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Saturday, July 23, 2011

love & other things

20 years ago, I thought the natural order of life was, University, marriage, finding that great job, and maybe, maybe having kids...this was all in the days of before the Internet, where computers were used as word processors to type up papers, and I only had a cell phone for emergencies! I actually never turned it on, making land lines and answering machines essential. Telegrams and snail mail, actual hand written letters were the only way to receive news from parents, friends, or boyfriends.
In the bubble of College Station, Texas, there was a stigma associated living with someone outside of marriage and pre-marital sex, so I didn't. On the quest for the ideal life partner, I married my best friend by 24. Not wanting kids but a career, I came to terms that my ideal "career" would probably never materialize in New Orleans (where we lived for 5 years) or Arkansas (our next move) for that matter (this was the pre-dot-com era). Even though I've continued to teach fitness since I was 19, that was not constituted by my family as "a real job". So, I moved on to the next season of life... having children.
This was actually a beautiful time, living in rural Arkansas where the saying was, if you couldn't find whatever you needed at Walmart, only big store in town, you probably don't need it anyway. (E-commerce was just emerging at this time and everyone had a fear of putting their credit card out there in cyberspace for all the world to find.) I enjoyed the small town lifestyle. Jason's work was so close he could have walked (if it weren't so hot), and we had a beautiful old home with hard wood floors and a lovely sun room where I spent hours feeding Nathan, son #1, every day in a rattan chair. I recall 9/11 when son #1 was just 6 months old. Attempting to get back into pre-pregnancy shape, I turned on the TV to do an exercise video (on the VCR) and there was what was left of the twin towers in flames. As I cried and held Nathan, like most Americans, I was jolted into the reality of loving those your with and realizing fragile life is.
Moving from Arkansas to Houston to Malaysia just before the birth of son #2, was a dream come true. Enchanted with Asia since having lived in Hong Kong in my gap year before college, I've always wanted to go back. I moved to Kuala Lumpur sight unseen and completely at peace. My husband's job was stressful at times, and we worked hard at balancing family time and travel to exotic beaches and countries, kids in tow with his limited vacation time. I'll be honest, life as an expat is luxurious and comfortable. Almost a false sense of security in way.
Malaysia was also a time of growing near to God for me. Learning how to deal with the freedom that came with this lifestyle, I began to question and wonder what have I done my life?  With every move, I've had to re-define who I am. For Jason, his identity remained, employee for an oil company. For me my identity would change from place to place: always a mom, wife, daughter.... but then who else am I? Is this all there is to life? Isn't there more?
After 3 short years in KL of seeking God fervently and trying to sort out my purpose, we were asked to move yet again. Underestimating this move, I thought moving back to the US would be same same. But, clearly, the combination of culture shock upon re-entry, the depth of the valley I created in my own marriage through lack of communication and the responsibility of moving back to the US on my own with 2 small boys was more than I realized. Jason had to leave a month early and attend a school in California for a few months while the boys and I went back to Texas to find a home and re-integrate to "real life" without a helper (i.e. the wonderful maid we had in KL) or husband.
I hesitated writing any of this. But, if you know me, you know that I'm fairly transparent. I show every emotion I own on my face and find it hard to disguise sadness or joy. I came across this video from a friend and feel like it asks a lot of valid questions, that we all seem to be facing right now. With many of my friends in that middle place: divorce, aging parents, children growing up quickly (moving away and coming back, as in the case of my sibling)... and redefining what real love is.
How does love last? Where is the commitment? And, if we are not committed, then how is it that we can or cannot move on with our lives? In the video they talk about how there is often a lack of personal responsibility for our own emotional state. Perhaps if we got our own "house" or life in order and stopped trying to live up to false expectations we've set for our mates or even ourselves... healing could happen.
I don't know the answers. So I'm waiting. Waiting and healing.

1 comment:

  1. Melissa,

    I came across your blog today on my lunch break. I've actually just moved "back" to the Houston area as well and was looking for a yoga studio. When I saw your name I had to click on the link, because well, we share more than a love for yoga. We share a family.

    I don't have children yet, but I do understand a great deal about what you're struggling with. The inner restlessness one finds when they feel as if there is something still missing in their lives. Missing isn't quite right. Unfinished? Undiscovered? I can't quite verbalize what I mean very well, which I suppose is why I can relate to your post.

    I hit a breaking point a few years ago with my 6 year marriage. I literally woke up one day next to a stranger. And all of the communication in the world is useless when the other party has an impenetrable wall up. He had moved on, albeit mentally, and there wasn't much left to salvage. I felt like my world was going into a tailspin because that life was the only life I had known as an adult. I picked up the pieces, moved on, flourished and remarried eventually. But I will tell you, that feeling is still there. I suppose when I have children one day it will probably still be there. I love my family and my friends. I love my job, but these aren't the things that define me at all. Perhaps I will always have that desire to explore, try new things, see the world, write, fly a plane, etc.... and I've come to the realization that this is a GOOD thing. It means my passion for life will never stop. Relationships can be very rewarding and fulfilling, and I think you're right that you need to straighten your own "house" in order to fully appreciate and participate in your relationships with a partner, friends, etc. But only to a point. Because if I thought that I had to quench this never ending thirst for life before I could enjoy what I have around me, I think I'd be alone for a very long time.

    It's been awhile, and I'd love to see you soon.

    Love
    Mandy

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