is probably enough. Enough to realize that I know nothing. All the best-laid plans based on the soundest of information can go awry in a second. This happy suburban life can crumble with one sure, swift kick in the right place.
That said, the daily uncertainty is also what makes life interesting. It’s just that never knowing (or understanding) what awaits you when you wake up is how I spent my childhood.
Every morning revealed a new plan according to the whims of my parents. One day we would be off to look at their latest real estate prospect (some old wreck of a farm a la Green Acres), and the next, taking a quick trip up to New Jersey for a flat or two of blueberries.
Much of the routine was determined by weather, or the lack of it. Sunny growing seasons brought long, grueling days with late night dinners, but the dark, dreary winters demanded hours of doing nothing but eating, sitting by the stove and weaving dreams for future mirages that could change by the hour.
There are those who say “How wonderful that your parents were so spontaneous!” and I agree. It was, until that particular family trait became relentless and exhausting to a child who wanted everyone to be happy, and tried to people-please as a result. The constant shifting of my future well-being led me to find refuge in regular school schedules and visits with my conventional and steady grandparents.
When I reached adulthood, I sought the status quo at all costs. I thought that predicting every day would make me happy. It did not.
Surprise — those “spontaneity” genes I’d inherited kicked in and determined my days boring and lackluster. In response, I’d either blow things up or swerve wildly off the orderly path. Regular 9-to-5 jobs never worked out. Only parenthood kept me steady, and once again the school schedules gave me a time limit to all my ramblings and mental detours.
Recently, I was convinced that I had finally settled down in my old age: empty-nester working a regular part-time job (with a built-in, ever-changing schedule to satisfy those nonconformist cravings), conventional commitments to both church and state, plus a few weird hobbies thrown in for good measure.
And then the economy tanked, taking all those illusions of prosperity and security with it. My husband and I discover that the stable and placid institutions we work for have become roiling seas of fear and discontent. The status quo has taken a nasty turn into a maelstrom of downsizing and layoffs. And what do I find for my life preserver?
Those spontaneity genes again.
I’ve come prepared with the backing of all those sailors, immigrants and crazy entrepreneurs who sit in my family tree–from the ancestor who came over in the early 1900’s just to ride a motorcycle across the entire US and then go back home to Germany for the rest of his life, to the gutsy generations who fled war-ravaged Europe for another do-over on American soil in the dusk of their lives.
Yes, yes, there’s all that irony business when I realize something I hated as a kid is helping me cope with the present and future storms of life. This is all part of the great ocean of change, and the most I can try for is a balance between the humdrum and the upheaval. I really don’t know what will come and what will go.
But I’m ready for the voyage.