Tis the Season of Endings


seasons

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.  —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have begun to refer to this past month or so as the “Season of Endings.” While it feels like this has snuck up on me, I have been staring down the barrel of this gun since last year. As the school year wrapped up in the spring of 2014, I telescoped out to the spring of 2015, imagining what it would be like to see both of my boys moving up and entering new stages of their lives. We’ve been through this before with the older one but it was a subtle ending, a minor shift of the universe as he ended his time in the secure blanket of elementary school and made his way to the middle school, embracing the roller coaster ride of adolescence and hormonal inconsistencies. It seemed like a small moment at the time because the younger one was still, seemingly, our baby and was providing a safeguard that we had a long way to go before our lives as parents would truly shift and our children would begin their not-so-slow ascent towards adulthood.

This year, both our boys will move up. The younger one finally leaving the pediatric nest of grade school and the older one beginning the final stage of his mandated academic career as he prepares to rise up to high school. I’m incredibly proud of both of them, shining stars in their own rights. And, I am surprisingly overwhelmed by how their rapid maturity and readiness to embark on their new journeys stands in stark contrast to my desire to push them back into the womb. They are navigating their journeys with confidence and competence that is equally impressive and humbling. As their mother, I struggle to strike the proper balance of nurturing support and respecting their growing boundaries. It’s an obstacle course that I trip over daily, rewarded with eye rolls, exasperated sighs and complete insolence. My older one has fine tuned his ability to tune me out and disregard my wishes while the younger one is watching carefully as his mentor blazes the trail.

For my older son, this year is transformative. As an athlete, he is moving into a much more serious period of his young athletic career. He has his eyes set on playing in college and is beginning to understand the implications and obligations that come along with that goal. He is constantly weighing his options, looking at potential outcomes and examining consequences. I wonder where he learned this and question if his father and I truly had the capacity to teach this to him when this was never ingrained in us. He is remarkable. He shared with me this week that the girl he had asked to accompany him to the 8th Grade Dinner/Dance was  just a friend because the girl he wanted to ask would be more than a friend and he didn’t want to get involved with someone who was going to be leaving for the entire summer to go to sleepaway camp. It took me a few seconds to process his comment and I had to quickly decide if I was immensely proud of the logical and mature thought process or if I was saddened by his lack of whimsy. Either way, I respect his decision and admire that he made one that he is comfortable with. I sensed no regret or disappointment. He had not settled. He made a choice and was secure in that. Wow. That just happened.

The season of endings is truly bittersweet. And, I have found, it is seeping into other areas of my life as well. As I prepare to celebrate my boys transition to the next stages of their lives, I am carefully trying to not overshadow their moment. However, I know myself well enough to realize that when life is changing beyond what I can control, I will look to control other types of changes in my life. I try to ease my discomfort with everything moving so fast and my inability to keep up with it all by focusing on the areas of my life that I can control and change at my own pace. Our lives – mine in particular – is always in a state of flux and I never sit still for too long. As I have often shared, change is both scary and exciting to me. I crave it and I try to control it. I dread it and I am wildly anticipatory of it. Like my boys, who are ready to move into new schools, make new friends and partake in new experiences, I grow antsy with the familiar, seeking out new experiences and interactions. I love the thrill of the new and the opportunities and adventures that come along with that. I love to reinvent and refresh and am always looking for ways to introduce that into my life. Whether it be a new job, a new friend, a new hairstyle or a new hobby, I am always trying to find ways to create new and interesting experiences for myself. And, like with the Season of Endings, I do this while struggling to let go of the old. I hang on, often far too long, failing to detach from what I have outgrown. My metaphorical closet is stuffed with clothes and shoes that no longer fit or are not in style.

