October 2016


I haven’t been writing here much lately. It’s hard to know what to say. On an ordinary day, there are lots of little happy/sad moments. Somehow I’ve lost the thread of writing about them in a way that adds up.

Today I drove my daughter to her new school, the public school in the city where her dad lives, which means that when I return for parent conferences at noon, I drive around and around looking for a place to park my car, which doesn’t have a resident permit sticker that would allow me to park in most of the places near the school since I live in a different city. When I finally find a spot by a meter, I have  only two quarters and I’m too shy to ask a passerby for more in exchange for a dollar bill so I get in line with all the high school students out early from school trying to get lunch and coffee from the sandwich shop. After I order a coffee and a cookie, the cashier tells me I can have only four quarters. I hope for a fifth, but she is unyielding, so I return to the meter, fifteen minutes short of confidence for the conference.

I arrive a minute or two late to find my daughter’s dad already talking with the teacher. This goes on for all four teachers, the dad speaking to the teacher while the mom listens and waits, a pattern new to me after eight years of separation and divorce and no  shared parent conferences in all that time. We get through it relatively tension free. We learn about our gal, ask questions, share thoughts with the teachers in ten minute increments in between which we race around the maze like school trying to find the next classroom with a few minutes here and there to talk about our sons, our sons a strange sounding pair of words to my ears right now, as our is not something I like to call much that exists in the world when I refer to my ex-husband and me. Ours is in the past, for the most part. Our house has become almost gracefully now, my house. His house, also his wife’s house, is their house, has never been my house, still awkwardly called my kids’ other house, or their dad’s house. My house, is not called so much our house as my house, or mom’s house, and as I write this I wonder if other families have better names for the houses between which the children travel when they do.

Near ten, after a long and late dinner, two delicious artichokes trimmed and stuffed by my daughter and her friend from her old school, a salad made by me, sourdough bread toasted by daughter topped with tabouli we bought on sale on our now routine Sunday shop, my daughter and her friend take a few minutes to work on her Halloween costume for the dance this weekend where my daughter will be a guest rather than the organizer. I’ll drop her off at the start of the dance and pick her up at the finish. Her brother won’t be there to drive and act as responsible resident and she won’t be there hours before and after to set up and take down. Once again, though, she will wear a beautiful dress and fancy makeup, this time as an Alien, always with the beautiful dress and the makeup, since she was a small girl, one Halloween after another. When I drop the friend off in Watertown past ten, and they look forward to meeting again at the dance and again at Halloween, I find out they plan to watch a scary movie and give out candy at my house on Halloween even though it’s a dad’s house night. I feel mildly redeemed for all the small sadnesses of knowing that many days she sleeps at my house she goes to her dad’s between school and crew to do her homework with her dad and that the same doesn’t happen in reverse as I am working, as my house is not close to school, as I’m not so good at math and physics as her dad. These tiny inequities make me feel small when I notice them. They make my heart hurt and my throat tight.

Why do people say your heart melts? my day care five asked me again and again Wednesday and I wondered with her, talked about how our hearts do physically hurt when we are sad, and we talked about the warm feelings we have when things melt our heart, but still it’s not the same as when our heart is hurting, and it literally aches. How does it do that?

When my kids are hurting, when they are away and I don’t know when they’ll be back, when I try to plan holidays and it isn’t easy, when my love is two hours away in his home and I am here and without a partner again, my heart hurts, my throat aches, my eyes well up, I swallow hard. I don’t know what else to write about tonight. I thought maybe if I started writing it would come clear. Not so much. This stage of life seems not to be about clarity, but about surviving in the murk. What comes next? Which small hurts and happinesses will make up my day is more what goes on than what great thing will I accomplish or learn or do, what tragedy must I overcome? It’s a small world life I’m living. Finding meaning in it is a bit of a challenge. It’s day to day existence, with few plans other than work and chores and writing and yoga classes, Quaker Meeting, the routines.

It seems I say it again and again, but I didn’t expect this to be my life and yet it is. Maybe by writing about it I can give it coherence, make it good enough, find my way. I’m grateful for the work I do, for the house I share with the day care and my kids and now my housemates. I have a few good friends. I’ve tentatively reconnected with Richard. My kids are mostly happy and quite healthy. My finances are tricky, but I’m surviving, with more stuff and cash than many. Deeper meaning?  Still struggling. Purpose in life? Same old same old, or something new? Don’t know. Happy/sad/happy/sad/happy/sad.

***

Anyone else here with me? Seems from talking with my close friends in middle age with kids flying out of the nest that I am not alone, but the book club moms no longer meet, the evening school meetings are no longer for me, the friends I have don’t get together in a group and share about our kids, about our struggles, about the challenges we face as we transition from focusing on our children and building our careers to what. None of us seems to know what next. We aren’t getting together to talk about it and sort it out. Maybe others do, but I don’t. Maybe I should, but even that feels hard to figure out. Ugh..no more whining..time for bed.

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I spent this past Sunday morning in the company of Quakers in Western Mass. My daughter attended her first retreat for young friends with other high school students there. Three of those others had spent their early years with me. I had watched them and held them, known their parents and their families, wondered what they would be like when they grew up. This weekend I got hugs, we took photos, I caught up.

One of the young friends lost his mom a few years back. The memorial service which marked her passing was so meaningful to me I was lead to commit myself more fully to learning about the Quakers.

What I remember this morning, though, as I think about my week, and try to prepare some thoughts and writing for a project I am working on with a more recent day care family, in which that family and Liana and I will grapple with how we in the day care handle loss, is the morning I learned of the death in each of these families, and of the sorrow I felt each time, and the sorrow in me that loss connected to.

When we feel another person’s sadness we also feel our own. It seems to work the other way as well. When we feed another person’s healing we feed our own. Each time I’ve been with a family who has experienced great loss, and there are always many, I find myself reconnecting to the losses in my own life, pondering them, wondering on them, sometimes doing something for that child or family I might have liked done for me or mine.

I’m off to day care today. In the moment, we don’t have anyone really struggling with major loss. We have a family with newborn triplets whose life is in disarray. We have families struggling to understand behavior of their children and the parenting that works best. We have families, no doubt, in financial distress of one sort or another. We have children who may not want to say good-bye when it’s time for parents to leave. There are sadnesses I don’t know and will never. But even in the little ones, the sad good-byes, the crying over physical hurt, I expect to feel those moments as places of connection with potential for deeper understanding, even healing. Here I go. That’s my day.