“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus. There is no stopping the rotation of the earth. The setting and rising of the sun is therefor a constant we depend on. The passing of the hours, or the aging of our bodies can seem slow or lightening fast. But what I have learned in my 60+ years is that I can control my attitude, my mindset toward this passage of time. What change means and what it offers to me and the world is NOT set in stone. I am the change maiden. My perspective not only sets the tone, but the direction of my life.
Whether it be the literal change of seasons, simple aging, or just the generic passing of time, change carries with it hope. In this post I am celebrating the promise of hope that is ushered in by change. We can go kicking and screaming or we can rise to its call. I am celebrating the possibility that the universe may just be right – being in the moment is all we can really do as we embrace the unknown of tomorrow.
I am a realist. Not an optimist. Not a pessimist. You may find that odd in any artist. But that is who I am. I am not a romantic. I don’t wear or need rose-colored glasses. I like my reality neat and tidy, not on the rocks. But in that facing of reality, I have been known like anyone to put off embracing the inevitable. So in that vein, I put off writing this post for an entire month.
About a month ago, I learned that my daughter had accepted a job far from home in Alaska. I was over the moon for her! Pride welled up in every pore of my body. I rode the wave of celebration as she graduated with her second degree, this time in nursing. Then there were the nervous days waiting to get her results from her boards and then the job offers. She had more than one offer and although I dearly hoped she would take the most prestigious one, a part of me knew that meant saying goodbye.
She has lived close enough to me most of her adult life for either a quick drive to get a hug and kiss or at least a weekend together. But this new adventure meant a lot of planning for a visit and a plane ride would be required. No more just hopping in the car, meeting for coffee or babysitting her sweet mini Aussie, Blue. She was accepting a job at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, AK.
a Mama’s prerogative
Knowing Annie as I do, she will probably feel a twinge of embarrassment when she reads this post. I can see the pink blush on her beautiful sun-kissed freckled cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes, and the grin of acknowledgment that I am writing out of love, admiration and shear necessity to process this change.
Of course if you haven’t already realized, this “seasons of change” post is directly related to what we all recognize as a form of “empty nest syndrome.” Whether we have experienced it as parents when our children leave home, or some other version of separation, this anxiety is real. There is a distinct understanding that life has changed as we are faced with the realization that we must carry on without that person within our reach on a regular basis.
She has left before – and it wasn’t just when she went off to college. Annie left home at 15 years old to chase her dream of ski racing. When I say it was the hardest thing “I” have ever done, I mean that. You would have to ask her if it was the hardest thing “she” has ever done, but I am guessing we would both agree on the level of challenge. Dropping her off in a strange city, with strange people to attend Rowland Hall and race in a prestigious ski program was like sending her to Mars. Our oldest son had gone off to college a few years earlier at 17 and I cried for days. Empty nesting hits hardest when the last one leaves. Am I right parents? But I still had Annie at home, a job I loved, a husband, family, friends etc. to help me adjust. Nothing had prepared me for my daughter leaving home that young. But in true family form, we all rallied and supported her decision. As it turns out, as most crazy adventures go, it was just the beginning of an amazing journey for our entire family. but that is a post for another day.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I come from a long line of adventurers. But as I study the history of my family, immediate and further back, I would say we are a bunch of dreamers. Again, remember I am a realist, but we have our dreams too. We have never met an opportunity for travel we haven’t embraced or a new job we were afraid to tackle. We have moved across country, wrestled any number of career changes, and recalculated each time when the universe said no. Sometimes we had to say, “to hell with it” and embraced the change, or said “bring it on!” Sometimes we ran like hell it when it seemed appropriate – fight or flight? Let’s be practical. We are all human! Change comes for us, like it or not. We eventually have to face it. So Alaska or bust it is!
In general, i would say my family isn’t afraid of change. If things get too tough, we ask for help. We ask for a time-out. We ask for understanding until we can cope. But our goal is to eventually embrace whatever change has dealt us. Do the work and relish the results. We have tackled change through therapy, constructive criticism and conflict resolution. And don’t tell us something is impossible, because we are productively stubborn, courageous and determined. So when asked, forced or suggested, we have historically opened our arms to the latest adventure. We get up early(most of us); we dive in and we swim. Well half of us do, the other half grab a boat and an oar. But you get my “drift”. Our goal is to ask the hard questions, and rise to the occasion. Not because we are brave, but because we so desperately want to live a life worth living.
