My thoughts have been all over the place in this past month. I had countless unpublished drafts as I sifted and sorted, processing the experiences in the month of March. I am in a changing season. Seemingly random thoughts imprinted on my brain and there was no making sense of it all. Maybe, I thought, this is what pre-menopause is like? I was scattered.
I found myself crying in a park over spilled egg dye. My days of mothering young sons came to a close as I sat for three hours on a sunny Saturday; mourning this.
I sat with a dear friend; wondering why the drugs were working against her body. Weren’t they supposed to help her? Her son needs her at home.
I simmered below the surface, as I observed people maneuver and work to manipulate their way with hidden agendas, wondering at their motivations.
I contemplated aging and mortality; things that always seemed to be in the distance as I struggle to come to terms with my changing physical capabilities. When the bff shared the story of the dad falling out of the treehouse with no chance of ever walking again; I was reminded to not take life for granted.
I clenched teeth as I analyzed numbers; wondering how to leverage them. I was lost in paperwork and more paperwork with taxes, both income and property, looming just around the corner.
I had mistakenly thought life would become clearer as I aged. And easier. As a high schooler entering into college, my path had seemed clear and I followed it, like an excellent sheep. And the further I went, the more I questioned. The hubs threw a wrench in the works; entering my life and unknowingly capturing my heart. Soon the goals were career. Then purchasing a home. Starting a family. Pet ownership. It all fell into line.
The goals began to change and I transferred my desires onto my children. I volunteered in various pursuits and sought validation. But I am left with the same confused feeling. Wasn’t life supposed to be clear by now?
Left with a bunch of unanswered questions, I retreated into myself. At a recent concert festival I heard the adjudicator’s advice to the wind ensemble. The students were so focused on the musical notes that they had not given the respect due to the silences in-between the notes; the rests.
My own mind was stuck on discordant chords as I plowed ahead in my life’s musical score. I was too busy playing notes and focusing on the next bar that I had ignored the moments of silence; the ones that give pause for reflection. In giving these quiet moments the attention they were due; they would accentuate the dynamic moments in the music and enhance the lyrical composition. My symphony was stuck on repeat. I became complacent. I was falling in line; as in William Deresiewicz’ book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.
I had forgotten how to think for myself.
I sought refuge in books; finally completing two of them, just because. I sought beauty in unlikely places; hiking to a nearby park and sitting at a bench for three hours. I watched young families stroll along the paths and the tears began anew. I had cried over spilled egg dye because my sons had not wanted to color eggs on my timeline. I was accustomed to setting our family schedule and my boys had wanted to color eggs. But with thirty minutes notice they were unwilling to leave the glowing LCD screens of the den. The hubs retorted they were busy and when I replied that they could color eggs without me; he had unceremoniously dumped the nine colors of dye down our sink. I had spent nearly an hour boiling, cooling and preparing for this activity. I had only requested a small amount of family time on our Easter weekend. Quality time and acts of service are the two love languages, from Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, that matter to me the most.
Frustrated I had donned workout clothes and promptly trailblazed to my park of refuge. I ignored the cell phone and sat in silence. In my solitude the hard truth was that I had relied on my family to bring me happiness on my terms. It was not fair for me to put that on them.
I am responsible for my own happiness.
This letting go is hard; the acknowledging of a changing season. I have been conditioned, as a mother, to find happiness in my children’s pursuits. But it is not how they perform, look or what they will become that I should derive validation and worth. No longer am I the director or composer. I must affirm their desires and allow them opportunities to speak their own words. I do not need to fill their silences with my own thoughts and sentences. I must learn to accept their wishes and allow them to grow away.
I don’t want them to fall in line and that was exactly how I was parenting them.
I take a lot for granted. I thought of my girlfriend who is away from her son; rehabilitating for her own health and the father who has lost the ability of mobility. I watched the ducks waddle by as my husband’s words came to mind, like water off a duck’s back, as I struggled with personal agendas in the organizations to which I serve. I remembered the hobbies that brought me pleasure: reading, gardening, hiking and I sat in my uncomfortable silence. As an only child I am accustomed to being left to my own devices and I knew that I had to take action, for myself.
I stared at the gazebo where a decade earlier, we had celebrated my middle son’s birthday. In my solitude, I mourned the passage of time. So many transitions have come and gone and I thought of the women in our bookclub. They’ve endured separations and divorces, job losses, child losses and friendships forever changed. There is no going back to those years but we must always put our best foot forward, to progress and learn from our mistakes. I saw egg hunts of the past and fast forwarded to today.
I took the time to acknowledge the rests. I was done being stuck on repeat. I had to discover how to find my own music once again; my composition had to be my own and no one else’s. After three hours of mourning and soul searching I no longer could avoid the phone calls. My sons voiced they wanted me to return home; to share lemonade from the multitude of lemons from their grandparents’ tree. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
The hubs dug out food coloring and allowed the boys to color eggs. They took pictures of themselves so that I could see that they had not abandoned this idea. And in these small things of the every day, they let me know that they still wanted to hear me. They wouldn’t always agree with my words but they took the time to process them and came to their own conclusions. They were sorry they hurt my feelings and understood it was my version of family time. We were learning the art of communicating simply and clearly.
I continue to evolve.
The clarity is slow in coming and only on a hike did my divergent thoughts begin to coalesce. The volunteer activities I chose to be involved in, the questions I have continued to ask myself, the books I have been reading, that appeared disjoint; all lead to the same place. These pursuits are rekindling the thirst for learning and knowledge. I sought to grow and discover new things; just as I had as a young girl. Most of my life I had focused on arriving to my destination in the fastest and most efficient way possible. I have stepped outside of myself; re-engaging in the larger scope of life.
As I hiked with my family the hubs reminded me to allow the boys to hike off-trail. It’s what they enjoy the most in our outdoor adventures; the thrill of exploration. It was also the same mental journey I was embarking upon. With no timeline I sighed and let my expectations go.
I seek solace in quiet places of beauty.
I try not to wonder at other people’s motives and let their words and actions flow over me; like water off a duck’s back.
I work hard not to judge my appearance or performance on what I look like and what my body can do.
I seek meaningful relationships and connection with those who reciprocate with hospitality.
I continue to be a work in progress; to model behavior to my family instead of dictating what I expect or want.
But most importantly, I have embraced curiosity and inquisitiveness. No longer do I feel frustrated that I don’t have answers to my incessant questions. I push through my complacency and hope to blaze my path, unlike the sheep, to rediscover how to think outside of my box.
I may be poor in wealth but rich in health.
I take the rests, as I need them. To reflect. To take a break. To heal wounds. To become stronger. I am learning to successfully fail and to age well. I leverage my life experiences to create a broader, dynamic symphony.