Friday, September 27, 2013
Time Keeps On Slippin' and Transitions Keep Coming
I have been singing this Steve Miller classic all week. In the 70s, when the song was a hit, I got married, birthed two children, moved away from California (never to return except on vacations) and embarked on a theological struggle. I did not set out to do that last one. It just happened as I matured and asked questions and became a more astute observer of the world. I'll write more about that in another post.
What I did not do much in the 70s was think about aging or changing.
I was busy. I thought about being a good wife to my Marine husband, about being a good mom, about work, about how to live reasonably on a tiny budget, about getting through the next move. We moved from the San Fernando Valley to Oceanside's Camp Pendleton, then to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and in Ken's final duty station, to Washington, DC. In the 80s we moved to North Dakota (what a shock to my California system that was!) and I earned a theology degree. I hadn't planned that.
Come to think of it, not much in my life is what I planned--except being married to Ken, who I met when we were teens.
My life has been all about transitions. They come to everyone, but for reasons that are a mystery, transition for me has been nearly constant. Constant transition. Hey, that is an oxymoron, but true. I have often found myself envying those whose life seems to have been comfortably settled and stable. I am surrounded by Midwestern folks whose forebears came here and who today are happy to have their family all living within 100 miles. As for me, I find myself homesick for a place that never existed, a stable family that never was, a life I never had. I loved my family, but contrary to what many people seem to think about me, my family life was often unpredictable, bewildering, confusing and sometimes frightening.
When I married Ken, I thought my life path was pretty set. I expected that Ken would, as he had planned, be a "lifer in the Corps" and retire as a youthful 40-something with a nice pension. He'd go to work for some private company and make good money as a programmer or a systems analyst. I'd be a stay-at-home mom. I never thought beyond the "mom" stage. That is what women did in my world.
Change is constant for military families. It is what you sign up for if you are a service member or you choose to live life with one. Making friends only to lose them, finding a church only to depart, developing something so you can turn it over to others--that was a given. But it is change that is generally expected as part and parcel of military life. So I expected transitions, but I never expected most of the ones that came.
A big one, early on, was that after nine years serving Uncle Sam, Ken decided not to reenlist . His lifelong dream had changed and he had new goals. He was going to be a missionary. Some people, back in the day, found that amazing. A Marine turned missionary? So we went off to the praries of North Dakota. Ken got a mostly free education in return for helping the school set up its first computer system. Very primitive by today's standards! And, as the spouse of a student, I got half off of my tuition. An offer we couldn't refuse!
When I need to remember when something occurred, I first think, "Where were we living?" followed by remembering when a child was born. What was Ken doing at the time? Was Ken the Marine who had a stellar computer programming career, or a student, or a pastor or a fuel truck driver, or a chaplain? Was I working? Studying for midterms? Struggling through my purpose in life? Working with teens? With adults? With children? Was I teaching a Bible study, or was I preparing sermons? Was I trying to forget that I felt called to something more than being a good pastor's wife? Were we in Ellendale? Tomahawk? Luck? Grantsburg? Frederic, or Plymouth or New Holstein? Was I an Elderly Benefits Specialist at the Department on Aging in Polk County? Or was it at Legal Action of WI in Milwaukee? A Long-Term care Ombudsman with the Board on Aging? Was I a pastor's wife or was I the pastor? I have "worn a lot of hats" in my life. Sometimes several at once, making me think of a favorite book from childhood,"The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" by Dr. Seuss.
Life has been a series of corners turned. I mean unexpected, unplanned, sometimes bewildering, gut-wrenching corners. The only constant of my life has been that a change would come soon. Another transition. Another time to regroup, rethink, remake and reform.
The transitions were sometimes exciting. I have never been a person who feared change. I usually see change as a good thing, and I know that it is true that nothing lasts. Since change is inevitable, I have chosen, most times, to embrace it and make the most of it. I am adaptable, and I refuse to be "set in my ways." I remember that when my father said that about someone, I knew it was a bad thing. I have resisted being "set in my ways" all my life.
Along the way, as I tried to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do or be, time has slipped into the future. A future I never imagined. I got a big dose of time-slipping reality this week.
This time of change is a little harder. More about that in a future post. For now, my lunch is finished and I need to put on my Insurance Agent hat and make some phone calls.