Thank Heaven for “Unanswered” Prayers

Stars Background

I feel called this week to share an example of a time in my life when Better Endings meant NOT getting what I thought I wanted in relation to my work life and career.  It reminds me of Garth Brooks’ lyrics with this blog’s title: Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

I was in my last year of completing my dissertation in Arizona, getting ready to apply for university positions to teach and move on. I had been teaching for several years already for a community college, and I was almost full-time there with the number of classes I was teaching.  The department received a faculty “line” for a full-time Instructor, and I was approached as the person they had in mind to fill that post. The job description was written directly with me in mind, based on courses I already was teaching there, although there would need to be an invitation for other applicants. I took all of this initially in stride as, ‘Well, okay, maybe this is my next step and what I should be doing.’ So, I applied for the position and went through the interview process.

butterfly on flowers

Around the same time that this job had come about, another woman—a graduate student cohort from Archaeology also just finishing her dissertation—returned from a several year research stay in Russia. She had gained some acclaim there for archaeology work she was doing. She was invited to also apply for the open position, even though it was explicitly for a Cultural Anthropologist (my area) rather than an Archaeologist.

Both this other woman and I interviewed for the one position as the primary two candidates. I felt that the questions we were asked in the final round were so basic and simple that anyone who had studied even an introductory level course in general anthropology would have been able to answer them well. We were both given an “Excellent” rating, equally, and it was given to the president of the college, then, to select the person they would offer the job to. The other woman was selected. It felt to me that was simply because of a certain degree of political clout she might bring, and at first I was upset that the position was being filled by someone of a different discipline than what the job description called for. Several people I knew had chosen not to even apply because the job description called for areas of expertise not within their own disciplines in anthropology as a whole.

Because I felt the college and department were violating a policy by hiring someone whose background only tangentially fit the job description, I stood up to the system enough to file a complaint at the district level. Officials at that level agreed with me in principle and told me that if I wanted to, I could challenge the hire. I had a tête-á-tête with the department Chair and tearfully expressed to him all that I was feeling about how the job search process had transpired.

But here’s where another perspective came in.

In contemplating whether to pursue the legal challenge of the hire, I soon came to understand that it was time to “Let It Go”.  I chose not to pursue the case any further, and determined not to teach for that college any more at all instead.


Time went on, just a couple of months, actually, and I was on a ‘short list’ for a university position in Colorado. This would be a full undergraduate and research institution rather than a community college. My background was very suited to the needs of that department and I was hired and began teaching the following Fall. I have been at that post ever since, for the past twenty-one years. And, it has been an excellent position for me to be able to accomplish what my heart and mind have set me to fulfill. Like the story of the Three Bears and the porridge, I would say that my career post has turned out to be “just right” for me, all along.

So here’s the rub, folks. We are often placed in situations where if we were but to assert our “will,” we might achieve something that, in the end, could turn out to have been absolutely “wrong” in the bigger picture. Had I received the community college position, I would likely have remained in Arizona, teaching at the standard workload level of a community college Instructor, and much of what I have been doing in Colorado instead, I would never have done! I would have missed so much—yes, of hard times as well as good ones—but all very exciting and worthwhile.

So yes, “Thank Heaven for Unanswered Prayers.” Although, when I think about that idea, I realize that actually the result of my total job search WAS a FULLY ANSWERED prayer…just not in the manner I initially had thought things would go. The best form of prayer, to me, is listening TO God/ Spirit/ the Universe, as IT has greater Vision and much higher awareness than do I.

The tricky part is knowing what to pursue and when to Surrender. This, I would offer, is when some form of meditation, contemplation, prayer, or even a nice long hike in the out-of-doors can be helpful. We must have a way to communicate with that which is deepest within us, rather than just “go with the winds” or obey the Mind’s dictates or fixed opinions.

It is especially with job and career choices, I would think, that some form of “checking in” with Self/Soul/God is so important as we wend our way through life.

Thinking about this memory today led to another lyric that I used to think of a lot; now, in retrospect, I see why. It’s from Don McClean’s “Crossroads”:

“You know I’ve heard about people like me,

But I never made the connection.

They walk one road to set them free,

and find they’ve gone the wrong direction.

