I am approaching 50 as my 4 sons explore their teen age years. We’re all in crisis, therefore. They seem to be handling it better than I am. But then maybe we’re all pretty good at mask-wearing. Who knows, really?
What I notice, as I venture out into the world alone again, after years of being with them, homeschooling them, mothering them, is this: I am lighter. The lightness, the lack of weight, sometimes translates into panic.
It’s also darkly comical at times. As when I was younger, people ask me if I need help with my groceries. They never did this when I had 4 small boys in tow. I think people were scared. I think they were scared of me, for me. Now I walk into a store, a rather average-looking middle-aged woman buying stuff. No fear, no worried looks. Just a boring middle-aged woman. I’m not going to break anything. I’m not going to have a meltdown if I can’t have a kinder surprise at the checkout. I’m not going to make odd, inappropriate comments to the people in line with me. I just buy my groceries and get out. And no, I don’t need help with them. I needed help before, but you were too afraid to offer.
Sometimes, I feel like I should be wearing a cape. Or a badge. Something to signify all I have overcome. All I have conquered over the last 20 years. I can make popcorn that tastes like ambrosia and I invented “mystery breakfast” when we were so poor that a bit of butter and flour turned into pastry crust and filled with whatever I could find became a magical treat that they looked forward to. I spent my thirties expanding and contracting, leaking fluids and visually hallucinating from lack of sleep. At the same time, I taught them how to read, write and love math.
Now, I walk along the street or meet a friend for coffee and we talk about work. About adult topics. I am expected to converse uninterrupted about what I want. I want a latte. Hot. I want to publish a novel before I die. I want to earn a decent living. And so forth.
The other day, I talked with someone about junctures where humans either self-terminate or find meaning again.We both agreed, hastily and perhaps with too much emphasis, that the only real option was to find meaning. And so my next chapter begins.