Halllloooo—anyone out there? Was this place been left abandoned? For how long? How did that happen? Seems the
tornado whirlwind I just emerged from left a layer of dust on the keyboard and cobwebs have settled into the corners. I suppose it’s time to start rebuilding, which really means it’s time to face the music and get back to work on myself as a woman and this transitioning period of my life.
I’ve learned and relearned that living in
hiding denial has never worked well for me. After all, it’s not really living, is it? However, it is a lesson I’ve (apparently) needed to learn and relearn as I’ve just finished another session of remedial coursework–and I didn’t even know I had signed up for the class until I was almost at the final a couple of weeks ago. Let me explain…
As I’ve shared before, I began this blog to help me (and perhaps others) through the transition to the empty nest years. My approach to this blog and this transition has been primarily focused on preparation with reflection. I thought if I anticipated what I was likely going to feel and prepared myself, my relationship and my children for it, I’d be ahead of the game and would be able to ease into the empty nest years with “minimal tears and maximum joy.”
Then came my first-born daughter’s graduation from high school last month.
As I entered into the month of April, life got busy, crazy busy, as I wrote about in my last entry before disappearing from the blog-o-sphere. Like a car taking a turn too fast, I spun out of control and into the “land of distraction”. This is my favorite destination when I don’t want to face the feelings welling up inside. It offers a double edge sword: on one hand, I get super productive and finish lots of projects around the house, leaving me feeling pretty darn good about myself, and on the other hand, I don’t take time to address what I am really feeling and typically retreat from the people (like family and friends) and things (like writing) I love so that I’m not “accidentally” lulled into facing reality. I can play make-believe while painting walls, planting seeds, purging books, and denying the melancholy that swells as I sort through 18 years of photos for a graduation slide show. “Projecting” is my master disguise; I look like I’m handling everything well on the surface, but I’m paddling like crazy just trying to keep my head above water and the emotions buried deep. It’s not so easy to play “make believe” when I slow down and spend time with my journal, a close friend, this blog, or the reflection in the mirror.
Truthfully, I really did think I was handling the steps toward C’s graduation with ease. Until I wasn’t. Tensions swirled and then dissipated, only to reemerge. Projects were checked off the list, more were added, and days passed in a blur. And though I was excited to celebrate this rite of passage for both my daughter and myself, I kept my head down and my hands busy so I wouldn’t have to think about what it really meant to graduate my first and the uncomfortable feelings that were swirling just below the surface.
In the big scheme of life, one might say it’s not such a big deal, particularly because my daughter has elected to stay at home next year and attend the local community college. (A choice she made last summer when she returned from Mongolia, and one I think is wise for her.) Perhaps, I over-reacted to the entire graduation “thing.” Perhaps.
Or, perhaps, being the control-freak that I am, I was surprised by the sadness I felt as I flipped through 18 years of photos. I thought I had gotten so far off track. All my planning and anticipating and blogging, and here I was swallowing tears and more than one bag of chips. My fingers traced images of C’s small figure as she played “ballerina” or counseled her little sister. I laughed over the memories caught on film, and sadness filled my heart with the knowledge that it all did pass by too fast. We had been warned. Perhaps, I had said this is no time for the “would have, should have, could have’s” so often, I really thought I could ignore the voices that whispered regrets in the darkness. As I opened box after box of photos, I saw smiles I hadn’t really seen when I snapped the photos, and the transformation of a little girl to a beautiful woman. And, when I finally sat down and allowed myself to feel while I looked at the photos, I saw something else…
I saw the changes in myself over the years. No, not just hairstyles, clothing styles, or weight. I was brought back to the days of young motherhood, when I was so scared. Among the snapshots of family vacations, there were photos of everyday mermaid parties, zoo visits, and craft parties. Stuffed in the boxes were tickets to the theater and others for train rides. I saw not opportunities lost, but opportunities created and taken. When I allowed myself to look at the photos that captured my daughter’s first 18 years, I didn’t focus on the deepening wrinkles on my face or my graying hair, I focused on the memories that created a close family, reminding me I have done more right than wrong as a mother.
I’ll admit, I cried more than a few
buckets of tears in the last month. Some have been tears of sorrow, but most have been tears of joy. About 2 months ago, as C and I drove home from a yoga class together, I pointed out how we are in similar places in life. She cocked her head in confusion and I explained that we are both standing before a blank chalkboard; we’re at launching points, the start of new chapters where new beginnings await us. There aren’t many times in life that slate is clean, so it’s best to start writing your own story before someone else decides to write it for you. Recently, my own words echoed in the quietness of the morning, and I rejoined the world of the living. I will continue to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and relearned in the last month. I imagine many will appear in this blog as I set my eyes on the road ahead. I thought I had gotten off track, lost in sorrow, but I hadn’t; it was merely a necessary detour. Even the GPS gets it wrong sometimes.
And with that, I turn my focus to helping her transition to college life, her younger sister prepare for her high school sophomore year, and myself, for my next chapter. After all, I just graduated 50% of my students–gotta do something with that extra free time.
I have shared the video I made for C on my TM Facebook page (which I humbly admit has been equally neglected for the last 6+ weeks) with the hopes that you might be willing to open your own box of photos/memories and look not for opportunities lost, but memories created, and, in the event you don’t find what you’re hoping for, the freedom to give yourself a blank slate to start anew today.