no, we’re not starting some cheesy post-rapture christian story . . .
From my front porch, I can watch planes post-takeoff. They roar overhead, and I watch their giant underbellies as they take off, gaining momentum and the freedom that a plane, if it had the capacity to feel, would surely feel as it watches the ground disappear farther and farther below. These planes, full of people wondering when the “fasten seat belts” sign will turn off so they can listen to their iPods and read their Kindles, fly directly over my house.
Sometimes, these planes hold my friends.
I live close to the airport. Once, I went from my front door to completely through security within ten minutes (I feel like I should get a prize for that, really). That often means that I can see my friends through security, and go home, and then hear the rumble of take-off, and step out of the house just in time to see my friend’s flights go overhead.
Even though they’ll never see, I wave.
One of the hardest things about life over here is the fact that life overseas is like an ocean. Life ebbs and flows; people come into your life for a season, a wave that washes over your life and alters you forever, then slips silently back into the ocean, taking a small piece of you with them; your life landscape recognizable, yet different.
I’ve been blessed in that I know that. Growing up a military brat, I know well the feeling of watching a season of life disappear out the rear view mirror as we move on to the next place. The next big thing.
When discussing friendships, it blew my mind to think that there were children who had the same friends in high school as they had in the nursery. The idea of knowing someone, and gently moving from a deep, long term friendship into the blossom of romance boggled my mind. How could anyone survive living in one place for so long?
This year marks five years of serving overseas.
That’s right folks, five years.
I don’t think I’ve lived in a place for more than this amount of time. Yes, I lived in the city of Jacksonville, Fla. for 10(ish?) years, but as our family grew, we moved, and the moves were to completely different sides of town; different churches. They were drastic enough (and marked by being different eras of life) that I view it almost as completely and totally different.
Military life is divided into tours, and in the Navy (I’m a navy brat, you guys), these are three year tours. That meant that once we got out of the back-to-back tours in Jacksonville, our next locations were only three years.
Back in those days, we didn’t have Facebook. Texting was unheard of. Long-distance calls would wrack up a phone bill big enough to make parentals consider disowning you (and I’ve NEVER been big on phone calls, I’d rather talk in person if I can). It means that friendships are forged quickly, and go as deep as possible as fast as possible, but can be uprooted at a moment’s notice.
I have a few people that I reunite with and it’s like no time has passed. I daresay that some of those people are slipping away. The planet is pretty big, and as tightly as I cling to these friendships, the constant tick, tick, tick, of time passing by wears away at even the granite friendships.
I’ve always been the butterfly in the relationships. I come, settle temporarily, and then flit away to the next place. I’m the temporary one; I’m the one who feels the crazy urge to rearrange the furniture if I’ve been in one place too long (you think that’s a joke. it’s not).
However, this year, it dawned on me.
I’m the permanent one.
Yeah, I went before the board of trustees, and was voted upon to be a full time worker overseas. Yeah, I signed on for terms that would continue on and on, even with the passing of time. It dawned on me the other week, when I accepted a team leader position, that I am now one of the senior people in my office. (I am still using the mental hashtag #adultingishard when things aren’t going according to my simplistic planning).
But now, I am the one who stands still in the moments when the entire world seems to pass by, nothing but a blur of motion around my steadfast self. That’s something I never could have prepared for in a million years.
I’m learning to love it though.
It’s OKAY to be the one who stays.
I can find JOY in the fact that now I have a house, a dog, and a fence made of bushes that have been coaxed to grow around chicken wire.
I can be at peace with the fact that for this time, God has called me to be the one to stay.
A friend and I were talking, and she told me that while there are times when being the person who stays is a lonely life, she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I’d rather hurt and know that I’ve had those relationships, and had to let them move on, than never have had them.
I think it was Shakespeare (or some other famous dead poet) who said “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all.”
I’m tending to agree, as I sit here on my front porch, hugging my knees, watching planes interrupt a quiet sky full of stars.
Come visit. Be a butterfly in my life. Flit through. I promise after I take you to the airport, I’ll go home, sit on my front porch steps, and wave at your airplane as you take off.