A smattering of poetry, some flash fiction, a little bit of memoir, maybe an occasional rant.

Taking Stock

Terri McCarty Jones, a friend of mine from church, recently asked a series of questions on Facebook:

“Just curious. How many of you feel that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing with your life? Do you have a career or a calling or a combination of the two? Is there something else you wish you would have done other than what you are doing now? What factors charted your course?

Working with the high school CYF and knowing they are going to be going forth into the world and making decisions that will impact their futures makes me curious as to how many of us are overall truly satisfied with what we are doing with our lives. I’m sure some of you took a circuitous route to get where you are now while others seem to have known from childhood the path to take. Any wisdom shared will be greatly appreciated!”

I found it an interesting topic for conversation and decided to present it to a wider audience.  I personally, wanted nothing except to be a wife and mother when I was a teenager.  I said no when a friend of my mother’s offered to pay for me to go to college.  My mother thought I should be a teacher, which was her dream that was interrupted by the Great Depression.  Her friend had no children and was well off.  I had always made good grades in school and they thought I should have a career.  I wasn’t the least bit interested.  Instead, the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I got married.  Two years later, I graduated just one month before the birth of my first son.  

I was set on the path I had planned for myself and even the divorce that came ten years and three children later didn’t alter that goal.  I found a job, but I also started shopping for a new husband, almost immediately.  Wife and mother was what society told me I should want to be, when I was growing up, and it was all I could see then.  Why waste all that time and effort in college and building a career, to just turn it off when I got married?  Why not just get married and be done with it?

Back then, even girls who went to college were expected to be looking for husbands along the way.  We were fully indoctrinated to be wife and mother.  Things have changed somewhat since then, but we still hear a lot about “biological clocks,” the search for “the perfect mate,” and the new goal of “having it all.”  

While those of us who grew up with limited expectations may be looking around and wishing we had all the possibilities that are now available, things today are much more confusing for young people.  That includes boys as well as girls.  In those “good ole days,” young men were expected to follow in the footsteps of their elders.  If they couldn’t manage a college education, their father, uncle, or family friend would get them a low level job with their own employer, so that the youngster could “learn a trade.”  I suppose that still happens to an extent, but attitudes are much different than they used to be.

Today, young people feel a pressure to decide for themselves what career they want.  A daunting task for someone whose biggest decision to date has been what to wear to school and which movie to see on the weekend.   They are told, “You can be anything you want to be, if you are willing to work for it.”  It sounds good to those of us who had limited choices.  I’m sure, it can be scary to someone who is faced with that broader decision.   I have watched many young people try to decide which way to go and they tend to fail.  They will, mostly, give up on their “dream job” and settle for what they can find in the real world.  There just aren’t that many positions open for Rock Stars or Ballerinas.  Major league sports teams don’t have room for every child who loves to play.  Fashion designers are few in number and far away from middle America.  In the final analysis, most kids have to “settle” for something along the way and “find themselves” later.  

There came a time when I realized that I wasn’t really cut out to be “wife.”  It required a level of submission to the needs of a partner that I couldn’t accept.  I gave up that dream.  Mommy isn’t something you can resign from, but it is a temporary job.  The day comes when those precious little toddlers become rebellious teenagers who don’t want or need a “mom” hanging around all day.   You still maintain the title, but the duties become more or less honorary.  

As a single mother, I had found jobs I could do.  None of them were my “dream job.”  By the time I found what that could have been, the children were more important and the two were incompatible.  It is very difficult to become a Systems Analyst, who travels to distant parts of the country for weeks or months at a time designing and setting up new computer systems, with youngsters in school.  

I turned my attention to more sensible jobs, still within my field of interest, and went on with my life.  Eventually, my lack of formal education limited my opportunities for advancement even in those positions.  So, I retired from my “job” and went back to school.  More than 40 years after I graduated high school, I finally found a use for college.  

It was while taking basic requirement courses, that I discovered my true passion, a love of writing.  I had always loved to read and was in awe of the ability of some writers to tell a story.  While I never kept a formal journal, I knew that I sometimes needed to put my thoughts down on paper.  I always found it easier to write than to talk.  I just never considered making it a career.  My English professors were very encouraging.  Even those courses that weren’t really about writing required essays, term papers, and research.  I came to love research.  It’s still one of my favorite pastimes.  

