An Overdue Realization

As you go through different phases in your life sometimes the circles you can run in change. It doesn’t mean you stop respecting the people you once kept company with. It doesn’t demand hatred or an impressive amount of hurt and bitterness. You must acknowledge that you are now walking different lines on the map and what is important to the people you are departing from is different from what is important to you. Not better or worse…just different. Sometimes you have to realize when it is neither the time nor the place to ask a group of people to walk a mile in your shoes and that is at an elective event that is neither about you nor hinged upon you.

I have a leather journal in which i write down any sayings i hear over the years which i believe to be wise and true. I do not write down the authors as i am less concerned with who first coined the revelation than the revelation itself. I am writing the quotes down to be absorbed and implemented in my daily life and so the author need not be penned beneath each one in a journal for my own use. However, when mentioning someone else’s thought in their own words to hundreds of others, i do believe credit is in order, ethically and legally. So i have attempted to find the person who penned a quote i try to live by daily. I will say that the idea seems to have been introduced by a man called Ezra Taft Benson and then rephrased a bit by a man named Stephen R Covey. If i have neglected to list anyone before or after these men who also contributed to the penning of this idea i do apologize. Feel free to correct me in the comments and i will add anyone i have missed.

“We are free to make our own choices. However, we are not free from the consequences of those choices.”

i made a choice to prioritize meaningful work far away from where i live over profitable work close to home. I made a choice to work half days instead of full days due to the chronic fatigue and rheumatoid arthritis covid left me with. I am not in a condition where i can easily handle a full caseload and to sustain something long term, the maximum i can really handle is about six hours of work and two hours of driving a day, but most days it is four or five. I made a choice to disagree with someone whose financial support hinged upon unwavering allegiance. As an adult woman in my thirties it was past time to return to financial independence anyway, but no inner peace will be achieved as long as you are obligated to agreement with another’s thoughts and beliefs, your own individual opinions and boundaries unexpected. I made a choice to hang onto my homestead rather than trying to sell and look for an apartment with much cheaper rent than my adjustable rate mortgage. I made a choice to keep my dogs and keep my chickens, though the feed and preventative medicine is costly. I made a choice to keep them on the feed that has them so healthy rather than switch us to the cheapest crap feed that will carry them on living in some format. I want them to have quality lives and i want them to be here with me for as long as i can render them. When my weekly food budget is $30 and i have the chickens walking around with the most beautiful thick shiny feathers and the dogs running around with limber joints and shiny coats, living on vegetables from the discount produce warehouse and bulk rice provided as a holiday present from the Japanese store is totally worth it. I dont need that miyoko’s cashew cheese wheel, the pina colada coconut milk yogurt, or the soy based crispy mock chicken bites. They’re all good. They’re all tasty. And i know i’ll get to try them again around the holidays when my family gifts me an insane amount of food and grocery gift cards that i feel very blessed to receive. But coconut milk yogurt is not a daily necessity. Its a holiday treat. I made all these choices for me and my animals but lately my choices have spilled over into a previous social circle and begun affecting others they were not intended to touch.

I no longer have extra funds to spend on fancy plating and so my potluck offerings arrive in a plastic bowl rather than a ceramic or glass one because the plastic bowl was cheaper. It holds just as much food or liquid as its more expensive brethren, but it doesn’t look as nice on the table. I can’t afford the 12 to 18 dollar fruit trays i used to buy and so i go for fruit such as mandarins in a bowl or snacks such as carrots and guacamole. I cant afford all the different vegetables and grains that would go into making a dish from scratch. Even making appetizers from scratch is beyond my financial capabilities. If i buy store bought guacamole i have spent a few dollars. If i buy tomatoes, onions, limes, and avocados to make a guacamole from scratch i’ve just spent half the food budget for the week on one dish. Then there is a need for quantity…one should make enough for everyone to have their fill of the dish, not just a taste. If 25 people attend a gathering then you need to bring enough for twenty five people to have their fill of your dish. That means more avocados, more onions, more tomato, more limes, and multiple bags of carrots. Now i’ve spent nearly the whole week’s food budget on my potluck offering for one meal to go and see people whose company i enjoy.

On some level there is a pleading in my heart that they see that this is all i can offer at this time, that i am trying to bring something to their table, to do my part in a collective effort to feed everybody during a communal meal. There is a flicker of hope that they see im not asking for an exception or to be fed without doing my part to feed others. However, the reality of the situation is that my offering falls short. The quantity and quality of food i am bringing is not meeting expectation. It’s been called to my attention several times. Many people have helped me avoid social embarrassment by transferring my food to one of their serving dishes and discarding my plastic bowl, or even discarding my food offering altogether and making one for me from scratch to pass off as my own. I am free to make my own decisions in life, but i am not free from the consequences of those decisions. Last night’s consequence of my recent decisions was the realization that i no longer qualify as the kind of person who can successfully participate in this particular gathering. I can no longer afford a proper offering, and so i can stay and ask to be fed while i feed no one, or bow out of this particular social gathering during this chapter of my life. In an effort to be helpful my surrounding peers volunteered to pray that i get a higher paying job closer to home so that i could afford to buy more expensive offerings. Nobody asked me if that was a thing that i wanted.

