Life, Philosophy

Switching Gears

sofa warehouse by sacha fernandez on flickr

Next weekend we are moving out of our nomadic phase into a ‘home rental’ phase.  We’re going to be settled; there are lots of changes ahead.

It’s going to be tough switching gears and actually making purchases to furnish our household.

A normal person looks at a price tag as an indicator of the monetary value of something.  I just calculate the exchange rate directly into airmiles.  So while a friend might say, “How much did he pay for that sofa?  Oh, OK – I think I can work that into my budget,” I’d be thinking,

“I could get to GREECE for that much!” 

Which explains how it is that we’ve still managed to do some globetrotting, even after having kids. 

And why we have no furniture.

So now I need to embrace the ‘homemaker’ in me and nest a little.  It’s exciting and scary all at once – will we go colonial?  Country?  Modern?  More than likely we’ll start with a bunch of items that ‘will do in the meantime’ and end up with a hodgepodge in every room.

Ask me for an itinerary of a Europe-with-kids adventure, and I’ll give you a clear and detailed list.  Ask me to decide on a colour scheme (something that won’t clash with the warm Rimu-wood panelling all over our living room – from the walls right up to the high sloped ceilings), and I’m adrift.  Switching gears isn’t for the faint-of-heart!

Last Monday the new school year began here in New Zealand and, in the absence of a place to stay (and therefore any knowledge of what our ‘local’ school might be) I re-embarked on the homeschooling in earnest.  We had a very trying morning of it (when I say ‘we’, I mean that I was tried to the fullest extent – the boys seemed rather cheerful as they were telling me I’m a mean teacher and positively gleeful as they refused to participate in the learning exercises) – so much so that as soon as the clock struck twelve I raced up to West’s office and, with sotto-voce curses, hissed at him to take over – I’m DONE!!! and then proceeded to sob into my pillow for a good half hour, weepily refusing offers of a lunchtime meal.

And then the phone rang.

Gear switch.

The rental agent was phoning to say that we were being offered a house we’d applied for – an older home a block from the beach in a peaceful suburb just under half an hour away from West’s folks.  Homeschool was out of session – permanently.

I blew my nose, reapplied my makeup, and grabbed a toasted sandwich (my appetite had returned); just under hour later we were at the local school, enrolling the boys.  About an hour after that we were in the local uniform shop, fitting them with shirts and shorts (and sandals, sunhats, and fleeces).  And from there we went to the stationers to collect stationery packages for each of them to take to class.

The next day our boys began school for the first time in New Zealand, and we signed the papers for our house rental.

It’s amazing how often we have to switch gears in life, isn’t it?!

One minute you’re on one path, and the next you’ve jumped the track and you’re headed somewhere else altogether.  Even if you’ve planned the change in your trajectory, it can still be a bit of a shock to your system to actually make the switch.

When I returned from a year in Europe following my university studies, I started saving up to go to graduate school.  My plan was to study counter-terrorism (in my chosen field of Criminology) and gain expertise so that I could go into situations following a terrorist attack and help determine who was responsible.

This plan seemed ideal, as I was passionate about making a difference and willing to travel globally, and I was really interested in the topic of terrorism (as I had peripherally experienced its effects in both my native South Africa and my childhood home of Sri Lanka during the escalation of the civil war there).

And then I met West.

All of a sudden I had hopes of a future that included a husband and children, and the idea of putting myself in harm’s way and travelling away from my beloved became less appealing.

Gear switch.

So now I try to make a difference in smaller ways, and I travel for pleasure (including the pleasure of visiting with family), and I use my knowledge of Criminology in raising my own small band of hooligans.

I went back to school (to obtain my Editing certificate) when C was under a year old; at the same time I was challenging myself physically with a new diet and exercise regimen; and I was called to help lead a new marriage ministry in our church.  It was an amazing time of learning and growth, and I felt so blessed to be involved in things that I was passionate about.  My time, my body, my soul – all were changing and I was thriving.

And then we felt the pull to add to our family – and I became pregnant with baby #4 (our D).

Gear switch.

This is what life is.  It’s doing one thing, and then something changes, and then doing another thing. 

And when it’s tough because of the changes, we have to remember something – we have to bear this in mind to keep our perspective: Making those gear-changes smoothly is key to functional driving on the road of life.

This is a metaphor that works well for me, because I am – at best – HOPELESS at driving a car with a standard transmission.

I mean, if you’ve ever seen a reality show like The Amazing Race and wondered at the imbecility of the contestants not knowing what gear they should be in and laughed at them lurching and shuddering along the road in their standard-drive autos, then you would sure get a kick out of me trying to drive one.  West has tried to teach me (and he’s a good teacher!), but we decided that it would be best for our marriage if we just stuck to owning cars with automatic transmissions.  I am THAT bad.

But on the road of life, I get how the gear switches work – and I can see that going with the changes instead of resisting them is just so much better than shuddering and jarring your way along the road.

So, don’t come looking for me on the travel forums tomorrow.

I’m going to be out buying a sofa.