I think I am surprised to find myself writing again. I really thought I would stop- I could not fathom sitting down to try. I thought over the last few months that- well it began before that really but came to a head over the winter – I had lost my way. I felt I was lost and was not sure of my purpose. I just felt stagnant and blocked. What little creative blood that was a trickle much of the time this last a couple years had become a drip drip drip. I know it is there as I feel it light up sometimes. Today I felt it when I received a notice of a local photo contest. And yesterday when some uncanny thing happened involving the IRS – maybe uncanny is the wrong word when using it with IRS – I heard the thought in my head- “you should write about this”. But as with so many of those same thoughts, with that spark that comes with those thoughts the light quickly flickers out.
This past couple years has been hard for me and my family. I guess I would venture to say since my cancer in 2013 things have been tough. There is nothing like a serious illness to change the dynamic of the family. I think I have been harboring a lot of guilt over my getting ill. I had no idea that my cancer treatments would lead to years of chronic pain and my just being unable to be the mom my teen kids probably needed. Sometimes I was someone I did not recognize. And this all during their neediest years. Forget toddlerhood – teens need us more than they ever let on.
I became an official empty nester in March 2020. Just as Covid began my youngest child went off to the Navy. That left me unmoored. I never thought I would be effected by my empty nest. I have my mother living with us, and we have lots to do around the farm. I have my job- even though it pays little. I have various hobbies (of course on hold in early covid). Anyway I was effected by his leaving. I know it was that he was going to the military and to bootcamp that made it worse. In bootcamp they can’t talk with you much if at all. You feel very disconnected and that is hard in a time when we can text our kids at any moment and hopefully hear back from them. As sure as I was that I would not have a life crisis I found myself crying – missing him, my two other kids, and something else… Could it be my identity?
I was shocked about this. And what followed has been months of my getting used to my kids being gone, the military owning one, the other two in various stages of finding themselves, and me doing some deep personal looking at myself. And up came so much guilt of every failing I had as a parent. And they keep stacking up! My daughter got pissed at me last winter. So pissed she didn’t want to talk to me. For like a couple months. This hurt. And also during that time a long friendship ended. That hurt too. There is nothing like the sting of rejection – especially by your kids-to get you to look into the mirror and try and see how things happened and if you can do better.
Learning how to parent young adults is an art. I will think that I am helping my kid- no I am overstepping. I think I say something constructive – no I hurt their feelings. And since they too are learning how to adult they themselves lack the expertise on how to communicate constructively. It is easier to just not answer the texts. Or to curtly say they need space. SPACE? If anyone should need space it should be ME – the mom! I get to say I need space before you do!
I went from anger to sheer sadness to anger and back during the time my daughter didn’t want to talk with me. I sent emails apologizing. And then I realized at some point this issue of my feeling so awful about her need for space was not about her need for space. It was somewhere inside me. The lost me. The me that feared rejection – this fear goes back to my childhood- dysfunctional family -blah blah- we all have some baggage! Just when you think you have dealt with your issues…and believe me I had spent years trying to deal with issues in many a therapists office- on a soft couch or chair -only to have these feelings of rejection pop-up when my young adult daughter got mad at me. Son of a gun.
Once I got down to the issue(s) I knew I needed to jump back into therapy. First working on how to be the parent an adult kid needs and also to look at these rejection feelings…this lost feeling…finding my purpose…maybe even what color my next vehicle should be…ok thats a joke. But here I am trying to figure out what this next chapter of my life will look at. Deal with the sadness over losing some years to illness and pain and to try to not live in fear… but most of all self loathing over the many many mistakes I have made in my life. For not being the “greatest mom ever”.
My therapist told me she has had no mother come in touting how great a mom they were. Most moms beat themselves up over their parenting at some point. And when your kids are young adults and out making their own choices and trying to become independent persons and inevitably making mistakes- (inhale Anne)-you want to help them to not fall down! And when they do it is so easy to blame ourselves for the fall. And when they tell you they want to figure it out on their own it hurts bc we know so much more than they do, right? So much more that we want to instill all our wisdom on them – and yet they would rather hear from an earthworm than from us…it hurts. Then you ask yourself what did I do wrong that they would rather take the advice from the earthworm over me?
And if you keep hanging on to all that stuff it will just drown you. Well it was drowning me anyway. I needed to get off the drama triangle- its a thing -I can come back to this in another post. I needed to step away. Let them live their lives. Let them fall and not feel blame.
I had a kid who two years ago had to go to a rehab for severe drinking issues. He went to Florida to a rehab and a half way house, then another rehab out-patient, and another half way, and during covid another rehab out-patient for depression. I felt terrible for him and for months I didn’t know how to navigate this world of addiction. I still don’t really. As we went along I did realize that I was enabling my son. Not to drink–no no. The drinking was a shock to me (I always thought I would know if my kids were drinking too much being a child of an alcoholic – turns out that is false). Turns out I was helping him too much in rehab and in his making his way in his half way. So I backed way off. We had to. He needed to figure out things for himself. But crap that was so hard for me. But it was a good thing we did it. I am happy to say he found an apartment this winter with a sober friend. Got it on their own. He is working in a steady job – and prayer after prayer -hopefully staying sober.
Just as these accomplishments are not my accomplishments neither was his drinking my fault. Why would I take credit for either?….but I would easily blame myself for my fails as a mom for his drinking. Logically I know it isn’t my fault but I beat myself up when I found out he had a problem.
The things I accomplish in therapy this time may be better for my kids as I learn to parent adult kids. But for me it will be granting myself forgiveness for real and perceived failures. I hope this will help me open up again creatively. But most importantly – maybe I won’t feel so lost and I can begin to navigate where I fit in. What I want for the next chapter. Anne 3.0 haha!