Saturday, December 12, 2009

I wish I had a river

Sunset on Lake Michigan

I spent two weeks in early October at the beach with my family, at Door County, a peninsula completely surrounded by water. Unfortunately, it was also as far north as the Maine section of the Appalachian trail, so it was like sudden winter onset. It was fun spending the week with my family, but the weather was horrible, and we were all trapped inside, at the beach, circled by white-capped waves and wind-lashed trees. It made me long for the life I had at sea. One day it blew 65 knots, according to the weather.

So we watched Star Wars movies. When I was about as old as Sophia is now, I tried to watch Return of the Jedi with my dad at a beach-front restaurant in Thailand, and I still have a vivid memory of Princess Leia coming up on a frozen Han Solo in a darkened corridor, the light shining from above, his hands clutching out from the metal. I was terrified. So terrified that I convinced my dad to leave. This was when, if you recall, the movie had just come out on VHS. Yes, I’m that old.

So it’s about time for Sophia to be terrified in her own time. When you think about it, Star Wars is a pretty good child’s morality fable. Especially Darth Vader. He starts as Anakin Skywalker--good--morphs into Darth Vader--bad--and ends up redeeming himself as Luke’s father--good, again. It’s nice to have children learn that people can be more complex than being just good guys and bad guys at an early age.

It can be hard to be around my family, though, as much as I love them. I guess it boils down to how my life path has diverged from the standard one expected by my grandparents and parents, by the evangelical subculture, by, maybe, even the culture at large. When you think about it, standard operating procedure equals:

1. Go to college.
2. Get a job and an apartment.
3. Meet husband (preferably good Christian boy).
4. Get married.
5. Buy house.
6. Have lots of uber-cute children.
7. Successfully balance family and life’s work (preferably in Christian service).
8. Die surrounded by loving grandchildren (preferably with great-grandchildren on the way).

Somewhere between items two and three my life got significantly derailed. I decided I hated my job and my life, I hated winter, I hated spending eight hours a day behind a desk, working for someone else’s dream. So I quit. I swore I’d never work in an office again. (Going on six years and I haven’t broken that promise to myself. Yet.) I’m not even so sure about the whole marriage thing, and so far, my candidates for the office of life partner have not been--exactly--good Christian boys.

Does this bother me? I’d be lying if I didn’t say yes. It’s harder when I’m around my siblings, who seem to be managing so well. My sister’s children are uber-cute. My brother’s getting married this summer, to the daughter of a doctor, and a good Christian to boot. And what am I doing? Struggling to find my way. Still. Struggling to swim against the current. Because that eight-point life? I don’t like it. I don’t want my life to look that way. I don’t want that engraved on my tombstone.

I used to say, especially when I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, that the measure of a life should be in its 360-degree views. I remember sitting at a stoplight on my commute to Oak Brook, Illinois, at a five-lane traffic intersection and thinking: this is it? This is what my life looks like? A life constrained by a metal box, by asphalt, and low-budget mid-rise buildings. On the Pacific Crest Trail, I was eating ramen noodles and living in a teepee, but the 360-degree views were fabulous. Snow-covered mountains. Tundra. Streams of melted snow. Glacial ponds. It was another world, and around each corner was something I’d never seen before.

I’m fighting for that kind of life. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning, but I keep fighting. Especially in December, now that it feels like Door County in Tennessee. We had seventy-knows winds this week. I’ve broken out my down jackets and winter hat. The sun has disappeared. I don’t care what anyone says--I hate this time of year. Christmas tries to make up for it, but it doesn’t quite do the trick.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Yeah. That's a great 8 step plan for some, but it just doesn't fit everyone. Don't worry. Just do the next thing.