I’m writing from Northampton, something I rarely do. The younger kids are with their dad, the older one is with his gal, returning today to Denmark from a three day visit to Paris, returning tomorrow to NYC and on to Troy, from his spring break trip to see his gal. Richard is trying to sleep. I am trying to get @*! done, at what I hoped would be the end of a long stretch of getting @*! done. Turns out mid-life is not like that. The getting @*! done part doesn’t really end, or even take a break.
For the first time in eight years, I haven’t written on this blog for nearly three months. I could blame the getting @*! done or look for something else to explain this shift in habits. I can’t say I’ve thought a whole lot about it, but this morning, when given the choice of getting @*! done or writing here, I chose this.
In the two and a half months since my last post, a lot has happened, and not much has, been a stretch like that. My son finished his college applications..wahoo! This month he’s started hearing back with news, mostly good, some ok, some still on the way. I have been reminded of a spiral bound notebook my mom kept after I was born. For the first many months, she wrote about my milestones, about getting to know me as her child and herself as a mom. Then around 11 months, she made an entry about the fact that I was starting to toilet train. Many months later, no entries in between, she wrote that I had learned to use the potty. Getting a kid into college this round has been a bit as I imagine toilet training a toddler in the sixties must have been for my mom, pretty absorbing and a top priority, clearly the kid’s job, but also a bit hard to step away from as a mom. This month and next, we’ll sort out the acceptances and waitlists and rejections as they come, attend the accepted student events at the places my boy might choose, weigh the financial aid and costs and programs and feel of each of those places, sort things out between my son and his dad and me, and if all goes well, by May 1st, put down a deposit and begin to prepare for phase 2, boy leaves for college, which I must admit, hasn’t been so much on my mind as finding a good fit. When the last application was submitted, I realized my boy was in his senior year, wondered aloud to him how he was going to enjoy it now the college applications were done. He smiled, and I couldn’t tell if he, too, was just realizing that senior year was meant for celebration, of if it was just me who had been thinking so much of the future I had trouble remembering now.
So, college applications and learning to say good-bye to my second kid have been part of getting @*! done, but there has been more..taxes and setting up a new retirement program for the day care, financial aid applications for my son and sorting things out with his dad, day care enrollments, scheduling and budgeting, budgeting, budgeting, paying bills, paying bills, paying bills, keeping my house clean and my internal state in order, given the budget cuts to housecleaning and mental health services, learning to fit in yoga and writing, to forfeit a clean house or do it myself in place of paid housecleaning, to cultivate habits of mindfulness and self-care, friendships and self-reflection in place of weekly talk therapy for pay. Those luxuries got me through phase one of separating my old life from my new one, house cleaning and therapy for the newly overwhelmed, time for phase two of things, moving on, learning to rely more on myself and to make a sustainable life, giving up for now on home renovations and/or a dramatic change of life, working on being here now and seeing what comes, accepting some of the mess and dealing with what I can, seeing where that takes us. Wish me luck.
One thing I’ve noticed, in the spirit of this blog’s title, Thinking About How We Learn, is that the longer I’ve lived on my own, the less I’ve had time for friends and the more I’ve needed new sources of community and self-care. At this point, given a choice between cleaning my house or going to the grocery store and Thursday morning yoga class, I’m mostly choosing yoga. That’s not to say I’m not giving up yoga more weeks than not, for appointments, for time with Richard if he’s in town, for a co-worker who needs time off, but given a choice between cleaning house and shopping and yoga, I choose yoga, thus the Peapod delivery subscription for the year and the early morning and late night bouts of vacuuming when the cat hair becomes annoying. Learning to keep my house clean and the day care and family fed while also caring for my body and inner peace has been a long time sorting out, but for now, this is where I am, yoga or walk plus errands on Thursday morning, versus grocery shop and vacuum. Just to have the Thursday morning is a luxury, and I will likely not have that next year, when I return to Sudbury Valley carpool duty, no student driver in the household once boy number two is gone, but for his year, anyway, yoga wins. And on Monday, every other week, when I’m in Somerville, not Northampton, there’s been writing class, from ten to twelve, which I hope I might sustain even when the carpool calls next year, but that may be a stretch, so again, sticking to the now, I’m good, looking ahead, more change, surprise, surprise, change will come again.
The writing class has also surely been a contributor to less writing here, along with getting @*! done. I’ve wanted to try writing for a different audience, to try writing poetry and creative nonfiction and to get feedback from a small group of people who mostly write poetry, and from a teacher I once knew only as a day care parent, then as a friend for an occasional walk or talk, and now know as a fine host of writing workshops in her home, where I had visited once or twice to admire her daughter’s doll house or to pick up my friend for a walk or talk, but now seeing it as a home where writers meet, my teacher’s home strikes me fresh each week as a place I enjoy being, and inspires me to think about my own home that way, not as a place to be renovated or rented or sold, but as a home to be kept in a way that works for guests as well as family members, which takes shape around the ones who live there and the ones we want to host. I admire the floor to ceiling bookshelves, the white slipcovered furniture in the living room that can hold a writing seminar or family and friends, the white walls hung with colorful tiles and art from around the world and from my teacher’s children, the long rough hewn wood table in the dining room that holds us writers as well as family meals and, I learned this week, is where my teacher does her writing. I admire the small bathroom off the kitchen with lovely green walls and a big japanese wave print, a tiny sink and a beach towel for drying hands, tiny bathroom across the hall from my teacher’s son’s bedroom, which is only identifiable as her son’s bedroom, as is my son’s, now empty most of the year, by the stickers on the door. My teacher’s teenage son’s bedroom door is closed, hiding who knows what. My son’s has been open the last year, since I decided to reclaim the space and tidy up after he’d been gone two years. It takes time to adjust to great change, the growing of our kids into teens and then young adults, into people who live with us, but not so much, into those who live on their own, who come back and want a room of their own, and who eventually have homes of their own and don’t need ours so much. Being in my teacher’s space and in the writing class I’m thinking of how the inner and outer changes mix and go together.
This year my oldest son will graduate from college and my younger son will graduate from high school. The boys are two years apart in age, but did things their own, way, thanks to Sudbury Valley which creates space for students to move on when they are ready, rather than at a certain age or after a certain number of years or credits or courses are completed. In my boys’ case, one left “early” and one will leave “late”, first one at seventeen, second one at nineteen. My gal, who is fifteen, imagines she will leave “right on time”, which is to say, at eighteen, and in her own way, not in the way of her brothers. Sounds about right, but I’m not counting on anything until it happens, which is what we parents of SVS kids learn to do, wait, watch, wonder, don’t expect too much or too little, take it as it comes, be there now, the theme of this piece, coming through again.
Which reminds me that I am here now, in Northampton, while Richard sleeps, and that my goal when I got out of bed just past five was to get @*! done, which is what, I now remember, I was often able to do after writing here, mind cleared, story told, life put in some semblance of order on the page, focus restored. Wish me luck again, more paperwork, more sorting out of finances and logistics and life, more solitude and communion with the early morning hours, waiting for the sun to join me again in the world.