experience for his career. Or so Celia learned as they talked about it face to face for the first time since they had learned the news. They were in the re-purposed parsonage before the children were expected to arrive for their tutoring and music enrichment.
Whereas Celia wanted to cry, Paul simply shrugged and said, “Well, we knew we might only have the grant for one year when we received it.”
Celia realized that for her, working in the afterschool program had provided a glimmer of hope – perhaps it could be funded permanently and her role in it could be expanded accordingly over time, she had thought. Now she felt stupid in addition to guilty and discouraged, since it now seemed so glaringly obvious that this job had provided enough income to make it appear to Rob that she was genuinely trying. But in reality she had just put off facing the truth for one more year – that as school districts continued to cut funding, the market for music teachers would only get worse. And not just in Ohio.
“Wow, you’re really upset about this, aren’t you?” Paul said. He had been shuffling some papers at his desk, but now he turned toward her and assumed a caring, pastoral pose that always made Celia nervous, because he was just way too attractive when he stopped what he was doing and looked at her like that…
Celia burst into tears.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she sobbed, flopping into the chair next to his desk. “Rob is so frustrated with me – I’d make more money working full time at Starbucks than I am making right now.” She grabbed a tissue from his desk and blew her nose.
“Well, no one goes into ministry to make money,” Paul said, soothingly. “You’re doing what you’re called to do.”
This was the kind of thinking that confused Celia to no end. It made so much sense when Paul talked about it, because she did feel called to music and to teaching. But Rob, while professing to want her to be happy, worried so badly about money. And to be fair, part of what attracted her to Rob was that she knew he would provide financial stability, which she had never had.
“Rob couldn’t care less about ministry,” Celia said, sniffing. This hadn’t come out right, because she really did not want to blame him for the problem. “I mean, I wish I could have it both ways.”
Paul reached out and took her hand.
What happens next?
Monday, May 23, 2011
Celia is in despair over her ill timed and faltering music teaching career. Rob has been trying to support and encourage her.
Rob hated to admit it, even to himself, but he was relieved to go to work this morning. Last evening had gone down hill from the moment Celia arrived at the sports bar having just received news that her part time job, which she loved, was evaporating at the end of June.
He had cuddled with her on the couch while she cried, telling her that yes, it is a terrible time to be a teacher, but we will figure it out together. He hated to see her so sad, and he wanted to be a comfort and for Celia to be happy in her work. But inside he was beginning to panic at the idea that given the downturn in budgets everywhere, especially for arts funding, she might never be fully employed in her chosen profession. Rob was facing – yet again—his fear that he would be on his own in planning and sustaining their financial future. The whole episode had a “here we go again” feeling and he could see no way out of the cyclone.
By keeping their expenses as low as possible (and making sure Celia kept track of every possible deductible item from her freelance piano lessons), they had survived the last year on his salary without going into debt. It had been tight. Rob had hoped that their austerity program would be temporary, and that Celia would come up with a permanent position for this fall. She had not.
But he could not talk to Celia about this, or about things like IRAs, savings accounts, and down payments for houses without making her feel like she was letting down the team. He worried, a lot, and when he had told Celia last night that they would figure it out together, he had won points in the supportive husband department. But he had no idea how they would figure it out together, or separately, or at all. There seemed to be no way out without it becoming a huge marital mess of his need to be financially secure vs. her need to be fulfilled in her vocation.
Rob started considering a part-time job for himself – it would be easier to just buck up and maximize his own earning potential rather than expect Celia to do her part. He could tend bar at a sports bar – that might even be fun, to earn money while he watched sports—or do some bookkeeping on the side.
He opened his email. The daily devotional he had agreed to read and discuss with Celia was in his in-box.
Right, this too, he thought irritably. He was getting tired of being the one to change in order to make their marriage happy. He wanted a real partner, but right now he just felt like he was supporting a teenager who was part lazy and part clueless.
How does Rob deal with the stress?
Monday, May 16, 2011
A Moment in Time
Celia’s afterschool program was defunded and Celia needs Rob is to figure out how to be a supportive husband over an issue about which she knows he is in fact ambivalent.
Rob took Celia’s hand and said, “Let’s go cuddle on the couch and talk about it.”
Celia looked at Rob and paused, momentarily uncertain if he was serious or if he was mocking that her feelings needed attention. But Rob was not good at sarcasm and he looked as sincere as could be, so Celia stood up and allowed him to take her to the living room. Before sitting down, he found Celia’s iPod in her bag, set it in the dock, and scrolled through its contents before settling on Mozart’s concerto in B-flat. She felt herself soften at this gesture; that Rob would go about finding and choosing music he thought she would like at this moment.
Rob joined her on the sofa, settling in and opening his arm for her to cuddle against. She did, smiling, thinking that what she really needed right now was some cool jazz – as a piano teacher she often did not find classical piano music relaxing, but that point was minor next to Rob’s genuine care for her.
“I’ve been on the music teacher treadmill for two years now,” she said. “I love what I do but I’m also tired of being poor and paying back loans on an education that may never support me – yes, Rob, I am saying that. I do think about it even if you think about it more.”
