On tombstones, there are two dates, birth and death, the two bookends of a life. Recently Jim and I were talking about all the in-between marks, where we can add specific dates, and we keep adding them since we’re lacking the final bookend.
I think of life markers as events that change our lives, the way we think, and make us adapt to different routines. These obvious markers are the things we reference when we say, “Before _____ or after ______ or when I lived in ________.”
Certainly different addresses are life markers, and I’ve compartmentalized my life by each of the states where I’ve lived as if I could draw a line with a pencil for each move. They are chronological in my life’s history: Arkansas, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri. Gosh, that seems like a lot of moves, considering I’ve now lived in the same house for over 31 years, but college years, summer jobs, and single adult years meant experimenting with life and moving, and yet those changes were never the really big dividers in my life or how I behaved.
Relationship markers are much bigger in my life, and I’m still married to Jimmie, 39 years this month, so I really have one big marker there. He’s introduced me as his first wife to people, usually at business functions, which he thinks is hilarious, but I’ve not found quite as humorous. I have many friends who have had more than one marriage or big relationship, and their lives have more distinctive marker lines than my relationship marker, which simply divides single life from married life.
Job markers are memory markers, certainly the first job and the current one. Not counting babysitting, my first job was at the Newton Country Library long before it merged with the Neosho Public Library. I still find joy in writing (although I whine about it a lot), and I hope never to retire from it.
Now children–there’s a life marker for you. Before kids and after kids is the biggest marker in my life. Jim says this line is not made by a pencil, but with a magic marker. That line marked a continental shift in my thinking of who was number one. Add another line for each child after the first, but the first is the biggest demarcation line for altering behavior and certainly sleep patterns. Add a grandchild, and another line of pure joy is added.
Health is another big marker. Jim’s Vietnam service has resulted in several primary cancers, and although that’s his body, it’s my life, and they are thick lines on my life’s chart.
Traveling to other cultures is a marker, but here my lines are very faint. I call myself an international traveler, since I’ve been across our borders to Canada and Mexico, but not far across. I believe folks who have traveled a great deal have broadened their understanding of human kind. I’ve really only traveled vicariously.
Of course, losing those we love changes us. Death claims, and we suffer holes in our lives as our parents and friends leave this world for the blue beyond.
When we were speaking of life markers again at breakfast, Jim mentioned realizations, such as understanding how the world works, which really delves into personal philosophy, glass half-empty/half-full views of life. That’s too deep for this simple essay.
Back to the obvious life markers. I’m sure there are many I’m forgetting. And certainly everyone places different emphasis on different life markers. What are the important ones for you?