Six plus months is a long time. When your at home, 6 months goes by day by day in a way that is measured and marked by daily life routines and experiences….commutes that take 2 hours, weekly/monthly/quarterly meetings at work, the building and ebbing piles of mail at home, planning a comfort food dinner, going to church and all the volunteer work….it’s ticks by with little notice. Your iCalendar reminds you it’s time to give Jack his heart worm med, or your dental cleaning appointment is coming up, and you say to yourself “really, has it been that long?” There are anticipatory events like holidays, a concert, Liam coming home from school and then going back again, a snow storm, a birthday….these all fill your days and weeks in a manner where the passage of time is measured and somewhat predictable and, in a way, comforting.
And change happens through that measured “time lapse”. People get married, friends move away, babies are born, folks change jobs and new people are in your office, someone you know and care about loses a loved one, the Patriots lose the play-offs…and you share these changes in that measured pace. You feel, you notice, you celebrate and you grieve the changes. You experience them within your world and your support network and, although sometimes they may have occurred suddenly, you navigate that change in measured time and with support.
Out here, its another universe. This is Interstellar. (For those who have not seen the movie, it’s about group of explorers that must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet. Their travel has them going through “worm holes” and landing on planets and all the while, time for them is completely warped from home on earth.) …… Here I am, away in this world where, as I’ve tried to explain before, has it’s own time altering experience. I’ve been so focused on “the here and now”, really a very important coping skill for a deployer, that taking in the changes at home have been like looking out the window in a fast moving subway…flashing glimpses of things that are happening. It reminds me of an advertisement on the Red Line leading into Boston. The advertiser put up posters and the flashing imagines became a moving message over a stretch in the tunnel.
This week, I just realized I’ve been riding the Red Line and, snap, I see the advertisement…that story line behind those flashing images…realizing that the message, the story line, is my life…it’s my world at home in those flashing images. They are my family, my friends, my experiences I would have shared if I were there. And those images and those changes…they are real.
So back to Interstellar, that’s where I am…in that alternate dimension of time, looking back on my life, my world (that world that grounds me), and I’m watching it change with a feeling of being unable to have influence, or impact. Why now? Why is it that my train ride through this tunnel is showing an advertisement of my life…now?
It is likely because on Friday Liam started off on an awesome adventure to New Zealand for a semester abroad. He has been wonderful, sending text messages and providing updates along his many flights to Christchurch. And I wasn’t there. Instead, I’m looking in from my deployment-world and hearing about how Mac helped him get prepared and packed, likely shared last meals. He took Liam shopping for a good duffle a week or so back and they likely shared more “last time for this/last time to do that;” it makes the starting point of his adventure. So Friday, Mac got him off at the airport…in a rush to get him there…and our “baby bird” really left the nest. Mac goes home by himself, without me. I missed and imagine the experience we would have had together…that feeling you have as a parent when your kid makes a wonderful leap into life. I’m just looking and seeing the jerky images flashing by in my life…out here.
I’m looking in….and feeling the loss of a very dear friend moving on, not being able to say good-bye in person or give him a hug and tell him face-to-face that I so cherish that our paths have crossed and will stay “soul-friends.” He won’t be there when I get home.
I’m looking in….at my Church community, that I care for and that cares for me, go through changes and struggles and victories and good work and the departure of members…a changing fabric to a community that, if I were there, I would experience in the fullness of that journey.
From here, it’s the flashing images of my life’s changes without the experience of living it. From here, I’m watching the Red Line advertisement from another place, and suddenly, it just really hit me that that is my life going by in the flashing imagines…and it will be until I come home.
In Interstellar, the main character, Cooper, looks in and watches from another time dimension. You cry with him and feel the emotional wave of having no influence to change the events he is seeing. No worries all, that’s what I say in my head as well. What I’m experiencing now are emotions that I need to. It’s easy to “check out” and push it all off….we have a mission to do and I have many people counting on me in the “big picture” as well as the person-to-person level as a leader…as a mentor. The parallel to Cooper though holds….I know I will have much to adjust to when I get home. And it’s OK to feel the way I feel…and sharing it connects me to my life.