During this Season of Endings, I commiserate with fellow parents who are bracing themselves for all kinds of new adventures as our children embark on the next leg or their journeys. We love them and support them with tears gently spilling from our eyes as the umbilical cord stretches just a little bit further, getting ready to finally split off. We watch our babies grow a little taller, talk a little deeper, walk a little faster as their little hands slip from ours and they assure us that they can cross the street on their own. We hold our breaths as they step out from the curb, trusting that we have reminded them again and again to look both ways and take care of themselves. We beam with pride as they take long strides in the crosswalk, making their way to the other side, waving proudly to reassure us that they did it. They made it all by themselves. And we weep a little more while feeling grateful and proud.

Each day that passes and I endure another element of the Season of Endings, I realize that we are quickly morphing into the Season of Beginnings. It’s a new road and a new chapter for all of us.

People Plan, God Laughs


“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

fishtankOne of the many dichotomies of my life that sometimes leaves even me with whiplash is my ability to embrace the impermanence of my life running up against my need to plan. I am a chronic planner – probably not as extremely far along on the spectrum as some of the more compulsively organized people I know – and this need often collides head-on with the nonstop flow of change. Perhaps, I suppose, there is some deep logic to my planning. I plan for all eventualities, knowing full well that my primary plan is likely to be pummeled by some unexpected occurrence. Ultimately, I am prepared for a variety of outcomes.

I do truly embrace the notion that life changes on a dime. And, in fact, sometimes I introduce the change into my own life in order to challenge the status quo. I am restless, typically bored when things become too familiar or predictable. I like to move things around and mix things up. When I was a teenager, I frequently rearranged the furniture in my room in order to gain new perspectives. I have always liked to have a variety of friends, continually affording myself a new panorama. So, despite my need to have plans in place and create a level of order in my life, I have a high tolerance for the unpredictability that constant change creates. I was raised to expect change as my mother used to often say “People plan and God laughs.” I am acutely aware that God is continually getting side-splitters watching me. I acknowledge his hysteria and continue planning nonetheless.

One of my goals in my life has been to effectively read the cues and prepare myself when change is afoot. I have astutely read the tea leaves time and again, seemingly forecasting outcomes of different experiences. My senses are fine tuned and I am not typically surprised or overwhelmed when changes take place. However, the one area of my life that usually creates the greatest vulnerability and challenges my ability to predict the future is with my relationships. I have been blindsided far too many times, devastatingly hurt by betrayals or misdeeds by people I have cared for. I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to my relationships because I don’t install safe boundaries that protect me from the surprise left turns that are often outside my peripheral vision. Because I invest so much into my relationships, I frequently relinquish the planning and the control and allow them to take on lives of their own. Authentically, I drop my guard and allow myself to get pulled out by the tide, hoping that if the seas become rough, I can swim back to shore safely without too much fatigue. I’m usually successful and, sometimes, not so much.

I was recently sitting and talking to a friend who I had lost touch with for many years. I struggled to remember what precisely had pushed us apart and felt frustrated with myself that I had not been more intentional with this person. I knew there were elements about their personality and behavior that didn’t jive with mine and, yet, here we were sitting and laughing like old friends. We connected and it appeared that we were a good fit. Was it simply that our lives had diverged or had it been a clearer choice on one or both of our parts to move in different directions? I couldn’t help but reflect on the many relationships that had, at one point or another, been so integral and meaningful but suddenly were no longer a part of me. Relationships that seemed non-negotiable. Relationships from which I derived oxygen. Yet I was still breathing while they no longer provided an inflow of air. I have reminisced time and again, marveling at how unbelievably interconnected I have been with one person or another, then impaired by the rupture and finally settling into a new normal. There was no planning for it, there was no alternative strategy. For me, I simply had to move on and move forward and maybe, one day, look back in wonder.

Change is inevitable and, in fact, there are few non-negotiables in my life. My kids being the primary. Beyond that, I know that tomorrow could be a new reality and, regardless of how much I plan or try to prepare myself, disruptions will occur and my landscape can look entirely different. And, admittedly, I don’t entirely hate that concept.

Vive la difference.