Archives for September 2010
While contemplating my future many months ago, I remember saying to myself – “self, don’t let go of your internal discipline because you need that tight hold to keep your life from capsizing.” “Not true” said my inner party girl, “What damage can a little bit of fun do?”
Now, let’s just be clear about what I mean by discipline…I have very rigid behavior surrounding my home and my work life. Little ground rules, if you know what I mean. For example, 28 years ago when I was pregnant with Johanna, I decided to lay out my clothes for the entire week on Sunday. I’ve kept that discipline for 28 years. I rigidly get all of the laundry done on Saturday and then I rotate clothing forward to be used for this week….
I have dozens of little rules like this, work hard, work early, get all of the chores done first, ALL of them, then I can sit down and relax. Always pay the bills first, no matter what my little heart wishes for. Take care of my kids, on schedule, on time. Now there were very good reasons for all of these disciplines; I raised seven kids. It’s a herculean task that requires a lot of organization, time management and above all, efficiency. Budgeting is a fine art, as is house care, and it’s all there to be completed by the end of the day.
Empty Nest: So no one needs me, there are no beautiful children’s faces gazing at me with adoring eyes. Who am I without all of that to keep my inner crazy in check? I’ve always functioned within the context of motherhood. Now that motherhood recedes there is this woman who wants to get out and play. Who the frick is she?
So -my dilemma is that for the last several months, I’ve been riding the slippery slope. “I can do laundry later, groceries, who needs groceries? Sleep in a little bit, what difference does it make? Checkbook, what checkbook? Money, where did I put the money?” I’ve even been practicing drinking, yes drinking! I’ve never indulged in alcohol aside from a holiday here or there and one puke-drunk per year:) Dozens of my friends tell me that they drink wine every day. So how did that little pleasure pass me by for the last two decades?
There has always been this dark corner in my brain about extremes. In other words, I think of extremes as the reality of my person. I’m either a bad girl or a good girl. There is no place in-between. I see this dark edge of behavior that I could easily slide off into and the next thing you know, I would be sun-bathing nude on the coast of Spain with intellectuals and winos contemplating the meaning of the sand. I would abandon my children, leave creditors in the lurch and laugh deliciously at all of my boyfriends who wish for me to settle down.
My good girl wears baggy pants, wants to bake cookies and coo at babies. My good girl is still alive and well, she is industrious, caring and competent. My bad girl wants someone else to go to the store and buy cookies for her, and babies are just for fun. My bad girl is lazy, uncaring and doesn’t need competence, just confidence – who cares about the rest?
are a way for mothers to “keep” wandering adult kids, ya know?
She is at a conference and she is managing her image. We are in Orlando and she has been nominated as the national winner of the “Medical Practice Office Manager of the Year” award. So we shyly ask an official for permission to skip out of the afternoon session and go shopping. I am set that she must accompany me to pick out my outfit for the “Eighties” party that is happening on Friday night. I tell her “Jill, the last time I was at a conference, I attended morning sessions only – people just pretend to participate.” But she is so serious about her professional status and so I must be part of the permission asking process. And then we go – off to the mall. It is a perfect day. We talk about our family and especially I wish to hear about my granddaughters. I am also very interested in the state of her marriage. She has been married for more than 20 years and I am anxious to hear that her marriage is intact and working still – as it should be. She satisfies my fears and anxieties. She is happy. I become delighted with her easy going nature. Something about her is different and I tell her so. She has matured, she understands in a way that had not occurred before. She picks out the perfect outfit for me, and just like my oldest biological daughter, she lovingly accompanies me on my trips to the dressing room, waiting out side to tell me that I am “cute”, beautiful and all of those other things. As we drive back to the hotel our conversation inevitably returns to our history.
We speak of her anger for her biological mother and our history as a family. I ask her “so you let me off of the hook completely” as we talk about her hurts from her childhood. She tells me that yes, she has let me off the hook, and my guilt is assuaged somewhat by her love. We speak of her father and she explains to me that even with his absences “I always felt loved by him.”
We finish our day, we sleep and early I hear her making phone calls and getting ready for her day. The first thought that comes to my mind, what I must know and what I must ask “Jill, did you always feel loved by me?” And here is the fulcrum, the cruxt of our mixed lives together, our history and our future. She tells me, simply “yes, I always felt loved by you.” Now I know, more than any other thing that is important to me, this is the middle of it. Loving her, my first child, is one thing – but in the oddities that became our life story together, her knowing that I love her seems so much more important than anything else in our relationship.
I run errands, I do the normal motherly things, pick up her mascara, and exchange her shirt and then we have lunch. Again, I marvel at how special she is. Jill is sensitive to me and solicitous of my well being. I get a picture of Jaxsun by text, and we both laugh out loud at how funny and cute he is with his football gear and baby bottle. I am so happy that we share our love and our blood with the same people.
Quickly the evening comes and the Awards Dinner is here. We take our pictures and for some ridiculous reason I am complaining that she is taller than me. For the first picture Jill tries to stoop, which is a disaster for the picture and I realize that I am silly for being sensitive about tallness. What swirls through my head is that I want to resist this moment, a moment when I must acknowledge that I am no longer THE parent, I am shorter than Jill and somehow it indicates a diminished status in her life – rather than what it is. We redo the pictures and Jill takes her shoes off. As we get inside to the awards ceremony, I notice that her laces are untied and just like a mom, I tap my thigh to indicate to her to put her foot up and just like a kid she puts her shoe next to my lap and I tie her shoelace. I am remembering her five-year-old-self standing mutantly in front of me, bottom lip out, refusing to learn to tie her shoes. The memory makes me smile and then I have to laugh because there we are – adults – and I am acting like she is my baby again and I have to tie her shoelace.
Jill is called to the stage with the four other nominees. I have the camera and I am very excited to be there to record this special moment for her. There is an awkward moment as everyone’s name is called and then there is this terrible pause and I am thinking – oh my gosh – they are just leaving her there standing alone on the stage – and then it dawns on me, she WON! I am crying again, for the dozenth time in such a short time…
I am so happy, to be here, to be part of this, to have the time to talk about what was and to learn to enjoy what is, the now of our relationship. The next morning, we hug several times to say goodbye. I walk away crying, as is my ritual when I must leave her.
When my step-daughter married, I knew that she would be physically and geographically separated from me. It was a change I could not welcome, however, it taught me many things. For some reason, I thought that my emotions would change once my child became an adult. They did not. In this sense I struggled with our separation and resisted much of what must happen when one’s child gets married. It was 22 years ago, and that struggle was in vain. I don’t know why, but we both have a new sense of acceptance. I delighted in her personality, vibrant, accepting, loving. She is everything a woman could be, in love with her husband, a dedicated mother and successful in her career. I like her philosophy about life and I love her competent management of her peers, her family and the thriving medical practice that she administers. It was an amazing two days. Allowing the relationship to change was phenomenal – the emotions – never changed. All the love I have for her, and have always had for her, bubbled over, condensed into the moments that I can share with her. Guess what? It was all okay. Resisting the change was useless, had no effect, except to intermittently separate me from her.
As I left her, I cried the same tears that I always cry when I leave her, but this time, I know that it is simply part of our process. My grief does not cause me to try to force change.
What if our purpose in life is to learn and to have fun?
For sure then, one comment would be true: we take ourselves too seriously.
There is something awe-inspiring about fun for nothing. Climbing inside of a drawer is just crazy fun. How cool is that?