Last Thursday night, I remembered the importance of life’s checks and balances.
Upon entering my garage door, at 9:57 PM, my eldest son explained why my husband’s truck was not in our driveway. Their aunt, my husband’s sister, had flat-lined and he’d rushed to the emergency room to be with her and her husband. I immediately looked at my mobile phone log, remembering the distinct cell ring of my mother-in-law at 8:16 PM during the budget meeting I had been presiding over; balancing income versus expenditures. My sister-in-law had been at the right place at the right time; immediately revived. She is expected to have a full recovery.
On Mother’s day she had complained of feeling under the weather, sharing that age was catching up with her as she entered her fifth decade earlier this year. I had noted that, instead of mother’s day being a day of celebration, it was a day of higher expectations and stress. In trying to celebrate her mother-in-law, her own mother, as well as being a mother herself and acknowledging her daughter, a young mother, she had been worn out trying to do it all. The symptoms she had exhibited on Sunday came in full force Thursday; finding herself in an emergency room and being resuscitated back. This was a definitive wake-up call. Literally.
We, women, try to do it all; at a cost to ourselves.
My own physical body felt the stress and I took the time to sleep from Friday afternoon through Saturday morning.
This weekend, at a family BBQ, I was reminded of the earlier years of motherhood; my younger cousins now beginning to have kids of their own. As toddlers roamed and babies gurgled in delight on other Moms’ laps, my pre-teen and teenaged sons attempted to sit on my own; dwarfing me. Only a decade or so earlier I had been pushing double strollers and carrying boys on infant carriers; trying to do everything. My days had been filled with caring for their every need and these days, I struggle knowing that I must let them go.
I am feeling the weight of life’s transitions as I watch family and friends go through their own. My sister-in-law is now forced to make her own choices versus trying to please everyone.
- Deteriorating health issues commanding lifestyle changes and watching numbers. Blood sugar, high blood pressure, liver and heart function.
- Burying loved ones and caregiving for those left behind.
- Worrying about the future with our current economic and political climate; including retirement
- Adjusting to the empty nest and discovering new interests, occupations and relationships
- Raising grandkids when your own kids can barely make ends meet
We look at the numbers and ponder statistical probabilities and outcomes. We worry about aging successfully, both in health and in wealth; as we navigate through midlife and beyond. We work to define our roles, roles that constantly change and merge into one another.
We are mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers and we try to balance it all. We nurture everyone, but accept care from none.
Something has to give; and it usually is the mother giving. It is in our support community of family and friends that we must gain strength.
For the past month I have walked from one room into another, assuming different roles. I step out of our business into the threshold of my home; briefly getting dinner before heading into a volunteer role at one of my sons’ programs or schools. It is important for me to serve and contribute; knowing this is my way to remain involved in my growing boys’ lives; lives that no longer need me to hover in the wings. And so I work behind-the scenes to promote and support the activities that sustain them since the time with my sons grows short. I am thankful for the distraction and rarely complain.
I watched my older sons turn left, in their car, as my own vehicle continued straight; our paths diverging. I hadn’t expected the sharp pang as I drove alone in my SUV to my destination and I turned down the music; preferring silence. The loss of their presence in my, now too large, car was felt and the tears began to gather. But the bright glare of my destination, among adults, brought me back to the tasks at hand.
I’ve spent a lot of time letting go of ideals and unmet expectations in my life. As my sons soon embark on their journeys beyond high school, I recalled my own hopes and dreams; hoping their paths will be smoother. Their accomplishments do not need to be grand, photo shopped or shared on social media with hundreds of followers or likes. The bigger things are fleeting.
Life is lived in the details of waking every morning and striving to do the best that we can. To give the best of ourselves without expecting much in return. When life gets busy and crazy, as it always does at the end of the school year, it is the boring, routine that I crave. To make the smallest of choices within my own spaces and cultivating relationships within these places.
I struggle to find my balance, each and every day. But numbers no longer define me. Not on weigh scales, clothes sizes, bank accounts, friendships nor age. Age is just a number.
Successful aging is embodied in the spirit we choose to live our lives.
We can awaken each morning expecting the worst. Or we can awaken each morning hoping for the best. To continue to believe that we serve a purpose and that the world is still filled with people who are good. It’s not about what the world can do for me. It’s about how I can contribute to the world.
My sons and husband know I chirp, “Good morning,” as they grumble and throw covers over their heads or turn off alarms. Some days I take it personally but most days I take it in; hoping to get a smile or a, “Good morning” in return. These days, these gestures are few and far between. But occasionally I catch glimpses and it is enough.
No longer do I project into the future past twenty-four hours. I have learned to focus on the minutes before me; to be present in them. To not use my words to break, but to build. To not be present where I do not want to be. To not compare with what I don’t have. It is a huge learning process, this change in mindset. Success is measured in navigating through the day and looking forward to the next one.
This is my wake-up call, each and every single day. May your life be resuscitated by those who revive you.
And I STILL sing this song to my boys; much to their annoyance.