Pray for gas to cost less. Pray for food to cost less. Pray for my health to improve, but don’t pray for me to find another job. For the first time in my adult career i am working somewhere that my coworkers in all departments view each other as being on the same team. The kitchen staff bless the food and say a prayer before serving meals to the patients. They wear hand made clothes protectors (bibs) from all different patterns of fabric tied in the back with pieces of ribbon. They are ministered to by all different pastors who come to conduct catholic, lutheran, baptist, episcopal, and so many other services and communions. The community children make them art projects at the schools and come and sing to them so the choir can practice. There are musicians in the community that volunteer their music weekly as entertainment and a chance to practice their skill for an audience. They are not forgotten. They are well incorporated in their community. And the staff care about the patients. They are not paychecks. They are people. And the more humane treatment of the staff as people rather than numbers allows for this dynamic to be fostered and maintained. What we are doing here as a team is more of a family taking care of itself than a company running. There are bibles in the gym. There are bibles in the patient rooms. Religion is not a secret topic that cant be spoken on according to company policy. The staff give bibles or devotionals to anyone who asks for one and sometimes the patients trade exercise for one of the therapists to read a passage in the bible to them because they can no longer read it due to failing eye sight. At one of the buildings the activities director conducts a bible study multiple times a week in the front room near the piano and anyone who wants to attend is welcome. During Christmas all the patients help put the ornaments on the tree and hand the activities director the lights and the little christmas village pieces and wreaths for the doors. They are involved in the decorating of the facility for the holidays, not because its a “life enrichment activity” but because this is their home and the staff and other patients are their family and a family decorates together during the holidays. The staff supplies the patients with snacks and coffee in return for doing their exercises and to my amazement, when their friends or family bring them snacks sometimes these patients come down and gift their staff members with a few of their cookies or snack packets…because they want to feed the people who feed them. It is a very endearing thing to witness. Imagine you live in a facility and you cant go to the grocery whenever you want and the first thing you do when you get your hands on cookies is make sure others have some. I see God here. Every day i help someone shower or get dressed or eat or go to the bathroom i feel i’ve been trusted to care for one of God’s children. I try to brighten their lives with funny stories about the dogs or the homestead. I listen to their own stories. I bring them news of the weather and stories about deer, coyotes, and foxes. I ask them about their memories and help them hang onto and celebrate the funny or enjoyable ones. I see that they look forward to my visits and i look forward to seeing them. I know that if i am gentle with them i occupy that space of a staff member who is caring for them. I block someone who might be abusive with them from filling that space, and thats how we all feel. By standing in that space to be filled, as a staff member who will be gentle and patient and treat them with dignity, you protect them from professionals who would comment on odors or skin folds, be rough with them during transfers, yank on their arms without care for their rotator cuffs, and yell at them for farting or leaking a bit on the way down to the toilet seat. By standing in this job position and treating them with care, you block others who would not, from having access to your patients. It feels like a calling. It feels like a gift from God to have the opportunity. It also feels like mercy. I can’t physically handle a full caseload anymore and God has made a place for me to do what i love part time in a quantity that wont destroy me. This is a place that is happy to have me even though i cant offer them full time work because i dont have it in me, and neither does this crazy australian shepherd who needs her outdoor time. Pray for me yes, but dont pray for me to find another job, i beg you. I am happy here. I am useful here. I am accepted here, as i am…broken and tarnished and ever willing to serve.

I am embarrassed and i am saddened but i am not angry nor am i bitter. My time in this social circle has ended and i’ve been in denial for a bit now. It is time to face that. We are just different people in different chapters of life. I belong to a class of people now where dollar store chips and a bag of oranges are perfectly acceptable offerings and all the plates are paper. It doesnt mean i cant respect and enjoy a friendship with the people in my former social circle. It simply means i must understand what i can and cannot qualify to participate in if i choose the priorities i have. Im not going to be sitting in a swing next to a fire pit in a backyard cooking station on the river. I am more likely to be found in the front room of an apartment or the front yard of a single wide enjoying a styrofoam plate of chips and some grapes while others scarf down hotdogs. I will still see the people who i previously enjoyed when i come to drop off chicken eggs or borrow their internet but it is time to bow out of a social gathering that is not for whoever it is i am coming to be in this particular chapter of life.

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