Posted by: Ingrid | August 31, 2012

A Decade of Augusts

Another August is coming to an end.  The past few years I have experienced August as a time to take stock of things.  A look over my shoulder, if you will.  Certainly August, with its end of summer pre-autumn days, draws out that sort of sentiment, but it has always felt like more.

Then I read the Novel One Day.  While I wouldn’t rate it as one of my favorites, the premise (the relationship between the two main characters is explored on the same day of different years and you see the growth and changes over time) struck a chord in me.  Then a friend of my from college days posted something that made me realize that I wasn’t the only one who looked back over the years on a particular day or month.  Not that I’d thought I was, necessarily, but sometimes I feel a little alone in my thoughts.

It has been a decade since the summer I graduated from college.  Ten years that seems short enough when I look at pictures but long long ago when, in many ways, I don’t recognize the woman that I was.  As I thought back over the years, I was reminded that August has been a pivotal month; frightening, exhilerating, painful, uncertain.  A month to look back, to be thankful, to look ahead, and to wonder.

August found me, in 2002, with a newly minted BA, a year of graduate classes in Education ahead of me, and a household of roommates to live with.  Everything was new, different, and exciting.  The heady taste of post-college “adult” status with non-dorm issued furniture and our own kitchen to boot.  Enough hope for a new beginning that I was able to push aside the shadowy doubts that things really would be different this year.

A year later I sat in the guest room of a professor and his family where I was staying for a few weeks and again contemplated and dismissed another way to end my life.  After all, it’s small thanks to have one of your young children find a former baby sitter dead in your own home.  Bad form, for sure.  There was uncertainty, there was waiting, there was the tremendous fear than any wait might be longer than I could possibly stand.  There were conversations with my roommates-to-be for the semester, serious conversations that felt like the last word in embarrassment.  Looking back across the span of almost a decade I am still beyond grateful that three friends would be willing to take that risk.

And then there was another August.  One that felt new as I returned to a new home (in the old place), with new roommates (who were old friends).  A shiny new August, just driven out of the car dealership with not a single scratch on her.  The problem with that, however, is that horrible holding-your-breath feeling, knowing that the car is going to get used and worn and banged up.  That human beings are going to make mistakes, get hurt, revert to old familiar ways that may not be helpful but that feel safe.

The next year there was more routine.  More familiarity.  A settling into running and living and working and being a single woman.  Which is ironic, since a few months later I would meet the man I would end up marrying.  A quiet August, without much fanfare until I look back and remember with clarity the last time I slid a razor blade over my skin in hopes that it would simultaneously numb and express the emotions I couldn’t verbalize.  Not a big deal until it’s been a week, a handful of months, and suddenly seven years have gone by and I wonder again how that was ever my life.

And suddenly it is 2006 and I am engaged and wedding planning and just a little stressed out.  I am about to change jobs and my mom, after several rounds of chemo, is frail and dying.  I don’t know if she will even make it a few months more until the wedding.  Life is a tilt-a-whirl, every familiar plane ready to change and shift.

Then summer is ending again and my mom has been dead a month.  It is a little like whiplash.  How could we be arguing over whether or not wedding invitations were supposed to be hand addressed this time last year?  It doesn’t make sense.  But very little in life does at that point.  Everything and everyone is moving at light speed and I am amazed at how exhausting it is to get through the day, go to work, make sure dinner is in the crockpot set up on our bathroom sink in our one room studio back house.  One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.

I’ve found my stride and am about to run my second half marathon.  We are coming close to two years of marriage (and a few months from an unexpectedly positive sign on a pregnancy test).  Life is moving again.  There are friends in our apartment complex and interests to pursue and the fog of grief has lifted a bit to allow life to move at a more normal pace.  I am about to start Greek and Old Testament at the graduate level and I am excited (and terrified) to be doing something new and trying to make all the pieces of life fit together.

And then there is a baby!  A tiny August baby, and a move across country to Michigan, where I know no one.  A baby, a new job, a transition from breadwinner to stay at home mom, a new state, a small town, snow, and life in the ministry.  Eleven days into motherhood and I am out running again, in a bid to stay sane as all of the stressors come at once.  Our motto seems to be: Why wait for big life changes when you could embrace them all at once?

Another summer of settling into life.  Michigan is no longer foreign.  I have friends.  My baby is one now and I am going to jump into Nursing pre-requisites in the fall.  I look at the information with trepidation (How will I do homework on days he doesn’t nap!) and glee (The challenge!  The interesting information!).  I keep running, surprised and thrilled that I am faster postpartum than I’d ever believed possible.

Summer ends again but this time I get to be pregnant all the way through.  I take heart, knowing that the heat will let up come September.  We come back refreshed from a retreat and suddenly we are blindsided and left in limbo for months.  Will we be left jobless with a new baby?  Apparently that is a minor detail that we are just supposed to live with.  I clean baby clothes and try to keep sane with an active toddler and a husband working long hours.

Once again the days are growing shorter, that faint crisp autumn-ish feeling becoming apparent on some mornings.  We are still in Michigan.  We have two lovely boys.  My husband is teaching adjunct at nearby schools, at least for the next year.  I have seen more than I ever wanted to of life in the church staff bubble, even as a third party, and am deeply grateful to no longer be any type of pastor’s wife.  We will be moving, but we don’t know where.  We are, in a sense, taking our own “vow of poverty” for the year, to follow a dream, which has it’s ups and downs.  As long as none of the adults in our family require any medical care or hospitalization, we should be good.  Nothing is fixed, certain, or stable, but then, what of the last decade of life has been?

If I had to choose, as I glance over my shoulder, I would choose today.  I would choose the uncertainty of our future, the toddler whose utter three-ness drives me crazy sometimes and the baby who is shrieking in attempts to evade sleep.  I would not got back to my college self (though at certain sleep deprived moments those single days with all the sleep I wanted and a schedule I could control sounds really really good), I would not go back even a few years.  I would choose now, with our family of four, with our friends who love us, a God whom I trust, and the adventure of this year, scary and frustrating as it may sometimes be.

There is something about a backward glance that makes it easier to look ahead.  To remind myself that living here and now is a choice to embrace and lean into.  And I do choose it; this day, this hour, this minute.

I choose now.

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Responses

  1. I track life like this, too, (and the start of fall is especially a poignant time, always) and I thought the concept of One Day was clever & intriguing. The characters, esp the male one, OY? So irritating.

    This was a really bold and honest post. So many of my clients dealt with cutting as a coping mechanism. It’s way more common than one might think, especially in the late teens/early 20s.

    I’m glad that now is what you want and what you choose.

    • YES! I almost gave up on the book because I was so annoyed by that particular character. I am not surprised that you’ve had a lot of clients dealing with cutting, especially the SI/ED combo. That was my coping mechanism back in the dark ages before it started showing up in magazines in every teen magazine. I remember just a few years after I stopped being quite surprised at how much information was out there on cutting and how familiar young kids were with the concept.


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