Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Again and Again

Over and over in my life, I find those moments when unconscious expectations rise up to taunt me as especially painful.

Those moments when I am confronted with a new circumstance that rouses unspoken expectations. That moment of hitting a wall within that leaves me sprawled out on the floor - metaphorically speaking - trying to figure out where the pain is coming from. 

Oh, is that you, Change? Is that you, Unknown future? I thought we'd had a little chat about jumping out from behind the bushes along this path that I was simply walking down and enjoying. I mean, you did just pull off quite the show with the whole pandemic thing - talk about changing things up fast and furious. 

What am I talking about this time, you ask?

One of my children has flown the coop - and landed in South Asia for the long haul. Love, engagement, happy new life far, far away from our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. And me, being the tangible, kinesthetic learner that I am - needed to be there with her for a month to grok the fact that she isn't coming back. I understood all of this intellectually, but being there, spending time with her and her partner in their world, brought this home to me in a way I hadn't expected.  She's going to live in a part of the world that is a day ahead of me. She plans to have children whom will obviously grow up very far from me. And that's right where the unexpected, implicit expectation rose up - the image I've had in my head about who I will be as a mother and (if we are all so blessed) grandmother - my role in my daughter's life let alone grandchildren's lives. 

Look, I get it - its silly to think we ever really know how we will show up in any future reality; and yet, I think people do this all the time. We plot and plan, daydream, envision future selves as ways to often sleep at night. 

And here's the thing that is most important - just because this expectation rose up for me to grapple with didn't mean that I couldn't embrace that picture/that desire and also gently lay it to rest. Change HAS to be grieved. In order to let go, we need to shed whatever energy has built up that vision in the first place. For me, tears were part of that - but I shared those tears with my husband, not my daughter. My daughter and I cry over other things but not my sadness over her choices to follow her heart and build a life with this amazing man I will soon call son.  

It doesn't feel that long ago when I was making choices as I built my life as an adult. There were a lot of decisions made where I didn't take my parents wants and desires into account. Theirs was an often vague discontent in my mind. Even when we moved up north and took their precious grandbabies with us, I was sad and got an earful - but I was also looking forward into the excitement of a new job, a salary that we could buy a house with and a new place that wasn't the strip malls of southern California.

And that comes full circle. Now, I am the 50+ year old whose children are all grown and out of the house. They are all looking forward into their own lives, building new relationships, planning new adventures. I want them to be happy in their lives, actively pursuing their dreams - and I feel more of a spectator now rather than an active participant. As it probably should be. 

Musing on this grief and sense of change, I also hold my father as an example of how supportive a parent can be as an elder - the main cheerleader, the helper, the listener, the guide when needed. He prioritized building relationships with his grandchildren often by simply being present. He prioritized our ability to help each other with all the mundane things in life that often need a helping hand. He was approachable, available, and collaborative. And he seemed to enjoy creating his own adventures, continually crafting how he wanted to interact with the world - painting, camping, building furniture and volunteering almost everyday at the local elementary school. 

Its not that I need to let go of my children - I need to let go of those pesky expectation and outcomes that somehow cling to my brain. Adaptation takes time, reflection and sometimes, yes, grief.

Balance. Letting go, loving always, building new paths with others and for oneself.

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