After a week of one word answers to my enquiring texts my oldest is home, having survived University Delivery Day and the four days following, to finish out the last four days on his summer work contract.
Delivery Day. It seems like a fitting term. The first delivery day brought him into this world where I loved him, taught him, supported him and loved him even more for 18 years and now I deliver him up to the world to make his own way into the world of limitless possibilities. This is his time.
My inner Perfectionista had heard all the rationale--how I had done a good job--how he was ready--how I should be proud---so she sat with her hands folded, head cocked to one side and remained a polite observer, taking notes, as we loaded and unloaded boxes, made up the bed, toured the campus, purchased a meal plan, kissed him good-bye as his first roommate arrived and drove home.
It had been a day for him--about him--and I had remained calm, talked slowly and radiated patience for all things. The smaller campus logistics and well organized team of student volunteers had kept the processes rolling smoothly and my inner Perfectionista smugly fist pumped the air for insisting we arrive at the earliest time allowed.
On our way home, I comforted my youngest who was in tears. His brother is his best friend and I wondered how their relationship would change over the years with their 9 year age gap. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically and that was probably the best way to survive the day. My inner Perfectionista waved the notepad at me --- assuring me we would be deconstructing the day tomorrow --no worries--she got it all.
My therapists have always told me to "stay with emotion" -- as I tend to stay busy with activities to avoid feeling anything. Brene Brown calls it numbing.
So I stuck with it. For four days. While the Spouse was on vacation and taking the boys to amusement parks and ballgames, bowling and the park.....I hunkered down in my small world of laundry and gardening and doctor's appointments. I couldn't leave the house. Everything suddenly felt too overwhelming. The Perfectionista was flipping page after page on the notepad ---it became like a flip book cartoon of everything and nothing at the same time.
I was envious. Envious my oldest was going back to school. I read somewhere that when you feel a strong reaction to someone else---it usually means you need to take a look at what that says about yourself. I look back on any time I was in school with utter fondness---sometimes when I was a teacher.....always when I was a student. My Perfectionista was nodding. School. I feel passionate about learning and teaching and coaching and mentoring. Important stuff to know about yourself.
How do I bring this into my everyday life?
I was empty. The last 18 years had been filled with a checklist of things (see Perfectionista for copies) that needed to be accomplished before my oldest went off to school. As any sista Perfectionistas will attest to.....your list of "done" is never longer than your list of "Crap! You didn't get to these ones!" So I found myself with huge pockets of time. The Spouse had the kids off busy, no one needed my immediate attention for meals or to find anything.....so a giant GAP occurred in my head that had been reserved for the "list of things to do to get my son ready to deliver to the world before University". But instead of stuffing this GAP full of joy and celebration at my success of producing and thoughtful, smart, beautiful man, I dumped in a pile of "out of proportion worry" (he didn't answer my text--because he is probably doing cocaine.....) and stirred it with fear and guilt. Cold water flowed through my bones, my skin prickly and cold. My pain resurfaced, I couldn't focus. I hugged my youngest close when he came back from adventures.
So what I learned:
I have put a lot of my life into my children. The Spouse constantly reminds me that after the kids are gone--it is just he and I. He is right. That scares the crap out of me. I need to have a life outside my kids. It needs to include hobbies and friends and him. I KNOW this....but have finally FELT it. I feel like I have not moved forward this summer. Steps backward? At best, it is frozen in place. This will be difficult.
School, learning, teaching, mentoring---pay attention.
Work in progress....