It's so big it's scary! photo via illinoislighting.org

I have a vague memory of being very small and walking outside to greet the night, barefooted and in my pink nightgown that was scattered with strawberries. We lived in the country far away from anything that resembles the sky glow that I face now on the nights when I try to find Orion, or the Big and Little Dipper. I sneaked past my parents, absorbed in their television program, and felt the crispy grass of August beneath my feet. From my hilled yard, I met the vastness of the speckled sky. My heart boomed in my chest and my breath quickened. It was so big, so wide and so endlessly enveloping that it scared me. So, I ran from the night in my little bare feet to the safety of my house, slamming the screen door behind me. I was relieved to see the white ceiling above me, and relieved to see my skin bathed in the artificial light of the living room lamp. My mother turned away from her show with a start at the slam of the door. I had frightened her, too. Why was her silly girl out of bed? She scooped me up, kissed my blond curls, and tucked me in the safety of my covers.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been staring at the night sky, but instead of finding myself faced with the enormity of space, I find myself enveloped by the vastness of this new role that I find myself in. I am mothering from afar. My oldest is five hours away and fully engrossed in biochemistry, microanatomy, and clinical skills. My youngest, is the independent young woman that I always knew she’d be. Do I need to remind her to take her medication, or make a doctor’s appointment? Nope, she’s got it. She has a boyfriend, a ton of girlfriends and plethora of activities that keep her busy. It’s just as it should be, and I know that my role right now is to step back and let both of them be the adults that they were raised to be. They’re busy tasting the fruit of independence, and I know from past experience that it is very sweet. But, what’s to become of me? The mother who held them tight and sheltered them, who cooked their favorite foods, cleaned their scrapes and read them stories? Who am I without them in my house and at my table, and tucked into their beds safely at night? That’s the question for me right now. Its answer could be as complex as the systems of stars I once feared, or it could be as simple and pure as the words on my screen. I am faced with freedom and there is a part of me that longs to be tethered to the safety of my past, bathed in the light of familiarity. There is also that fragment, so long ago sequestered by responsibility, who knows she must run out into the night, feel the sunbaked grass of August beneath her feet and embrace the endless sheet of night, the speckled stars and glowing moon, unafraid.

Do you know who you are and what you want from life? How did you invent, or reinvent, yourself?


15 thoughts on “Untethered

  1. This is a journey I have yet to make, but the way you’ve expressed it makes it feel so real and immediate.

    I have reinvented myself, when I made the initial pull out of depression. I told myself I’d start smiling, start talking to people (and not just to bite their heads off–amazing how much more receptive people were!) and make an effort to go out and do things instead of retreating into myself. I knew it wouldn’t be fast, so I had patience even when I wished it would be faster. After a month or two, I looked back and saw there’d been progress. Six months after that, the old me seemed so distant, although struggles then were much more frequent than now.

    Making myself believe these things (but giving myself the freedom not to believe them, sometimes) helped move me along. But these are two very different matters, so I’m not sure how well the analogy translates!

    I’m rootin’ from you over on that other coast. You’ll never be able to see the sky quite the same way you saw it before, but there’ll be new things you notice, and new constellations that shine for you.

    • Well, I just love the you that you are now Deb, and I can’t even begin to imagine a biting-off-someone’s-head-Deb! Deb = sweetness+ kind and encouraging words= WIN!!! You’re right, it will take time for me to get used to this new situation. I guess I’m so used to adapting to rough situations that I’m not sure how to behave when everything goes the way it’s supposed to. All those years of dreaming of “me time” and I have no idea of what to do with it now that I have it! I know it’s time for me to step out of my comfort zone and find some new things to do, as well as revisit some of the old things I love. Thanks for being my West coast rooting section! 🙂

  2. I love the title of this work. As I sit here with a killer headache and feeling trapped in my own apartment, you have brought back memories of August nights from my own childhood. My curls were chestnut brown though of course.
    Feeling untethered should be okay as it sounds like freedom to me. The chance not to be somebody’s mother or wife. To be all that Sprinkles already is. Your girls are in safe and warm places because of their mother and her strength to let them go there in the first place.
    What a remarkable piece. I love it.

