Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Until the Winds Shift

Like a Duck

A friend who exemplifies the role of the Navy wife is calm, positive, and focused on her family and the experiences at hand here in Japan. She has coped beautifully with trials beyond average Navy wife difficulties. Deep into my own average Navy wife trials, I sought her wisdom, asking, "How do you do it?" Her noble reply, "Like a duck that appears calm at the surface, there is a lot of paddling going on underneath." Brutal honesty! I love a truth spoken plain and from the heart. It's work for all of us to present a calm facade, at least sometimes. It was a gift to have the time to talk with her.

She gets that life abroad presents opportunities and that it is exhausting to do so many things as if it will be your last chance. These thoughts later led me to the question (for myself), "If today was your last day, what would you do differently?" Another version is, "If you had three months to live, what would you do?" Images of bucket lists came to mind with all of those things to do, places to go, movies to see, books to read- all of that energy to expend.

Until the Winds Shift

The response to being stuck in Japan a few more months has commonly been to enjoy what is uniquely Japan. The answer to one of the above questions about a short time to do whatever for me, however, is a whole lot of being, being with my family, being with my friends. I don't want to rush about feasting and hoarding to the end. I want quiet time with people I love and some of them I haven't seen in a long time or had enough time to be with period. There are other logistic concerns as well, but these are the pertinent emotional ones. The Japan adventures continue and do help keep me marveling at each day that I have here, but the essence of these doldrums is that important things in our lives are on hold at least until the winds shift.

Knee Deep in Alligators

My aunt, recognizing my state, wrote
I know you don't need any 'words of wisdom' right now (I personally find them irritating when I am knee deep in alligators), but (:- ) remember: trees that bend in the wind last longer than those that resist.


I could appreciate that she was thinking of me, and the food for thought had me thinking about where I could be more flexible. My favorite superhero is Elastigirl after all.

Lately I've been pushing myself to think about being more flexible, resilient, and all those things at which I'm not so good. I perused one of those books that tells you to write it all down, make a list of your priorities, define your goals, and loads of other self help stuff, but I just couldn't do it. Instead, I decided I needed a dollop of letting things be. I took the kiddos to the beach yesterday. No, I'm not taking them out of school illicitly, it was a Japanese holiday.

Rain at 4 o'clock

The sky was overcast, but my weather Mule checked the gadget and informed me, "It's not going to rain until four o'clock." We road our bikes to the beach and took some buckets. There was space, sand, and all kinds of debris washed up along the shoreline. The Mule and I collected bits of blue and white pottery. The Moose made mud, built sand castles, chased birds, and searched for sticks. I felt better when we went home several hours later. It did not rain at four o'clock, but we did all sit on the edge of the bath tub to wash our feet with the shower sprayer.

An idea for the found blue & white pottery shards from the beach

Committed to Getting Stickers

Today I was thinking my lunch would be spent with the twenty five other people in the line ahead of me at the Vehicle Registration Office or VRO as it is called here. It is tax time and everyone has to pay their Japanese road tax and then update their paperwork in order to obtain a new sticker. Stickers are checked every time you enter the base so it is essential to do it along with the hundreds of other Navy personnel in the same boat. It is also golden week in Japan which means my children have school only two days this week. Today being one of those, I was committed to getting stickers at least until two fifteen at which time I would need to depart to meet my incoming munsters.

Apparently, others were not so committed to spending their lunch at the VRO. Suddenly the numbers started flying, first, the sixties, then the seventies, and then voilĂ  eighty-seven, I was next. This is when one of the customers who had been there for five minutes lost it. He went to the desk, staffed by Japanese personnel, to complain, "All I need is a signature to check out. I don't need any paperwork." The Japanese staff kindly told him that he would have to wait his turn as other people were waiting for their turn. I was thinking: Mm, you didn't get off the base much. Trying to skip a bureaucratic loop in Japan is like asking Rain Man to skip his favorite TV show- it isn't going to happen. I also thought, I could give you my number but if I get out of here I might be able to eat lunch with my husband. It was five minutes past noon, and I haven't had lunch with my husband in several weeks. Within ten minutes, I had our stickers, and I was calling in my lunch order.

My husband and the Chaps have a standing lunch date and were already in route. The fun part of crashing their lunch dates is marveling at what boys they still are and how they poke and prod at each other with humor and old movie lines. I only have one female friend that excels at this technique and she was a Navy pilot.

Some Stress at Home

At lunch, my husband reported that his boss had come by to tell him how sorry he was that he, my husband, wasn't on the promotion list (it was published today), and that he, my husband, is really valued by the command. His boss is a really nice man and thinks to do things like going to someone's office first thing and not waiting to offer condolences at the water cooler. My husband dismissed the compliment and said, "It's ok, I'm retiring anyway." But then his boss asked him how his retirement process was going. He told his boss, "It has been creating some stress at home." I don't think he went into details about (me) his wife threatening to divorce him or possibly going crazy, just "some stress." My husband had a gleam in his eye which meant something good.

The Best Admin Guru

His boss put his best admin guru on the task of tracking down where in the loop de loop the paperwork is stuck. Even Chaps, who before he was a chaplain, worked in business and went to one of those fancy Ivy League schools, reassured me, "He's the best! He knows how to find out everything. If he can do it, he will." I felt excited like somehow something besides inertia might happen.

I didn't recognize the name of the "best admin guru" but since the guys both lit up with the invocation of it, I asked again. Clearly this is a man to have on your team. It still didn't stick. I seriously know five people on the base, and I was eating lunch with two of them. But my husband who knows my bird brain said, "He's married to the perpetually happy lady." I laughed.

Perpetually Happy Lady

Not  long ago, my husband met one of the wives from the base. She mentioned meeting me. I am horrible with names (in my defense I remember stories, characteristics, and pets). To prompt my brain, he started describing her- hair color, etc. To cut to the chase, I asked, "Is she perpetually happy? You know, always smiling?" He replied, "Yes!" Then we both knew who we were talking about. Turns out the perpetually happy lady is married to the best admin guru that can make things happen. I think a prayer may have been answered.

I have never had a long chat with the perpetually happy lady. Maybe I'm not the kind of person perpetually happy people want to talk to? I do like to root around difficult topics from time to time, but my hat is off to anyone who remains upbeat and positive, at least outwardly even if they are madly paddling like a duck underneath the water as my other role model friend had indicated. The perpetually happy lady always has a smile even when you spot her across the parking lot, even when you drive by in your car and she doesn't see you because she is smiling at someone!

Things that Sit on My Heart

I'm the kind of person that you can find smiling most of the time, really. But if you talk to me one on one for ten minutes, I can end up teary eyed and so can you. I have a few friends who can vouch for my unique ability to pluck love, pain, beauty, and tears from thin air. It's a curse- I palpate pain like a nurse palpates veins; I can't resist plump squishy veins, and I can't stop myself from saying things that sit on my heart.

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