Monday, August 17, 2009

In the family way - part 2

I wanted to complete this 2 parter last Friday or over the weekend, but I couldn't. My frame of mind just wasn't in the place to revisit the thoughts and somber region of my emotional landscape that generated the fodder for this post. However, it's now Monday morning and I find myself back here in spades. Timing is everything, isn't it?

I left off where I was at last feeling calm and secure about our daughter's settling into her life in Janico, Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer. This was always an exciting and positive venture for her in my mind, but the earliest days of having an offspring set out into totally uncharted territory is something that will always require time and reassuring information for my mind to fully embrace (sometimes I think I should rename my blog "It's all a headtrip")!

Simultaneous to my new found calm about Jean's long planned adventure at last becoming manifest, our youngest son who was half way through his sophomore year in college decided that he wanted to do a semester abroad during his junior year (the typical time a college student sets out for parts unknown) and settled on spending the fall semester of his junior year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Again, this is wonderful stuff, and I was (am) thrilled and happy for him his decision and efforts to make it all happen. He chose fall semester because he plays lacrosse for his college, and their official competitive season is in the spring. What this and his destination meant was that he would only be home for half the summer because the school semesters below the equator fall differently than in North America. So rather than having his delightful presence at home all summer...through August, we would only have him until early July, when he would depart for parts far away to begin the southern hemispere's version of fall semester.

Our nest wasn't empty when he arrived since his older brother (having not returned to college) was at home, so we had 2/3 of our original youth population back in our midst, and as usual it was fun and action packed. Knowing Mark was leaving in early July, I made a point of spending one on one time with him (as much as his 20 y/o self would permit), allegedly to get him stuff for his trip, but really to savor his presence while it was present. When he left, I was thrilled and happy for him, but a little nervous in a parenty kind of way. Again, within a few days of his arrival and having received a few communiques from him where he proved to be alive, well and engaged in his surrounds, my nerves were replaced by acceptance and happiness for his experience. Hmmmmm, there is a theme emerging here. Youngest son left, and while our house was quieter and calmer, we still had first born son home, which continued my sense of "having the kids around" (translate: still within my illusion of control). But I knew that this was short lived...

This oldest son, since deciding to not return to college for now, had been desiring and planning to move out and be independent since he arrived back home in January. And just about 10 days ago, after working out countless details big and small over the last month, left with a U Haul attached to the back of his subaru to move to Chicago with a good friend who already has a job out there. The friend was to start his job in mid August, so off they motored on August 6th to settle into an apartment they found and secured on line and begin life in a new place, with all their stuff jammed into a 5'x8' trailer. Our son left not yet having a job in Chicago but with full intentions of obtaining one asap. He left with optimism, hope, excitement and a clear head. And I was left with a deluge of feelings: happiness, worry, excitement, melancholy, worry, love, worry, optimism, lonliness (as hubby left for a week in Paris 2 days later)...more feelings than I could identify. In the days before Stephen left, while the house was full of his packed up life, I realized that if I withdrew from my busy overthinking mind for even a moment to survey my emotional landscape, the tears came fast, as though spilling over a bulging a dam. I sensed that this transition was going to be the one that brought me to my knees.

And so it has. Being alone last week with only the dog (a status I usually savor) gave me plenty of time to think, feel, respond to countless friends asking how it was going with Stephen in Chicago, and hear myself sound overly optimistic and unworried in a higher pitched version of my voice thus belying my confident words. I spoke to brave son several times and heard myself in fervent micromanagement of his job hunt. I felt mom radar listening for sounds of fear, lonliness, worry, or frustration in his voice and heard myself uttering to him countless nuggets of wisdom about new ventures and existential lonliness.

It's been illuminating, to say the least. Something jolted me last Friday after hanging up from a phone call with Steve where I found myself judging Steve's job hunting strategies but was careful to keep my thoughts to myself (like he isn't perfectly capable of reading my mind). The jolt was this: he's on a courageous journey at an appropriate time in his life to do this. And it's his life to negotiate. I want this to work out for him, but certainly less so than he does! He may have to struggle, and it may be awhile before he finds employment. Or it may go easy and well right away. But it has to be all him now along with whatever resources he finds within himself. He possesses the great love his family, a good mind, kind heart, curiousity and humor to name just a few. And he will acquire more as he moves along. I have to remind myself that I never really learned any of life's big lessons when everything was going perfectly! I must let go...but asking a mom to let go of her child is like asking her to remove and sizeable chunk of her beating heart. Struggle is inevitable and broadening, and while it's hard to REALLY LET GO, I'm going to do the best I can. A friend last week said something quite remarkable when telling her AA story...I may not be able to let something go, but I can let it be.

So there it is...the complete sequence of Leslie's series of transitions. The good news is that with each segment, the adjustment phase has been followed by peace and contentment with however things are. And that the story will continue to unfold is the best news of all. Yearning for the family way as I've come to think of it means that I've been blessed to be part of my own nuclear group with a good husband and great kids. And that is truly more than I probably deserve and ever dreamed of.

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