Do we have to like it when things change? I say no, no we don’t. But do we have to embrace it? I say yes – if we want to move through it and onward to the next great thing. I don’t intend to wallow in any sort of sadness that my daughter is leaving home again. And I highly recommend if you are feeling sorry for yourself over something similar to let it go too. I am so damn proud of her. Wallowing would be a waste of energy and get in the way of my joy. I am so excited to visit her in Alaska! I plan to start making arrangements for a visit in the spring – it’s Alaska, alright! I am so curious about what it will be like for her as she discovers herself as an ER nurse. So I can’t wait for those phone calls like the time she called me crying tears of joy after she helped deliver her first baby. There will be some tears of frustration, maybe homesickness and lots of good, happy talks. There already have been in preparation for her trip. Tears of joy mostly, tinged with just a little sorrow for good measure.
Right side up
I am sharing my letter to Annie with you, the reader, so you know my mindset this month. A mindset of change that is filled with hope and excitement. The world may feel upside down in the moment, but is actually right side up in all the exciting ways that matter. My daughter can stand on her hands in the middle of the snow and all is right with the world. I get her. She knows that. That makes me a grateful, happy Mama every day. I expect those that know me to hold me accountable for a positive, but realistic attitude going forward. I tend to work out my thoughts on “paper” so here they are. If you say it, write it and share it, somehow the anxiety over change has a little less power. In this way, communication about our challenges builds more human connection. At least that’s how it feels to me.
On the day she was born, I wrote a letter to her in my journal. I have written to her since more than once. But this letter is to remind myself that in all the chaos and change, there is always a sense of what is right and good and true in the world when it comes to my children. They are my inspiration to embrace change, to do my best and to set out to be someone they can be proud of. They are amazing humans, Annie, Jake and his wife, Vanessa. They bring joy in ways that I cannot express in all these written words. But as I honor Annie’s latest accomplishment, I am reminded of just how grateful I am to turn the page each day in a world where change is inevitable and hope carries us on.
Never could I own you. No one can; but still you are mine. A piece of me. Mine to love and be proud of and cherish always. What a day today is!
There are no words to describe the intense pride I feel as I witness you depart on your latest journey: Alaska or bust to begin your new career as a nurse in the ER in Anchorage.
But we have been here before many times. You traveling off on your own to do some extraordinary thing. You have an adventurous spirit and a bright, curious mind. It brings me joy to see you challenged and meet it like a champ. But it also brings me joy to see you problem solve and recover a fumble or catch someone else when they fall. You are a master at it all.
Being a mama is the deepest joy of my life. Parenting you and your brother has been an honor. And of course, as all parents know, whether proud, grieving or laughing, parenting is a crap shoot. Every day I am nearly overwhelmed by the love and pride I feel. I know I am lucky. And yet, just when I think I have seen it all, you surprise once again.
You were my dream that almost wasn’t realized – a daughter. But born premature, I just didn’t know how we would manage. Wow. Was I wrong. You have been ahead of the curve since day one. Never settling for less; always reaching for more. I love that most about you – your tenacity. Your ability to see everything as a possibility.
Never in my wildest imagination could I have designed an Annie like you. You and your brother beat every single dream of what I could have hoped motherhood would be. I revel daily in my surprise at how much pride and joy you have both brought me.
Today as you go off on another adventure- maybe the biggest yet of your young life, I am again grateful. This time that the world is blessed with someone like you to be their caretaker.
The young mom that brings in her injured child to the emergency room who can’t breathe, and you will do all that is needed medically because of your training. But what that mama will quickly realize is what I already know. She will be in the care of the kindest, most caring human she has ever met. You will take care of that child like she is your own. You will take care of that mama like she is yours.
In doing your job, you will make the world a better place simply with your broad smile and sincere touch. Your brilliance will shine. And far away, I will again know the pride I feel every day as your mama.
Peace be the journey dear one. Light the world. Share your gifts and be proud of your accomplishments. Your journey has just begun!