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.