The Thursday Thirteen!
Thirteen transitions in life that taught me the most...
(I randomly opened the book, LIST YOURSELF, et vi-ola.... oy)
I think we'll attempt a chronological meander through life's little moments, shall we?
1. Sibling births. Being the oldest is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. With the addition of each new sibling (five after moi), I once told my therapist I felt like a tree ring, only I was being pushed out of the circle, instead of "in." I'm sure she did the dance of joy when I left the office that day: cha ching! Years of therapy ahead. Let's say each sibling transition taught me to cope with change and build responsibility -- by the time I was 14, I was babysitting four kids quite often. For free. Gee, that got me ready for teaching, didn't it? Lots of responsibility for zero pay.
2. Junior High. I always loved school. Junior high in the 60's was my second favorite time in life. That transition from a single classroom in a school I had attended since kindergarten, to changing clothes in gym (and showers!), choosing electives, and memorizing a locker combination -- quite a leap. All that and add the Beatles! She loves you -- yeah, yeah, yeah. That transition taught me about friendship and scholarship and self-reliance. Not so bad. Oh, and how to fold notes and pass them without getting caught by Miss Takeda, the Algebra teacher.
3. Moving #1. This transition wrenched me from childhood to some precipice of adulthood that I had no desire to climb. After I graduated from jr hi (in LA it was the 9th grade), we moved to Escondido, CA. In 1966 the town was small, nestled in a valley, had one stop light, two high schools, but no sidewalks. On a hot-hot-hot August 1, my sister and I stared out our second story bedroom window at droopy eucalyptus trees and the high school's deserted football field. What had our parents done to us? We'd left bustling, hip LA for the boonies! I brooded in my Sassoon (think Agent 99 in Get Smart) haircut, listened to records, danced with Dick Clark, and believed my life was over. On hot-hot-hotter August 15, I awoke to a shrill whistle and muffled shouts. I staggered to the window, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but 30 hunky football players all in their gear! OOOOH, I lived right across the street from.... good-looking-guy heaven! Actually, that transition from LA to Escondido changed my life forever. I fell in love with small towns, small schools, and... all those handsome hunky guys.
4. College - 1969. Receiving a full scholarship to Whittier College was another transition that completely changed my life. I learned about the world outside my family. I took charge of the feelings in my heart -- the feelings that would lead to lifelong dedication to causes and politics and change. This one is too long to tell, but as you might imagine the time was right for everyone to change -- Vietnam War, protest, social change, civil rights, women's rights, Woodstock, drugs, sex, rock 'n roll, the pill, the draft... so much swirling through the atmosphere, it's a wonder I could study, but I did. Plus, eight women who shared that freshman dormitory with me are still my closest friends -- another valuable lesson of that transition. And then.....
5. Marriage #1. TFM - Tragic First Marriage. Everyone has to break away from her family and begin to individuate. Fact of life. Some find an easy path; some actually blow up the relationship and hope to right it at some later date. That was me.... a complete blow up -- running off to marry the guy my parents had forbidden me to even date. OY! Did I show them, or what? Well, I stuck with my decision for four rather rocky years. The transition from single to married taught me compassion for my parents, especially my mother. But I doubt I ever told her that. No, I'm sure I never have. Obviously, I still need a lot of work on pride.....
6. Motherhood. Whoa, every woman who's become one has this on her transition list. I don't even need to explain. Short take: I was 8 months pregnant when my husband (you know... the one I gave up the full ride to college for; the one I trashed my family for; the one I became a waitress in an Italian restaurant for. Yeah, that one) left me for another woman. Not exactly alone (since my family rescued me from an empty apartment -- that's another story), I delivered a 10 pound 14 ounce son on Sept 9, 1974. What a day! That one full, unequivocally, changed my life forever. I continue to learn the best, deepest, most wonderful lessons -- not necessarily hard or easy -- from motherhood. Even at it's worse, always a joy.
7. Marriage #2. Well, being a working-poor, on-welfare, single mother sucked. No other words. So, I found my son the best father in the world. That transition changed me forever, too. I learned to share, travel, support, and love. John gave me a life I might never have found in any other way. Have I said "thank you"? Yes.
8. College #2. Back to college! I wasn't going to mess up this second chance. The transition from working single mother to "carefree" (yeah, right) college student and married mother was a juggling act that taught me patience and focus. I reveled in the return to academics. I was much better this time -- and my transcript shows it: straight A's, dean's list, magna cum laude, honors from the English Department. Three degrees (B.A, M.A., doctorate) later, all these transitions changed my life paths -- personal, spiritual, and career. I learned much more than academics by going back to school 10 years after everyone in my orginal h.s. '69 class.
9. My father's death. This is the transition with the most impact for the second half of my life. My father's death was a gift that changed everything for me. I say "a gift" in the sense that if I could change this event and have my father, I would give up all that I have. But I can't. I think of my father every day. I miss him so much. His death sent me on a journey -- to find myself. Despite all my studies and labels: mother, wife, teacher, daughter, sister, friend.... I never felt whole. I always felt, as in #1 -- pushed out of the circle. My father's death sent me in search of that circle. I sought therapy, personal growth work, and other avenues of internal knowledge. The journey was marked by joy and sorrow, growth and change. Eventually...... this journey caused me to shed my skin and become a truer me. This transition will never be over.
1o. Divorce #2. All my life I had lived with someone -- mom & dad, college dorm, first marriage, son, second marriage. I had never lived alone, never been on my own in my very own space. I'd never even had my own room -- always shared with a sister or sisters. My journey into self awareness allowed me to see that my marriage, though giving my son a father, had not actually given me what I needed. Yes, the marriage had many solid points, but in the end this could not sustain the relationship. The act of divorce taught me to cherish love over safety, and money, respect over pride. Then, I gave John the house and moved to the ocean to began a new life. This transition taught me to listen to my heart despite the chatter of the world. I made many mistakes, I learned many lessons, and I through both I was always true to myself.
11. Marriage #3. I told myself that I would never never never marry again. I wasn't good at this. No, no, no. Well, the universe often has other gifts in store, no matter what we mortals do to attempt to thwart fate. I met Steve on July 4, 1996. We've been together since. He's the kindest, most amazing person. This transition taught me true commitment.
12. Moving to Vermont. Although I met Steve in California, he owned a home in Vermont. On our first Christmas in 1996, he took me to this little cabin in the woods. I fell in love with the magic of Vermont -- even without snow, leaves, or warmth. We always said, "one day we'll move to Vermont," but we figured this would happen when we were "old" and retired. Events transpired to signal a change. A dear friend -- too young - died. Traffic piled higher every day. Teaching became a drudge instead of a joy. We wondered why we were waiting to live the life we wanted? We sold our house (before they even put the "for sale" sign on the lawn) and most of our worldly goods. We packed the rest in 1/8th of a moving van. And we drove across country to start a new life -- no plans, no jobs, no debts. This transition has taught me the truth of the saying "leap and the net will appear." I learned to trust myself and my love.
13. Writing. The transition to life in Vermont-- being a college professor, teaching writing, and having the time to write -- has taught me to find my voice. Joining a loving writing group, RWU, has been a miracle. Completing a Vision Quest in Moab gifted me the tools to know deep in my heart that I am a Writer. The journey continues.
All these transitions have made me who I am today and who I will be in the future. As I contemplate the second half of my life, I find myself at some place of peace and understanding, but with a sense of excitement and anticipation.