But there’s no need for turning round,

‘Cause all roads lead to where I stand,

And I believe I’ll walk them all,

No matter what I may have planned.”

******   ******


(Find your North Star)

So, how about you? How have you ‘tuned in’ and arrived at Better Endings? Or, is there some situation you might be facing even now that might benefit from Tuning In? I welcome your Insights and Stories!

Unconditional Love and Acceptance for Better Endings


“The Little Prince and the King” illustration by Carrie Neumayer

As a child, I was intrigued when I read the chapter in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince where the Prince visits the planet of a king who has no subjects. He invites the Prince to become his subject and declares him to be his Minister of Justice. The Prince declines, asserting that he is a traveler and he must be on his way. The exchange continues:

“I,” replied the little prince, “do not like to condemn anyone to death. And now I think I will go on my way.”

“No,” said the king.

But the little prince, having now completed his preparations for departure, had no wish to grieve the old monarch.

“If Your Majesty wishes to be promptly obeyed,” he said, “he should be able to give me a reasonable order. He should be able, for example, to order me to be gone by the end of one minute. It seems to me that conditions are favorable . . .”

As the king made no answer, the little prince hesitated a moment. Then, with a sigh, he took his leave.

“I make you my Ambassador,” the king called out, hastily.

He had a magnificent air of authority. 

I was impressed by the king’s flexibility, if not by his idea of dominion. So, let me relate this to a sample Better Endings story from my own life, about this week’s topic of Changed Relationships:

We grew apart. My spouse was a global traveler by nature, with parents from Italy who raised their family in Venezuela. It had only been a matter of time. I returned to Colorado from a road trip to visit my family in New York state. The forest home we had bought together and nurtured together for over three years stood silent and empty, over half of the furniture removed. I knew this would be happening, but still it struck me like a stone.

I was not alone. My two dogs and three cats cuddled around me that night on the bed, as if to show they understood their own relationships with me had taken a major turn.

That was over twelve years ago. I have not sought any human involvement since and genuinely feel I will be happiest never going that route again. That was ‘the One’, or so I had believed. Yet, in retrospect so many amazing opportunities have come my way since then; opportunities I would probably not have been free to fulfill as I have, had that relationship–or any romantic relationship–lasted. I have a stepson, also a global traveler, who spends nearly half the year as my housemate, so I have companionship and help with the house I moved to after leaving the forest.  Four pets remain my closest family at home.

My story reminds me of the Little Prince’s encounter with the ‘reasonable’ King because my spouse and I needed to accept each others’ needs to pursue our own dreams in our own ways. It also reminds me of a black and white movie I once came upon on late night TV several years ago, called “The Man-Eating Tiger”. A mercenary during World war II was hired to rid an Indian jungle village of the threat of a man-eating tiger. A nurse at a clinic there had once been the undeclared love of the mercenary, but she married his best friend. This friend was now missing in action. The mercenary felt conflicted; he wanted to pursue the woman, to rekindle a flame between them, but he knew his friend might yet return. The scene I recall strongly involved the mercenary taking a long walk at night with an Indian woman, a servant or another nurse he had confided in about his conflict. The Indian woman said she had observed Americans “in love” before. She found that our concept of love was what she would call possessiveness rather than true, unconditional love. If one genuinely loves another, she told the man wisely, then one desires no more than the total happiness of the beloved. If that beloved’s life calls him or her away from the relationship, then one must accept that with humility and send the beloved on their way with gratitude that they will be achieving a greater happiness.

Like the Little Prince‘s king, we can establish relationships that are not solely constructed on our own terms. With unconditional love we can promote a win-win situation, bringing Better Endings for all concerned, so long as we are open enough to accept each other’s dreams and the necessary means to achieve those. Certainly the more desirable pathway to many peoples’ better endings is from staying in relationship rather than in separation, so I am definitely not advocating a quick release from your deeply established relationship. But life/divinity/spirit or the Universe brings us circumstances and reveals to us over time what is required for all of our advancement. We can grow and learn from all life’s lessons and benefit from each of the beautiful connections we forge along the way.


Practice your own Better Endings this week by journaling or writing about, or talking about or contemplating Relationship Changes and all that you have learned from them. Please feel free to Comment with your insights, or send in your story to be included as a Story of the Week (with your author’s byline, bio, and website info).

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