Friday, February 3, 2012

Cutting Ties

My precious mother-in-law finally cut ties with her employer a short time ago.  She toyed with retirement off and on for years, reducing her hours, then getting bored at home and taking on more hours again.  Then she'd get exhausted from the extra hours and reduce her hours again;  she'd get bored at home again and go back.  Then she had several bouts of sickness in one form or another and would decide it was time to quit altogether; then she'd worry about money and go back.  Finally, finally, finally she pulled the trigger and retired.  They had a big party for her and clapped her off the floor (she worked in a hospital) -- so sweet.  She was very popular there.

But the problem of boredom at home was not going to go away.  So for Christmas, T and I invested in an oil painting class for her, along with all the requisite materials.  She had mentioned once that she took an oil painting class decades ago and loved it, but would never go back to painting because it was just too expensive.  The gift was an enormous success, and she's spending hours upon hours painting at home, along with the weekly three hour class.

Now the 6-week class is coming to an end and the question of whether to sign up for the next session is upon us.  She loves to paint, but doesn't feel she really needs the expensive class.  But our goal was to get her out of the house with other people, as well as indulge a personal interest, so we definitely want her to continue.

A couple days ago she stopped by and as we were discussing it she said, "But what am I going to do with all these paintings?  Just pile them up in my basement?"  She was suggesting she should STOP DOING THIS THING SHE LOVES, just because it served no practical purpose!  From my perspective, that's crazy!  I told her, C'mon! You've worked all these years and haven't had the time or energy for hobbies or personal interests.  Now is the time to do what you enjoy simply because you enjoy it!  So, yes, display the ones you love most, and the rest can absolutely pile up in the basement!

I think it was God who reminded me of this conversation even yesterday as I ventured back into blog-land again after a long hiatus.  The same thoughts went through my head: why should I do this?  It serves no purpose, makes no money, is stupid, self-indulgent and potentially embarrassing.  But I enjoy it.  That's all.  It gives me inexplicable joy to write out my thoughts.  So I should do it for the same reason my mother-in-law should paint, and I'll let the thoughts just pile up in the basement along with her paintings! =)

And yesterday posting that blog entry helped me sort out the war of emotion in my heart.  I did pray after I wrote that post about our friend and the dance scholarship, and God helped me see the root of the problem, as He always does.  That's fodder for another post, but I feel much more at peace with the situation now.


Okay, well, heaven forbid I should ever shut up in a timely manner.  The root of the problem had to do with changes in the emotional support structure of my life that have crept up on me over these past years.  When that first baby was born, my whole world blossomed.  I didn't even know happiness or joy or love before compared to the happiness and joy that baby gave me.  And then I had three more.  I loved loving those kids.  All these years since, my whole world has revolved around loving those kids and loving to love those kids.  They have been my happiness.

(Of course you know I'm painting with a very broad brush here.  There was plenty of stress and exhaustion mixed in the picture, plenty of crabby moments and crabby days.  But the overarching theme was...I loved loving those kids.)

Things are changing now.  My older two are off to college, the oldest on the verge of graduating from college and entering the real world as a full-fledged adult.  And the younger two are full-blown teenagers, with all the hormonal upheaval that entails.  So, my oldest, a son, is a pretty typical young man.   He's good to me and kind and calls me regularly because it's important to me that he stay in touch.  But emotionally, he's severed ties in a lot of ways.  He doesn't need me anymore in the way he used to.  He has his life and his friends; there is a dynamic there that I have no part in.

I peeked at his facebook pictures the other day through my daughter's facebook page which was left open.  Actually, relevant to this discussion is the fact that if I had a facebook account, he would not even want to "friend" me.  He told me he would find that weird.  As I looked through the pictures and saw him with all his friends doing their crazy, goofy stuff, having a ball, I saw that he was right.  It would be weird for me through facebook to even vicariously take part in that aspect of his life.  I'm his mom and that's just not my place.  But the pictures were evidence of what I already knew: he's moved on from me.

My college-age daughter, bless her heart, has also moved on from me, but at the same time, being a daughter, has also moved back to me emotionally.  As a teenager she was the very picture of SURLY.  She spent her life in her room.  Now she is happy, independent and ready to rock the world, but calls when she needs to talk.  That is a salve to my soul, truly.  But still, I have to let her go.

And the other two are on their way down the same path.  I remember when the first two were crabby teenagers, just beginning the process of pulling away, I consoled myself with my still-happy younger children.  They were still pleasant to be around.  They still liked me and wanted to be around me.

Well, now they're teenagers too, and Mom is not nearly so popular.  The whirlwind of joy and happiness and purpose that consumed my life with the four kids for so many years is definitely taking a different shape now.  They are all in the process of moving on from me, and I have to allow my relationship with each of them to grow into something more mature, more distant, if it's going to remain healthy. 

So, there is a sadness there.  A tearing.  A void.  Nothing God can't hold me through, but it's best for me to acknowledge what's going on so I can identify and get to the root of irrational feelings, like yesterday with the dance audition.

Maybe I'm overplaying this, maybe the connection between that audition and this emotional hiccup is tenuous.  But as I prayed, one thought led to the next.  I am a little too invested in this youngest daughter's dance.  Why am I too invested?  It's the last vestige of her childhood that I can hold on to. My last child's last glimmer of childhood.  I love it.  I love watching her dance.  I love that she's good at it.  I want to enjoy it and bask in it and eek everything out of it that I can before it's over.  Because it will be over all too soon.

But God will fill this void I feel as this last child grows up, I know.  He will provide other, more healthy sources of joy for me as I embark on a new phase of life.  In the end, I am raising a beautiful young woman, who may or may not do anything with dance as an adult.  Either way, dance is a wonderful part of her childhood.  I will enjoy it while I can, but recognize that it is the girl herself I love, and I will always have her.

Just like my mother-in-law cutting ties with her work and moving on to other endeavors, I have to be willing to cut ties with my former life of Tasmanian-supermom.  Not quite yet.  But soon.

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