How does a midlife crisis and a spiritual crisis tie together? In my case, they were sequential.
Huddled in my waterbed alone in a Fairbanks winter, I realized that I hated my job and had wound up where I’d vowed never to be. I’d done none of the things I’d planned to do and most of the ones that I’d sworn not to. I was married before 30. I was putting my husband’s needs and accomplishments first. I’d stopped writing. I hadn’t finished my college degree.
We were supposed to be living in Anchorage. We came to Fairbanks as a last minute change to my husband’s Army assignment. I brought my Pomeranian puppy, Corry, and a short work history with me. I felt uneasy spending money I didn’t earn and unable to put my own needs first, so I needed to work. We shared a single car, so we did a lot of coordinating and solo spontenaity was negligible. I was, essentially, dependent.
Being dependent was one of the biggest reasons that I’d sworn off marriage. To this day, I stand by this. If the Army hadn’t made it nearly impossible to be together unless married, we’d have stayed partners not spouses. My mom was 13 years old when she met my dad and his parents became her surrogates because hers were alcoholics. They married when she graduated from high school. She was 20 when I was born and 22 when my sister was born. She never got her driver’s license or worked after marriage.
Technically, that isn’t completely true. She got her license with me when I took driver’s training. She went to work at Montgomery Wards once my sister and I were both in our teens, but someone drove her to and from the Triangle Mall. Did I forget to mention? We lived next to my grandparents, Dad’s parents, and they joined us in our home after dinner just about every evening.
I loved it as a child. I had four adults available at all times. Mom got up each morning to see Dad off to work and then I went back o bed with her. We normally got up after we heard the school bus leave. The stop was right outside our house on the corner. If you discount my health issues, I had a picture perfect childhood. We were a little rural, so I played outside. My grandpa planted a garden. My grandma taught me how to crochet and knit. My dad taught me embroidery. I became the shared household baker. My mom taught me how to sew and was always trying new things with me. We always had pets, especially cats. My grandpa had chickens when I was young. He even caught and released a mama o’possum and her babies because I couldn’t let them be killed. He taught me to drive because Dad and I made one another too nervous.
As I got older, I saw how uneven these relationships were for my mom. Three other adults were always vetting her actions. Without money of her own, every purchase had to be approved. Dad paid all the bills, signing them after she wrote the checks. We all went grocery shopping together. Whenever she started acting too independent, she was brought up short. She was questioned about every moment she spend outside the house. She was discouraged from having friends beyond other couples, including spending too much time with any independent wives. More than once, I saw Dad reduce her to tears in social settings by belittling her, sometimes subtly and sometimes not.
As the oldest child and a girl, I fought for my freedoms and independence. As an adult, I intend to keep them.