This is Your Life
I am a young, 46-year-old Grammy to two boys ages eight and 20 months. I am extremely close to them as well as to my daughter, mother, and father.
I was let go from my job in 2011 and have been unemployed since. I have been watching my grandsons—the older one is in school during the school year—every day, Monday through Friday, since then.
Last September I married a man I've known since childhood. He was living in North Carolina since he was 18, but moved here five years ago. He wants so badly to move back down there because he has a captain's license and can easily find work. Work that he enjoys.
There are not many opportunities here in Oklahoma City for a boat captain. He is very unhappy. I, too, adore the Carolinas, but am having a difficult time moving away from my family. I moved myself and my daughter to California when she was four, but returned to Oklahoma within two years because she missed my mom and dad so much.
I have been sacrificing for my family my entire life. My daughter thinks it's terrible for me to move so far away from my grandsons. Half of me wants to move to North Carolina and make my husband's dreams come true, but the other half can't bear the thought of saying goodbye to my grandsons.
Should I stay, or should I go? Please give me some advice.
~ Carol Ann
Carol Ann, three people have a claim on you. The first is your husband. He wants to return to the sea.
The second is your daughter. On the face of it, she seems to have the strongest claim on your life, but her claim may turn out to be the weakest. Although you sacrificed for her, she didn't inherit the sacrifice gene from you. Not only do you forgo things for her, she demands it of you.
The third person with a claim, of course, is you, and the common answer to your question is, do what you want to do.
But there's more to it than that. The role of sacrificer involves more than sacrifice. Another way of saying you sacrificed for others is that you allowed yourself to spoil them. That appears to be true of your daughter.
There's a fine line between telling someone you sacrificed for them, and blaming them for the sacrifice. If you've allowed yourself to live life by other people's designs, who is responsible for your life?
Sacrificing can be a crutch. It says, I don't have to make decisions. When you give up your determination and will to others, it makes nothing your fault. In calling what you did a sacrifice, are you putting a positive spin on the actions of a woman who didn't have goals of her own?
In Anton Chekhov's story "The Darling," the main character is a woman who lacks an identity. Married to a theater owner, she becomes wrapped up in the affairs of the stage. After he dies, she marries the owner of a timber yard and entirely forgets about show business. She focuses on her new husband and his opinions. Until he dies. Then she meets a veterinarian and becomes fixated with his life.
Are you like the darling? What is your answer to the question, who is Carol Ann?
A few years ago a hospice group published a list of the top five regrets of the dying. Two regrets they listed were, I wish I had expressed my true self and I wish I'd lived according to my dreams.
You asked whether you should bow to your husband's wishes or your daughter's. The two choices sound like variations of the same answer. The real question is, Who is Carol Ann? What does she want from life?
~ Wayne & Tamara
Send letters to: [email protected] , or Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield MO 65801.