I may never become a paid author, certainly not a well-known or “best selling” one.  But it doesn’t matter.  I am retired now.  I get by financially.  More money would be nice, but it isn’t a goal.  I just like writing.  I now spend my days between “mothering” my great grandchildren and writing: blog posts, a prayer journal, plans for a couple of novels that will probably never see the light of day.  It doesn’t matter.  The joy is in the creation of words, sentences, paragraphs, pages of text.  The telling of the story, true or imaginary, is the thing.  

So, I guess my answer to the above questions would be: Yes, I am doing exactly what I should be doing with my life.  It is a combination of a part of my original goal and what I found along the way.  I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had been able to make different choices when I was young.  

In college, I also discovered a love of Physics.  I’m not sure I have the mental acuity to have made it a career but, if I had been exposed to it in high school, I might have accepted that opportunity to go to college.  Even if Physics didn’t work out, I might have discovered my love of writing in time to have made that a lifetime career.  Either of those possibilities would have made my life very different. Better?  There’s no way to know.  But, I can’t wish for it.  After all, that would wish away my five children, all my grandchildren and my precious greats.  I can’t even wish away my two failed marriages for the same reason.  

My life went as it should.  I didn’t know when I was 15 how it would turn out.  No one can.  All you can do is the next thing.  Expose yourself to as many paths as possible.  Take the one in front of you, but watch for side branches.  You never know what you’ll find along the way.

How about you?  Join the conversation.  Leave a comment below.  

 

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Categories: For Your Consideration, Inspiration, Meditations, Memoirs | 1 Comment

Privilege Part 2

As I’ve been parsing my privilege, I have realized that it starts at birth.  We won’t even consider the fact that I am a white American born citizen descended from generations of the same.  Those points of privilege are a given.  Anyone who doesn’t realize what advantages come with them just isn’t paying attention.  

My first privilege was a stable home environment.   I was born to a happily married couple of honest hardworking people.  They didn’t marry until they were 30 and 31.  They had known each other for about five years.  I was born a year later and from that day until my father died, I never heard them argue, never saw them angry with each other.  I’m not saying they never disagreed, just that they worked out their problems quietly and without letting it affect us kids.  As far as we could tell, our parents had the perfect marriage that lasted more than 35 years. 

Part of that stability was the fact that, even though we were never well off, we always had a clean, comfortable home and plenty to eat.  With five children and a limited income, it wasn’t easy but my parents saw to it that we always had what we needed and, at least, some of what we wanted.  They also instilled good values and a strong work ethic in us, mainly by setting an example.

My second privilege was being fortunate enough to be born healthy with no disabilities.  My aunt and uncle had a stillborn daughter and a son with spina bifida.  I had another aunt who had severe scoliosis.   Three of my four brothers were also born healthy and strong, but the other one was subject to seizures that eventually got so severe they had to be controlled with medication for years.  Two of them had dyslexia at a time when no one knew what it was.  They never did learn to read well which limited their employment opportunities.

Consider how many people in this country, never mind other parts of the world, are raised in broken homes or are mired in poverty.  How many have parents who fail to give them good values or the loving attention that every child needs.  Look around at the number of people who must deal with limiting handicaps all their lives.  Think of how many families are homeless or living in refugee camps.  

I have only scratched the surface of the myriad ways that my life has been filled with advantages.  Things that I, like most people, have usually taken for granted; and being able to do that is a privilege all by itself.  I’m not done yet with this subject.  Stay with me.  Part 3 next week.

 

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Learning How Little I Know

study_5932cWhen I decided to register for the Religious Studies program at WKU, I was looking for classes on other religions.  In my somewhat arrogant opinion, I knew all I needed to about Christianity.  I did register for a class called Christianity last semester, thinking it would be an easy A.  When the main subject matter turned out to be about the writings of the early church and the format mostly group discussion, I dropped it.  The readings were difficult and time consuming.  I have a strong dislike for group projects.  I decided I wasn’t going to get enough new or important information from it to be worth the time it was taking.  I am 70 years old.  I’ve attended church all my life.  As a child, our family didn’t just offer thanks at the dinner table.  We had a daily devotional time before we ate every evening.  When my children were growing up, I taught Sunday School and Bible School.  I haven’t memorized the Book.  I cannot quote chapter and verse for random scriptures, but I know what Christianity is all about.  Do you see where this is going?  

