Chasing Lincoln

Posted on: August 1st, 2017 by


I’ve really been off the grid for the past three months. So many setbacks and upheaval going on in my life that it’s been almost impossible to focus on one of the things I love doing most in the world: writing. So here, then, is my first blog post of many to come.

My favorite United States president has always been President Abraham Lincoln for a myriad of reasons we know about. Through no influence of my own, he is also my daughter’s favorite president.

Lincoln carried the weight of a country divided on his shoulders and sported eloquent speeches and writings. But Lincoln cannot be mythologized. He was human. He was subject to depression and had major political and personal setbacks. And that’s what this post is about: setbacks.

Over the past year, my dad’s dementia not surprisingly worsened — to the point where a nurse recommended hospice. A few days later, a social worker said he didn’t need to be in hospice after all. I guess it all depends on the day a healthcare professional sees my dad. The nurse saw a shell of a man, hunched over, who could barely function. The social worker saw him on a day when he was more lively and sitting upright. I’ve been worried sick over him and my mom and have been preoccupied for a long time. This month, Arielle and I will be flying to Florida — and yes, I always choose the hottest time of the year to visit Florida — so that Ari can visit her grandparents and I can assess the situation with my dad.

In addition, my aunt, who has been like a second mom to me, has been ailing horribly from advanced lung disease. She’s been in the hospital, like, forever. She is gradually declining, and there’s nothing I can do about it. My brother visits her as much as he can (they are both in New York), but understandably I cannot go to New York often. My aunt and I speak by phone, and I am her healthcare proxy, so I’m pretty much kept in the loop about her medical condition and care. But I still feel powerless.

And, most recently, another devastating setback: Three weeks ago I was laid off from my position as an English professor, after more than 20 years of employment at the university. The lack of grant money in Illinois and inability for legislators to balance the budget contributed to ever-declining student enrollment and, unfortunately, a huge bunch of us lost our jobs. (By the way, Lincoln would be appalled at the corruption of Illinois politics today.)

Despite the horrible feelings that come with being laid off, I harbor no resentment toward the university where I found my home and where my passion for teaching was re-ignited. The decision to terminate my position was not done deliberately to harm me, and I have no bitterness at all. I believe bitterness is for bitter people.

Prior to my being laid off, one of my close friends, Ari, and I were planning a trip to Springfield, IL, where Lincoln spent much of his pre-presidential professional life. I’d been there before, but Ari hadn’t. She wanted to see Lincoln’s home and experience Lincoln, not just read about him from history books. We were set: the hotel and rent-a-car arrangements made.

Then I was laid off. And I felt a trip like this — even though Springfield is only a two and a half hour drive from where I live — seemed too exorbitant. I was ready to cancel the trip, retreating deep into my own sorrow and grief. But my good friend persuaded me that this trip should not be cancelled, and Ari agreed.

So there we were, in our rent-a-car on a sunny day driving down to Springfield. Ari loved seeing the Lincoln sites and getting a good glimpse of Lincoln’s world of triumphs and setbacks.

Where Lincoln and his partner practiced law

Where Lincoln and his partner practiced law

This trip was well worth it and reinforced my respect for Lincoln. After all, he handled adversity so well despite his battle with depression — in addition to the major stresses of his keeping the United States united and his anti-slavery work, many critics tried to tear his reputation apart. He handled setbacks with grace and modesty.

I am grateful for Lincoln, not just for what he did for the US, but how he inspired me. If he could handle the country trying to tear itself apart, I could handle the feeling of being torn apart by temporary joblessness.

So here I am, in the job-seeking pool, looking for college teaching positions. And whenever I have setbacks, I hold Lincoln close to my heart. And thinking about this man has helped me gain strength and cope with the abyss of the unknown.

What have been your setbacks? How have you coped with them?

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12 Responses to Chasing Lincoln

  1. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth!! This year really has been unexpectedly brutal for a lot of us. But all this is just too much. I am so glad you and Ari are okay though and that you took that trip. Especially when life hands you disaster, it’s important to feed our souls. Much love to you. Will be thinking of you. Hugs.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Kathi,

      Yes, it’s been a rough year for so many of us. Thank you so much for your support. You are right about our need to nourish ourselves. Ari and I will be alright. One thing I realized I was lacking for awhile was my sense of having fun — drawing, writing, etc. It’s so vital that we take the time to have some fun, even through the stressful times.

