How do priorities change?

My daughter has recently finished the Anne of Green Gables series. I’ve been browsing through them, a few pages here and a few pages there, remembering how much I enjoyed them as a young girl. Rilla of Ingleside is the last book. It centers around Anne’s youngest daughter, the self-centered and somewhat spoiled Rilla.

Rilla is fourteen years old, looking forward to her teens; parties and boyfriends and fun await, she is certain. She’s flattered by the compliments and friendship of Irene Howard. The older girl is sophisticated, pretty, and dresses in all the latest fashions. She has a mysterious, sad love affair in her past. She sings beautifully. In short, Irene is everything that Rilla aspires to be.

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Then WWI begins. The girl’s life turns upside down. Her brothers enlist in the army. Food is rationed. Rilla joins the war effort: forms a junior Red Cross, raises money for the Allies, adopts a motherless infant whose father is enlisted. She and Irene have a quarrel over a piece of nasty gossip Irene tells her, one that involves Rilla’s adored brother. While Rilla regrets the argument, she is too proud to admit it.

At one point, Rilla must apologize to Irene for the argument. The older girl gives nasty jibes at Rilla’s appearance and other acquaintances, all in the sweetest tones possible. Rilla realizes that, while she and Irene can be friendly, they will never be friends.

Montgomery writes,

Rilla did not say or think that she had outgrown Irene. Had the thought occurred to her she would have considered it absurd when she was not yet seventeen and Irene was twenty. But it was the truth. Irene was just what she had been a year ago—just what she would always be. Rilla Blythe’s nature in that year had changed and matured and deepened. She found herself seeing through Irene with a disconcerting clearness—discerning under all her superficial sweetness her pettiness, her vindictiveness, her insincerity, her essential cheapness. Irene had lost for ever her faithful worshipper.”

What has changed?

Rilla’s priorities. She no longer values the same things Irene does.

What has changed Rilla’s priorities?

The war, and all that has followed. Sacrifice. Hard work to benefit the war effort. Caring for a child. Worry for those she loves. Realizing what truly matters in life.

There have been things in my life that have changed my priorities. Dealing with bipolar disorder, getting married, having children: all of those have changed my priorities over the years.

How about you? Have you had your priorities change at some point in your life? What changed?

(Photo credit: wallyir, morgueFile.com)
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21 thoughts on “How do priorities change?

  1. Great word! So true- over time as we mature and grow our priorities do indeed change. Sometimes the people around us change with us and grow with us. Other times, they just grow in a different way and we grow apart. Friendships change over time. Its part of life I think.

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    1. I think one of the hardest things for me to learn as a young adult was that my close friends from one “era” (high school) weren’t necessarily going to remain close friends for the next era (college) and beyond. We might grow apart, due to different circumstances or difficulties; I certainly felt “different” from my high school buddies after the ED and bipolar stuff set in. But back in high school, the concept of growing distant from those people was unfathomable.

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      1. I know what you mean… It seems devastating to lose those friends didn’t it?? But life goes on and new friends move in and sometimes old friends move on. I try to explain that to my young adults as they are sorting through the same things. But you really have to experience it. “it won’t happen to us” is a common reply.

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      2. I think some of that “it won’t happen to us” idea regarding life-long friendships comes from pop culture. I’ve read numerous books about childhood friends who last long into adulthood; I think it sets up this idea that THAT is normal and expected, when quite the opposite is true. It’s rare to find people who are close, best friends from childhood until old age.

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  2. Without a doubt my life has had its seasons, and my priorities have changed accordingly. When I was a young adult, I never would have imagined living in Orange County, CA. I was drawn to the San Francisco Bay Area, for I loved its beauty, variety, and progressive politics. Sonoma County remains among my favorite places. Once I became a mother, mothering well became my top priority. I continued to work on and off for the first four years of my son’s life until I fell apart and found it necessary to enter an inpatient psychiatric treatment program and months of partial hospitalization. My priorities after that breakdown were quite clearly to maintain my mental health so that I could be the best mother possible. I found that I was unable to return to work, and even find it difficult to volunteer without becoming overstimulated and overworking. I framed my psychiatric illness as God’s way to keep me home with my son (who was quite challenging when he was younger). It was just not possible for me to do it all. I kept breaking. I can look over my entire adult life and see that I kept breaking. My resume reads like a roller coaster. I would be ambitious, overwork, fall apart, quit, and start over again at a new job. As a mother, breaking down repeatedly was not an option. I had to be there for my son, as well as for my own well-being.

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    1. Kitt, I agree: being there for my kids is very important. Without a doubt, there are things I that I could do, that I choose not to do, because to do so would be too stressful for me to maintain stability and be a good mom. When the kids are grown and the caring-for-them part of parenting isn’t as physically demanding, I might revisit some of these opportunities and interests. That, however, is quite a long ways off!

