The Armstrong Archives (27): Christmas in 1976…Struggling with Career Choices

AA 27 Christmas 76. 04.06.13Christmas, 1976  Merry Christmas!  Or, I guess that’s not really an appropriate greeting, since I believe that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” as the perfect lamb sacrifice who “is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him,” and therefore I don’t celebrate the mass of Christ. I was going to start out with “Happy Advent Season” or some such, but I was foiled again because I know it may be that Christ was born in June, not December. In fact, Christmas, like Easter, was really rooted in pagan worship of the Sun God and had nothing whatsoever to do with Christ until the marriage of the Catholic Church and Rome in the reign of Constantine. Funny how traditions grow up, isn’t it? And today we all think people who don’t celebrate Christmas aren’t very “Christian,” but really Christmas (in one sense) is no more Christian than Buddha’s birthday is! (But, that will never stop me from celebrating the birth of Christ, nor will it end our happy Christmas traditions!)

…How ’bout if I say “Happy Holidays” since everybody in America enjoys a vacation now and hopefully will use it well. Everybody with a few exceptions, like my sister Annie who has mono and is in the midst of writing her M. Div. thesis. Or Alan’s uncle who is recovering from surgery for colon cancer, or my brother’s brother-in-law who has an apparently terminal case of cancer. Or Alan’s dad, who is waiting for cobalt therapy for cancer. Thankfully, Dad Armstrong’s prognosis is hopeful since they caught it pretty early and think it hasn’t spread, but who can wait unconcernedly about such events? And all this weighs very heavily on Alan and me because this is our family and we love them so well.  Very, very difficult. Death even for the Christian is still separation from the greater to lesser known, and therefore intimidating.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about separation and death lately, specifically thinking of my own. For the Christian, death is merely the separation of soul and body and union with God, so, as the Apostle Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:21 The Christian who dies would rejoice if they attended their own funeral, but sorrow is for those still in the flesh—sorrow for themselves because they are lonely…the Abraham who wept for his Sarah, or Christ who wept over his friend Lazarus. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Anyway the older I get, and the more I learn of God, the more prepared I am to die.

Really a gruesome subject for a Christmas letter, isn’t it? Alan’s been reading the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs lately. What courage those people had! Even in the New England Primer, which I’ve been studying for Aaron, there is an account of an English pastor put to death for his faith, his wife and nine children following. All this for the edification of children just learning to read? I think we Americans are getting soft in our country’s old age. I’m really excited over everything we’ve been learning lately, but I must get to the news sooner or later…

Still, I would like to say before going on that I, for one, want to be free from slavery to the opinions of other people. Law-abiding, yes! But, not paranoid, so that I must look around me to see what everyone approves of before I choose my choices…on everything from how to start a Christmas greeting to what I eat!

This declaration comes from one who has just battled through a period of desiring approval. It seems that I am by nature strongly other-oriented and rely on the opinions of those I respect for my own sense of self-esteem. “Mother,” and “homemaker” bring no rounds of applause! Yea! for the professors; yea! for the clinicians. Mothers?…(silence). Yet I’m convinced that I am to make mothering my career at this point, even though I got admitted to graduate school here at Wayne. After much anguished thought and prayer, it doesn’t seem like the wisest investment of time for our family, at least at this point. Alan is under a great deal of pressure academically (compulsive perfectionist that he is—but so am I, so that’s not a complaint), and somebody’s husband and somebody’s son would like somebody to stay at home to bake bread and bind up wounds. I am slowly learning to depend less on the approval of other people for my own sense of self-esteem and therefore have somewhat less of a compulsion to pursue a career, although clinical psychology continues to interest me a great deal. I am also very thankful for Alan, who is a constant source of encouragement and appreciative approval. I don’t know how a housewife would survive without the respect and esteem of her husband. I really think the husband’s attitudes make a world of difference in now the wife deals with staying at home to make a home for him and their children.

But there are wonderful advantages to not being employed too. No boss (unless you have a bossy husband, which I do not), no deadlines, no staff meetings, no rush hour traffic. Most of the time I realize what a fantastic deal it is to be free and virtually my own employer. It’s like being independently wealthy (well, maybe not wealthy). I’m never too busy to play ball with Aaron or take an hour off if Alan gets home early, and that means a lot to me. At any rate, I’m beginning to learn what housewifery is all about, and I wouldn’t trade the good I’ve found for the good of trying to combine motherhood and another career. So, I’d like to trade a few more degrees for a few more kids!

What else? Aaron is now the proud possessor of four molars, and none of our food intimidates him now, not even raw carrots. Alan has just finished studying pathologies of the digestive tract, and last night we stayed up late going through some highly technical aspects of nutrition (structure of polyunsaturated fats, etc…eventually I got lost), the upshot of which is a new dietary scheme for our family. Carbonated beverages, gum, candy, potato chips and other junk were ousted a couple of years ago, but now we’re starting to put the squeeze on harder—-margarine, hamburger, processed foods of every variety, sugar—yips! That’s half our diet. Well, we do believe in balance and moderation too, but we are trying to eat right and keep fit. That means running up and down our 15 flights of stairs twice at night instead of only once, and I was just getting comfortable with once. More paddleball and swimming—I love it!

Alan helped author an article published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry. (Or, should I say the professor graciously signed Alan as a co-author, since it was undoubtedly the professor’s sterling reputation that had something to do with the article’s publication.)

I’m out of space, but would like to ramble on forever. (Lucky for you this page is only eleven inches long and there are only 2 sides to a sheet of paper!) How we would love to see you all! Little bits of our hearts will be scattered all over during the holiday season! May you be happy, healthy, well, and good! God bless you.

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