      Hugs back,


  2. Eileen had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth, you have a lot going on right now. I’m so sorry. You’ve been through bad times before and I know you have it in you to navigate through to better times, but your dad and your aunt’s health don’t offer that hope. Again, I’m so sorry. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Eileen! I always appreciate your support, and it makes me feel good when you say you have confidence that I can navigate through the hard times. I will do my best to remain resilient.

      Hope you are well.


  3. Becky had this to say about that:

    Oh Beth – so sorry to hear about both your ailing family members and your job issues. I’m glad that Ari and your friend were able to convince you to do the trip. Hugs. Becky

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for the cyberhugs and your comment. I’m also glad we went on that trip; it was so much fun.

  4. Wendy Holcombe had this to say about that:

    You’ve been through, and continue to go through so much.
    I’m glad you took your little trip.
    May you find a job soon.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you so very much for your kind wishes. Life sure has it’s ups and downs, doesn’t it?

  5. Rebecca had this to say about that:

    Dear Beth — I am sorry you’re dealing with so much right now. Sometimes it just gets to be too much to handle. And yes, we’re forced to keep going for so many reasons. Finding enjoyment or simply taking a break from difficult situations helps you recharge your spirit and soul. One thing is to be tired physically, but when your mind and soul start to get affected, you know it’s time for self-care and for some love. Make sure to continue to do that for yourself. I am glad you were able to take that trip. And yes, Lincoln was a wonderful President.

    I hope you find a new job soon. Wondering if there are smaller projects you can take on — such as editing/proofing work for organizations/publications or some other contractual work. About your family, you can only do what you can. Being there is the only best thing we can do sometimes. And you’re doing that. I wish you luck in this area as well. But remember to be kind to yourself.

    Being diagnosed with BC at the age of 32 has been my biggest setback. It has affected my career, my family, the freedom to want to build my own family, my relationships, my sense of security…I can keep going. Every decision I make I need to think of my health first. Sucks! But hey, I am still here. I am grateful too.

    Thinking of you, my friend. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for your encouragement. I have definitely done freelance proofing and editing, but unfortunately, the pay is low and often inconsistent. I am trying to secure part-time teaching positions at local colleges, as well as trying to teach online courses.

      I think it just takes time and patience and perseverance.

      Yes, having cancer at such a young age — or any age for that matter — is a huge setback. We never recover from this type of setback, I think. And cancer does invade the family and friend dynamic, as well as work, and really every aspect of life.

      Be easy on yourself. We all need to recharge, as you say. Thank you for your wonderful advice, my friend.

  6. Nancy Stordahl had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    Life is full of setbacks, that’s for sure. I’m sorry to hear about your aunt and I’m sorry your dad has dementia that is slowly worsening. It’s so hard dealing with health issues loved ones are having, especially from a distance. I know you’re a huge help to them both. Glad to hear you and Ari will be visiting Florida this month. I hope it eases your mind to see how things are first hand. And of course, I hope the visit isn’t too stressful, but rather is a special time with family. I’m also so happy to hear you took that trip to Springfield. I was there with my parents, niece, and my kids and we had such a good time. I would love to go back. Lincoln was such an outstanding president. Finally, I am so sorry you were laid off. It’s an awful thing to experience that and certainly adds to your stress load. That’s an understatement, right? Hoping you find something that works for you. Love the idea of online teaching. Thank you for sharing what’s been going on in your life with us. I am thinking about you, my friend. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your very supportive comment. As I type this, I’m in Florida and saw my dad. It’s alarming how much he has deteriorated. Ari danced for him, and he seemed to have some joy in his face, but it’s a tough, long road. I am glad that this is a special time Ari and I had with my parents. Getting laid off was definitely another low point, but hopefully I will find ample work. I’ve recently been hired as an online part-time tutor for a local university, so that’s a start, and it sounds like the position will be meaningful. I’m glad you and your family enjoyed Springfield. Lincoln rocked!

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