“I didn’t know you thought about it,” Rob said. He stroked her arm with his hand as he spoke.
“Well, I don’t say much about those thoughts because I’m afraid that if I do suddenly I’ll no longer be a music teacher.”
“Rocco said that there have been cuts in his district for PE, but since he has been teaching there ten years he kept his job,” Rob said. Celia had almost entirely forgotten that he had spent the evening with his office mate Lucy and her boyfriend Rocco, who was also a teacher.
Celia was grateful that Rocco had provided Rob with another glimpse into the teaching world, because she feared that he blamed her for things that were beyond her control, like a poor economy and awful state budgets.
“I picked a terrible, terrible time to become a teacher,” Celia said, her throat tightening and tears beginning to well up. “I thought I could do something I loved and earn a living at the same time.”
How does Rob respond to Celia?
Friday, May 13, 2011
When husbands just don’t get it (Harold’s response)
Sometimes we husbands just need grace. Really, grace is the key for both spouses at varying points in the marriage. In this episode, Rob feels clueless about how to be helpful. Thankfully, their marriage has matured to the point where lapses in judgment receive more empathy than they have in the past. The challenge for all of us couples is to emulate that.
Monday, May 09, 2011
When husbands just don’t get it
When Celia tells Rob that the funding for the afterschool program was not renewed, he answered, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not like you were making that much money anyway. Now you can go back to looking for a real job in a school district.”
Rob, sitting across from Celia, watched her slowly put down the piece of toast she had been eating. She took a paper napkin from the holder on the table and opened it – slowly – and wiped off her fingers and mouth. Looking down, she put the napkin on her lap. She looked up, but not at Rob, instead looking past him across the kitchen into the living room.
“I know you’re trying to be helpful,” she said. “But right now I could not care less about the money.” He could see tears welling up, and she took the napkin from her lap again to dab at them.
Rob winced, because this felt like the same old stuff again, where he worried about money and about their financial future and Celia, as she had just said, could not care less. But he realized that his “don’t worry about it” comment had not been the best place to start this conversation, having learned the hard way that to appear to minimize Celia’s love of music and her work did not tend to turn out well. So he had learned to manage his money anxiety, though at times “managing” it felt a lot more like he was carrying the load alone.
“Well, we knew you weren’t going to be working at the afterschool program this summer anyway,” he started. “So you can just”—
“Rob!” Celia said. “I know you worry about money incessantly, and I’m sorry I’m no help with that. But please, for five minutes, can we just talk about other aspects of this?”
“OK,” Rob said. “What other aspects do you want to talk about?”
“How I feel about it!”
“Right!” he said, grateful that Celia was spelling this out for him and remembering, right, feelings before facts works better with his wife. He paused and adjusted his voice to sound sincere, because he really, really was, before saying, “So how do you feel about it?”
Celia shook her head, half-laughed, and said, “Take a wild guess, Rob.” Of course, she was sad, because she loved to teach music, she loved the kids, she had loved working with Paul, the church’s intern, and learning from him about the theological basis for urban ministry. She loved that she was making a difference—
Rob stood up, with every intention of being a helpful and supportive husband.
What happens next?
Monday, May 02, 2011
What’s a real job?
Celia just arrived home from the sports bar; Rob is a couple of minutes behind her.
Celia dropped her bag on the floor, exhausted after a long and stressful day, and wished she did not have to tell Rob her news. They had just started their devotional routine, and her telling Rob what she had to tell Rob would just make him anxious and way too serious; then the whole routine would fall apart just as they really needed it. She headed to the kitchen, regretting drinking a margarita on an empty stomach. Her stomach was rebelling, so she found some bread to put in the toaster. Toast would calm it down.
It had just popped when Rob came in. Celia heard him drop his bag next to hers and follow the kitchen light to find her.
“So did you enjoy the game?” Celia asked, buttering her toast. She did not want to share her bad news yet because to share it meant she had to think about it, and she was already too sad.
“We lost, but other than that it was a good game.” He stood there, looking at her, and she focused on buttering her toast. “So?” he said.
“So?” Celia said, though she knew he wanted to know why she had needed a drink earlier.
“What’s going on?” Rob said. “You tossed back that margarita pretty damn quick.”
Celia sighed as she took her toast to the dinette table and sat down. “Paul called after we talked. He just found out that our grant isn’t going to be renewed for next year.” She let that sink in for a minute, before adding, “So my job is kaput as of the end of June.” She took a bite of toast even though she was now quite the opposite of hungry. It was something to do as she tried not to cry. She loved her role creating and teaching the music curriculum at her church’s afterschool program, funded by grants and run by their intern, Paul. Every day reminded her why she had studied music education in college. The children were so engaged, and she was sure that they did better on their homework after she had started their neural pathways firing through her music training…
Rob sat down across from her. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not like you were making that much money anyway,” he said. “Now you can go back to looking for a real job in a school district.”
Celia knew Rob was sincere in his admonition not to worry, even though Rob worried about money all the time. He was trying to be helpful. She gave him credit for that even though he had just insulted her passion for the program and had completely missed why she was upset.
What happens next?
Page 1 of 1 pages
Return to home page