Jean Croker Petke

What did you sign up for?

What did you sign up for?

I called my brother on his birthday. Even though he’s now a year older, he’ll always be younger than me. I got to be the youngest for the few years between my birth and his — when I was too young to enjoy or understand or appreciate it. Once he arrived I became the middle at age 3 1/2 and have been the middle ever since. My other brother has always been the oldest, no matter how many younger children were born. Unlike my position, his was secure and never changed.

During our conversation, I shared my recent aches and pains. “I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis in my knee,” I said. “On a recent trip it gave me a lot of trouble. I felt old and decrepit. I don’t like this one bit!”

“I know,” he said, “I have aches and pains all over, usually related to some activity I’ve just done.”

“I didn’t sign up for this,” I complained, “unless it was in the fine print I didn’t read.”

“It’s sort of like junk mail or spam,” he said. “The only difference is you can’t hit the delete key.”

A lot happens in life that we didn’t sign up for. Things show up, uninvited . . .

  • medical issues: some can be cured, many can’t
  • spouse issues: some showed up after the marriage, some can be worked on, some can’t
  • child issues: parenting is way different and harder than expected
  • job issues: bosses, co-workers, regulations, policies, downsizing — the complications are endless
  • family issues: holiday time, vacation time, role reversals, expectations

This list is general and generic. However, my own list would include things that caught me off guard, things I hadn’t expected, things I would never have chosen, and things that caused me to change course. I suspect your list includes these things — and more.

Of course, the big question is how do we respond to these uninvited things? Our response varies with the situation and how we are in our life at the time. Some possibilities are:

anger                             bitterness

fear                                surprise

wonder                       frustration

impatience                annoyance

joy                                 trepidation

awe                               discomfort

There are other ways to respond. These are the ones that came to mind today.

The issue remains: what are we to do with these uninvited arrivals . . . these things we didn’t sign up for?

In the case of my arthritis, mostly I’ll learn to live with it. The doc said, “There is no cure and it won’t get better.” I can adjust my daily routines to minimize pain-creating situations. I can do the treatments recommended by my doc. I can seek help as the condition progresses.

In your situation, whatever it is, are you doing what you can to make improvements? Have you sought counsel? Are you working toward a place of acceptance — a place beyond anger and fear and bitterness? Are you headed toward of place of creating a viable life in the midst of your circumstances?

That’s the challenge.  Living. Really living. No matter what.


Until next Tuesday . . .