    • Thank you Marie. I’m so sorry you have a headache :(. You’re so very right. They are where they’re supposed to be, and now it’s time for me to redefine my place in the world. I’ve been a caregiver of others for so long that I kind of forgot how to figure out what I want for myself. I’ll get there! Drink a bunch of water, sweetie. THat always cures my headaches. 🙂

  3. What a beautifully written piece this is! Well, you are re-writing yourself, if not re-inventing you. I didn’t raise kids, but I had a slew of pets that I loved, raised, they aged, and died off, as nature expects them to do. Hurtful, this game of time. I felt diferent. It wasn’t the same coming home to an empty house. But then, when I visited friends out West, I had no need to get home…and stayed 2 months. And lost a few pounds.

    • Thank you, Spectra. Losing a pet super sucks. I’m a HUGE animal lover. In fact, I’m visiting my daughter today and tomorrow to help her with her sick kitty. (She has a crazy schedule this week with 2 tests and 4 practicals.) It’s been a very long time since I’ve been petless, but I’ve often said that once our 2 cats are gone there will be no more. Do I think that will stick? No, I’m a sucker for a furry face and so is my husband. That being said, having the freedom to not have to plan around a pet is sorta nice.

  4. This is a gorgeous piece of writing. It’s wonderful to see your deep love for your daughters, but also your willingness to turn that attention to yourself as well.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever ‘re-invented’ myself, but I feel like I’m constantly evolving into the person I want to be. I feel like she’s in there, but I have to strip off all the other crap to get to her, so the changes I’ve made feel less like a ‘new me’ and more like I’ve managed to get one more layer of crap off of me. Does that make any sense? 🙂

    • Thank you so much! It makes perfect sense. It’s wonderful that you’re constantly evolving. I guess I am, too, in the sense that I’m always striving to be the very best person that I can be. I think the number one, most difficult thing for me is that I’m so comfortable in a caregiver role that I’m not quite sure what to do with myself when I don’t have someone or something to take care of. Perhaps that’s one of my many crap layers! 🙂 I guess some of that crap has shaped us into the fab women we are today! (I’m not sure it’s proper to use the words “crap” and “shaped” in the same sentence!)

  5. Wow… your writing is lovely. Your recollections of you as a child drew me in and made me feel I was there. I’m not sure what I want from life yet, but I’m trying lots of different things in an effort to discover it. Love what limr says about evolving. Best wishes for you as you make the most of your freedom! 🙂

  6. Oh, wow. The opening paragraph is such a clear and homey image. I just love it. I am just the mom of a little toddler, but I can already imagine the difficulty of adjusting to life after becoming accustomed to being mom all day every day.

    • Thanks Tori! Adjusting to having grown kids is especially weird for me because I didn’t have a mom after age 20. My personal experience was an abrupt severing of the apron strings and I never saw what the gradual “kids leaving home” process was. It was my first inkling to hang onto them for dear life, but it wouldn’t be fair not to share two such wonderful people with the rest of the world! 🙂
      ps–You’re never “just” a mom. You’re busy being his entire universe right now! 🙂

  7. This is so well written. I can feel the vastness you feel needs to be filled. Right now it sounds like you’re where you need to be, flexible to meet the needs of a daughter with a sick kitty. Who else could she call? In time you will transfer your caring spirit to other occupations…not necessarily a job…but to other things that appeal to you and you care about. Mine are 25 and 30 now. I wish I could be more available to the one thousands of miles away, but we talk every day. And I’m challenged to think about just the right words to say about the things she brings up. Our younger daughter is hundreds of miles away and we talk too, several times a week. It’s only August, yet we have Thanksgiving and Christmas planned.

    • Thank you Georgette! It’s so nice to hear from an empty-nester who has survived the experience! 🙂 I’ve always had that “caregiver” type of personality, and I do look forward to finding just the thing that will bring me fulfillment. It’s wonderful that you keep in such close touch with your daughters. I’m certain my girls and I will always be the same way. Thank you so much for your comment. Your writing is beautiful! 🙂

  8. Pingback: This post has no title, just words and some pictures. | As a Linguist…

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