Thursday, August 14, 2008

Perceptions and Expectations

When you hear or read the words Doctor's wife, what do you think of?

Do you think of a socialite who has a closet of designer clothing and a lavish home? Do you think of just a regular person who happens to be married to a doctor?

Isn't it funny how we have perceptions of people and situations that are perhaps stereotypical?

I was a doctor's wife. I can totally assure you that I was not the first perception. I did know women who fit that "ideal" but I was not one of them. For one thing I'm just not that type of person and second it takes money to be that first woman.

That's another perception, that doctors have lots of money. Some do, to be sure, but there are also many who do not. Some specialties pay extremely well and others pay well according to the average salary but when you take into account that many doctors have large malpractice insurance payments and student loans, its not as much as it looks.

We didn't fit that preception either. Darrell was a pathologist and in some practices pathologists make a very good salary. Too bad Darrell didn't work at one of those places while I was married to him. A nasty divorce with a large monthly alimony payment, the maximum amount of child support allowed by the state of Missouri, and the mandate to pay off his ex wife's mortgage made us start our marriage in debt. Then toss in a year where he made less money than the alimony and child support he was required to pay, and then a few years where he started at the bottom of the pay scale and you find a couple with a massive amount of debt. When Darrell died and I was waiting for his life insurance settlement I couldn't even pay my bills. I almost had my gas turned off. Sounds like we were prosperous, no?

I realize this post is different than my usual posts but recently I have been confronted with these exact stereotypes, incredibly 2 and 1/2 years after Darrell's death.

I could go into great detail of the events that lead up to this but I will refrain. However I will say that these accusations have come from Darrell's family on the east coast, people who hurt him deeply by alienating him after his divorce and refusing to speak to him up until the day he died.(The exception was one neice who did trade a few emails with him right before his accident but this was merely superficial.) They didn't even bother to come to the funeral although they made sure to send flowers to "save face." Forgive me if I sound bitter but these people hurt him so and I feel that I am the only one to defend him and his memory. I will not have bitter, hateful people destroy that by pretending otherwise. And now they have the gall to accuse me of greediness in a certain situation all because "Darrell was a doctor" so obviously I am rich. There is no gratitude for what I HAVE done up until now, only anger that I have stated that I no longer can, a decision I have not made lightly.

Of course, when this came to light at the beginning of the week I was angry and upset. But a few days later I have realized that this is a tremendous learning experience. Several thoughts have occurred to me.

First, we all have perceptions, often stereotypical, me included. This entire experience has reminded me to be more aware of this and to try avoid judging a person or a situation without knowing all the facts and details. More often than not there are things we just don't realize and with those facts we might actually view the situation differently.

Second, we often have expectations but have not made them clear so our expectations are not met. I find this often happens with my children. I expect them to perform a task or a certain behavior and I have not specifically stated what I expect. Consequently, I am not happy with the outcome. My disappointment would have been avoided if I had merely stated what I wanted. In the current situation with Darrell's family expectations were made that I did not promise to live up to. Perhaps if I had set parameters, things would not be the way they are now.

I do want it to be known that not all of Darrell's family feels this way. His mother, his sister Karol and her children have all been extremely understanding. This is all coming from Darrell's family, who estranged themselves from him many years ago. I think it's no mere coincidence that the people who continued to love Darrell and have a relationship with him are the understanding ones in this situation. I think that in itself speaks volumes about the characters of the people involved.

And a final lesson for me, because I always believe that God allows things to happen so we can learn and grow from them, is that some people are closed minded and closed hearted and no matter what you say or do they will never change. I could waste precious energy being angry with them but ultimately I am the one hurt by it. Instead I have decided to pity them. They were the ones who missed out on so many years with a wonderful man. They are the ones who live in bitterness, hate and misery. Ultimately, that is their punishment.


Lindsey's mom said...

I love reading your posts. I first woud like to say how sorry I am about your husband. I can relate to what you posted. My DH and I lost our oldest daughter nearly 3 yrs ago and his family has alienated us. Why, we dont know..but like you said it is their loss. You are a wonderful writer and have wonderful kids!!
Kathy T
Anchorage, Ak

Anonymous said...

Good post..sorry about your husbands accident...families are cruel sometimes!
We all know that my only brother did not and will not accept our adoption...his loss. It was one year ago and I haven't spoken, or seen him since the fiasco at the girls first birthday in Feb..he lives 8 min from me!!! AND is 8 yrs older.

Emily and Kaitlyn G&R July 31,2007

Kristin said...

Oh Denise. I am sorry it's been such a tough week. I can't begin to understand all that is happening but please know I am thinking of you. I am so glad you are near your family now. And so thankful that Darrell's mom and sister are so wonderful.

The Ulrick Gang said...

I just absolutely love reading your blog. You are so funny, in a sarcastic kinda way! Your children are beautiful and I admire your dedication to them as a single mother! You rock!!


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