Untethered

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?

 

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What Comes Next

I’ve been busy having my midlife crisis. The times a certainly are a changin’ at my house. My oldest daughter, to whom I have been attached cord, breast, and always heart, is graduating from our state’s university in less than a month. In July, she’ll move five hours away to attend medical school. My purely sweet youngest daughter, who needed me so much when she was ill, is now a thriving university student who is making her natural break from home and talking marriage with her long-time boyfriend. While I’m sad that the hands-on mothering stage of my life is coming to a close, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m in complete awe of both of them, and in total wonderment of the natural progression of something that I didn’t experience. They are easing gently into adulthood without skipping any steps.

My entrance into adulthood felt abrupt. Its evolution seemed to move from my mother being sick, to my mother dying, to my father selling our family home and moving in with his girlfriend. The fact that I was a junior in college without a place to go home to on weekends, holidays and summers didn’t faze my father who was of the old school mindset of “18 and out.” While my life certainly wasn’t as difficult as the lives of some, I found myself thrust into adulthood with an incomplete copy of life’s survival manual.

Now as my daughters grow past the age when I became motherless, I marvel at what comes next. I experience with them, and through them, what my mother and I didn’t. I will see them walk across stages to get diplomas and possibly down aisles to get married. I will be privy to their life plans, listen to their worries, and guide them in solving their problems. They will never wonder where they will spend a holiday, or feel a mournful longing when a coworker speaks of “going back home” for the weekend.

As I write this I am sad, sad for my mother who so wanted me, and sad for the girl I was when I lost her. Yet, in my gloom I feel the distinct joy than one can only feel when they have been given a gift most though-out and meaningful. It is the gift of watching my daughters reach adulthood whole and prepared. The gift of watching the apron strings between us gently thin from love and wear, and dangle as ties between mother and child eventually must. It is the gift of watching them stand on the precipice of adulthood confident that their first steps won’t be into a swirling abyss of the unknown. But mostly, it’s the gift of knowing that if a page is missing from their life’s survival manual, they have the skills to rewrite it, and if they are unsure of the correct words, I’m just a phone call away.

Welcome to my Mid-life Crisis!

No one wants to read about a life too perfect.  Show me a memoire based on the life of someone whose life was always seamless, and I’ll show you a book in the bargain bin.  My 47th birthday is approaching, my oldest daughter is about to start medical school in the fall and my youngest daughter, while she has some issues that I’ll expand on later, is doing well and doesn’t seem to need me as much.  So this leaves me at a dangling point.  Perhaps it’s a dangling point that I should have addressed years ago when everyone else seemed to figure out what they wanted be when they grew up, because I clearly still don’t have a clue as to what mark I want to leave on the world. My darling husband says that this time of my life should be an adventure, a time of discovery.  My oldest daughter says I should get my ass up off of the couch and do the ancient “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” DVD that has been collecting dust on the shelf of my entertainment center for several years now.  My youngest daughter doesn’t say much to me about changing. Although she’s always sweet and encouraging, I’m curious if there is a part of her that wonders if she holds some responsibility for where I’m at right now.  I hope not.

Literally, where I am at right now is in the parking lot of McDonald’s, drinking a too strong coffee with my laptop at an odd angle on my knee, thankful for the peace and quiet that my daughter’s car is offering me.  Concentration is not my strong point, and any chance that I have to write without interruption is a gift.  Because I’m not quite sure what I want to do with my life, I fantasize a lot about who I might be when I’m alone.  My fingers are flying as people pass by my car on foot.  My hair is perfectly styled in its spikey, tousled pixie cut; my makeup is neat and natural.  I’m wearing a nice black sweater with a stylish black pea coat over it.  From the street no one can see my jeans and black leather loafers.  As I type away, I imagine passersby to think I’m a business person of some sort, someone important and busy, who is merely stopping by Micky D’s for a quick coffee in between meetings. I could also pass for a pharmaceutical rep, waiting for my appointment to bother some doctor about the benefits of Zocor or Effexor. Perhaps I’m shooting off an email to an associate.  Maybe I’m sealing a million dollar deal. Who can really tell? We’re all mostly creatures of surface. So, until someone has a conversation with me, reads my stories, or lives with me, they really don’t know who I am.

This brings me to my purpose in blogging. This will be my place to tell my imperfect stories.  I don’t know if anyone will read them, and that’s ok.  It could be where an adventure begins, or it might just be a quiet place for me to vent, to reflect, and to reclaim the goals I didn’t make or complete years ago.  Only time will tell.