Ok, so lets get this straight. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have one. I share it every Sunday, but if that isn’t your thing, I suggest you read on because, I may not be able to answer the “mid-life” or “pre-life” crisis, but I can make it much easier for you. It’s a little disconnected, but you’ll see why that is important (I hope) later. First, let me give you my credentials.
in 1993 I met the woman that would become my first wife. In our twenty-one years together, I changed careers four times, drug her off for schooling twice, and put her through hell while we bought a house that I didn’t like without so much as a counter-offer. Years later, we adopted a son from Viet Nam, she went through various cancer treatments for six years and then in May of 2015, she died. My son was six years old, his mommy was gone. At that point, he became my timeline.
When he was less than one, we picked him up from an orphanage, he was abandoned by his mother hours after birth and left alone on her hospital bed. After 8 months of trying to locate her (she gave a fake name/address for unknown reason and did not identify the father) two people that sounded wrong, looked wrong, smelled wrong and fed him the wrong things. He got used to it. At six, his second mother died in the living room. His dad is freaking out, because he realized, although he’s been his son’s primary care giver for most of his life – he has no idea what he’s doing. Dad’s world is shattered. The boy’s world is shattered – but at least we had the church.
Less than a year later, his dad is dating a woman the boy has literally known all his life. A little more than a year after his second mother’s death, his dad changes jobs because the church can not be the caregiver to the pastor for long – it ruins both. Soon after going back to chaplaincy, Dad is soon after engaged. A few months later he’s living in a new house with a new “mom.” About a year later, things start going weird, a few months later he’s told he’s losing another mom – and he’s most upset about having to leave one of the cats behind and not living next door to his friends.
We moved into a “guitartment.” and we make it work. We still the “exs” (my soon-to-be ex works for the same company I do on a campus cross-town and visits campus regularly, her children with her first husband attend D’s school – or their school depending on which “side” you take). It’s a big ball of stress, but it works, at least it’s constant. Eventually, the “benefits” of the new gig’s schedule disappear, there are daily dreads that increase in weight and disappointment. And then, I start dating another woman, with a months old adopted daughter of her own.
Two months later, my father, my hero, dies suddenly. Not a single person that I work with managed to make it to the services. In fact, one of my best friends who works for the company requests time off just to attend the service and return – is told no. This reminds me of what my dad has been saying since I took the job (and left) the first time – this is not a good fit for you. I am suddenly hyper aware of any slight, rule change, unwritten policy, perceived unfairness and substantive messing over that comes in my general direction. I realize, emotionally, physically, spiritually – this “job” is killing me, and the more “they” make it a “job” the worse I feel. I can physically feel my BP rise when I get close to the building – my already short temper increases.
Eight months later, my son looks at me on a Sunday morning and asks me, “When can I go to your church dad?” And I realize, that he can’t. Not until he turns 14, becomes an official volunteer, goes through orientation and gets the proper shots. I look down at him and say, “Soon.” The next day, I look my boss in the eye after yet another rule-change management meeting and say, “I hope you don’t take this as a reflection of the changes that were just described in the meeting, I actually wrote this yesterday.” I hand in my letter of resignation, we have a brief conversation and I remain standing.
Three months later, I’m sitting in the living room of my new house almost a hundred miles away, my son is playing an on-line game with friends who lived next door to mom #3 (wife #2) laughing his head off. I’m now a widower and a divorced solo dad. Yet I’m not afraid of that at all anymore. I quit a well-paying job with benefits out of principle. I broke a lease that required the equivalent of 5 months rent. I bought a house while technically unemployed without so much as batting an eye.
How do I do?
I’ve learned this one thing. Life is chaos. No matter how you plan, what decisions you make, life is purely and simply chaos. You prepare and are disappointed, you plan and get screwed over. You break promises and other people break promises to you. You can not guarantee anything – financial stability, health, whatever – if it’s “earthly” then it is, by definition transitory. If you can have one thing that is stable for any period of time, faith, job, family, whatever – take your chances then. Make your changes then. The days of same wife-same job-same house- they’re done. My mom has now moved 4 times since she retired (each time swearing that for the next one, “I will be the one in the box and you two (meaning my sister and I) will be doing all the packing.”
See – here is the thing.
My son’s first mother, wasn’t supposed to give him up. He was boy, you keep the boys. My son’s mommy wasn’t supposed to die. My marriage wasn’t supposed to die. My love for chaplaincy wasn’t supposed to die. The healthy relationship I had with a previous congregation wasn’t supposed to die. I wasn’t supposed to go back to chaplaincy – only to end up doing social work so that my love of the job died. I wasn’t supposed to tear Lori away from her family to go to school. I wasn’t supposed to leave town. I wasn’t supposed to be able to raise Donovan on my own. I wasn’t supposed to get another church quickly. I wasn’t supposed to use my savings to prop myself up so I could walk away from the job, I was supposed to sit there and take it. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love again… even if I sang that Sammy Hagar song.
Life isn’t “supposed” it is lived.
Lori lived up until the last few days of her life when she was non-responsive. My dad lived until his final moment – a family-held last smart statement.
And 100s of times, I’ve seen people in their last months of life handle things that make my (or my son’s) life experiences sound easy, and they have taught me the one thing. Live every day – right up until you don’t. There are plenty of the living dead out there, walking around in a stupor, job they hate, life they hate, family they… hopefully don’t. Don’t accept your death, or presume someone else’s death, until time of actual death.
How do I do? I live.
And I’m going to live right up until the moment that I don’t.