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      1. Parenting when children are very young is particularly challenging, for me, at least. Now that my son is 14, he is much less impulsive and parenting him is actually intellectually satisfying. He’s always been smart, but you can only have so deep of a conversation with a toddler. My son will be going to college in only four years. Those years will fly, no doubt.

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      2. My kids are 11 and 7, so it’s possible to have deeper conversations with both of them now. The baby and toddler years were awful; I thought my mind was going to stagnate or rust or grow mold and mildew from not being used very well.

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      3. Those early years are tough. Honestly, that’s why I tried working part-time back then. Go to work, miss my baby. Go home, miss using my brain, talking to adults, and having the ability to go to the bathroom by myself. Finally, I just broke. I could not do both. My son is happy that I am home. In fact, he repeatedly asked me to home school him when we lived in the Mojave Desert because his migraines were so severe. Since he’s an only child and I needed time to recuperate, I insisted that he attend school when he felt well. As he was absent 30% of the time due to symptoms, he was partially homeschooled. He managed to maintain straight A’s and was well-loved by his classmates. Those sweet classmates made the struggle of living in such a harsh climate worthwhile.

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  3. I try to just live one day at a time nowadays. I don’t think about the past (although the PTSD sometimes dumps me right back there) or the future (not much further than a couple of weeks). I don’t care about the other stuff any more, other than the practicalities of life, of course. Right now I am enjoying my rocking chair in my lovely old house, watching my daughters play with their home made fairground shooting shy 🙂

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    1. Hey, that sounds good to me! Enjoy the rocking chair and your daughters. Those moments and times of wellbeing and contentment are a gift from God, and I think he smiles when he sees us enjoy the gifts he gives to us.

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  4. Like Rilla, I sometimes come face to face with how I’ve changes, how something that used to hold my attention or even my desire is no longer even on my radar. Maturity or just moving on, it’s part of my life as year passes to year.

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    1. It’s funny/strange/interesting how certain things that used to hold my attention aren’t fascinating to me anymore. Sometimes that’s good; the interest didn’t benefit me, and possibly hindered me from being the person God wants me to be. Sometimes that’s neither good nor bad; it was a phase, and I moved on.

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    1. I’ve been re-reading some of her books and I’m surprised at how many things I missed as a child: there are some surprisingly deep insights and themes in parts. Hope your workout went well! Sweat hard!!

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      1. There is so much I could write about L.M.M. that I’ll keep it to a low roar. Plus I know the theme of this post is about priorities, not L.M.M., but I can’t help it. She has been a major interest of mine for decades. I own many books about her life as well and there are new, scholarly tomes being published by universities (mainly Canadian but also internationally) all the time. The academic world is beginning to take her contribution to literature seriously, believe it or not .

        I find her personal life intriguing because of mental illness that unfortunately took its toll upon her. She was married to a minister who had an unusual, absolutely horrific sounding form of manic depression. He kept thinking he was “damned to going to hell”. Despite that he was able to keep his job for years at a time and she was his caretaker and did all the duties of a minister’s wife, and oh – became a bestselling author and famous worldwide.

        She developed her own mid-life depression, which she mentioned repeatedly in her numerous, lengthy journals that have been published. I own several of them, and to read them it seems impossible that she wrote the way she did in light of so many adversities. There were so many grim parts I shook my head in wonder and I had to stop reading on many occasions for a break. (I wouldn’t share this with your daughter quite yet! 😦

        On a much brighter note, I encourage your daughter (and perhaps you) to read her “Emily of New Moon” trilogy. I love these books for various reasons, but namely because Emily is a writer from a young age. L.M.M. noted that she modeled the character of “Emily Byrd Starr” after her. They are very different in flavor than the “Anne” books but I love ’em all.

        In “Rilla of Ingleside” I thought that Marilla Blythe rose above her petty, spoiled nature in part because she had such amazing (and, I must admit, unrealistic-sounding) parents in Anne and Gilbert Blythe. They were such good role models to her; her upbringing and their warm, cheery, home seemed “trauma-free” until the war, and they loved her so much that she couldn’t help but absorb their ethics! 😉

        You ask about priorities – well, I could sit here all day. My main priorities now are to stop people pleasing so much & pay MAJOR attention to my intuition. Easier said than done!

        Thanks so much for writing this post – it was such fun to read last night. Of course I tweeted and Facebooked it STAT! I appreciate the opportunity to comment about these topics here. 🙂 You inspired me yet again.

        have a great day, Laura

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      2. I don’t own the Emily books, but I read them and enjoyed them for the same reason. I had no idea that LMM had such a connection with mental illness. Sometimes I wonder if those horrible times–the pressure LMM must’ve felt as a minister’s wife, for example, and his mental illness, all of it–put so much pressure on a person that we either crack or develop resilience (and end up with better (?) art as a result. Though I hesitate to say that art created during the worst mental illness is worth the pain and suffering.)

        Thanks for the tweet and FB!

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