Recently I decided that I wanted to make this blog about my spiritual journey.  Not exactly a theological thing.   Not a preachy thing or a missionary thing….more like a witness to the world kind of thing.  I feel I have something to say.  You can agree or disagree, I won’t get upset.  I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone else to see God the same way I do.  I do feel called to try and explain my own experience and where it has led me.  

As a part of the process, I had begun reading Bishop Spong’s, Sins of Scripture, but I got sidetracked.  I began to research the differences between the mainline denominations.  As a result, I have come to the humbling conclusion that I know very little about Christianity.  I know about my own denomination, the church where I grew up.  I know what I’ve come to believe over the years through various study groups and my own personal Bible study, but I know very little about other churches and what they preach.  I know a little bit of the history of the church.  Maybe more than the average person, but not all that I should.  

So, this summer, I am doing independent research and study.  I have purchased several books and I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  At the moment, I’m working on The Dovekeepers, a fictional story about Masada that I borrowed from the library.  I had heard about the refugees from Jerusalem who barricaded themselves into Herod’s stronghold and held off the Roman Army for three years.  Who chose, at the end, to die rather than surrender.  It’s usually thought of as a Jewish story.  The thing is, in 70 BC, Christianity was considered a minor Jewish sect.  So some of the people at Masada were probably Christians, they just weren’t answering to that name yet.   In any case, those early Christians definitely lived through the destruction of Jerusalem and fled as refugees into the surrounding deserts.  To understand ourselves, we need to understand the founding fathers.  Understanding them, requires learning about their history. Read more »

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Searching for the Past

daddyduringWWII-1It’s the anniversary of D-Day and everyone seems to be putting it front and center.  I don’t remember them doing this last year or the year before….I’m not sure I remember it ever being such a high priority.  Maybe it started because of old men with brittle bones indulging is past memories like the one who convinced officials to let him do a re-creation of the jump he made 70 years ago.   Maybe it’s because someone realized those heroes are almost all gone.  I’m not saying it isn’t that important or that we shouldn’t honor those who fought there, just that people seem more involved this year than previously.  Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing.  WWII was definitively “good against evil,” a situation that isn’t always as clear in today’s wars.

All the hullabaloo, plus Father’s Day coming up, got me to thinking about Daddy.  He would have been 101 on the 16th of this month.  He passed away in November of 1979 from lung cancer.  There are times when I miss him still.  Today is one of those times.  I want to talk to him about his service.  He never spoke about that time and I never asked him about it.  Now, I wonder what it was like for him.  Since he never talked about it, I can’t be sure where he was stationed or how involved he was in the fighting.   I do remember one thing he said about the war, “Don’t move when you can be still, don’t stand if you can sit, sleep and eat whenever you get the chance.  You never know how long it will be before you have the opportunity again.” Read more »

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Changing times

Sometimes I forget how much things have changed during my lifetime.  Wednesday, while I was visiting my granddaughter and her family in Richmond, we passed a small two-seater sports car.  I’ve wanted one for most of my life.  It just wasn’t practical when my own children were growing up and I couldn’t really afford one later.  I voiced our standing joke, “He stole my car.”  My daughter and granddaughter said I have too many great grandchildren to buy one now.  As we discussed it, I realized my longing has been compromised.   

My thirty year love affair with convertibles has been contaminated by maturity.  The only way I would own one now would be if it had a roll bar.  I’m not sure when the possibility of a rollover began to outweigh the wind in my hair.  It must have been a gradual thing because I don’t even remember when it started.  Perhaps its a side effect of too many movie crashes or maybe it is part of my recently acquired inability to feel secure in a moving vehicle without a seat belt.  Now, I find myself reaching for one when I sit down in a theater.

I know where that one comes from.  In 1996, I was driving to work one rainy morning.  As I approached the section of road where the parkway becomes a surface street the car hydroplaned.  Luckily there was still a concrete divider between the lanes, at that point, that kept me from sliding into oncoming traffic.  However, that same barrier created a feeling of panic when the left front wheel began to climb it.  I was desperately trying to steer the car back toward the edge of the road so, as soon as the wheel gained traction on the vertical surface, it turned and sent me back across two lanes to jump the guardrail and wind up on the grassy bank beside the highway.  The vehicle landed right side up, but for an eternal moment, I had thought it was going to roll.   It was months before I could drive or even ride in the left lane without flinching. Read more »

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