Midnight moments off the mapped path

I sat bolt upright in bed, the impact of it hitting me—my youngest son and I have five years together if I’m lucky. Two if Fate is feeling fickle and he goes to a high school that requires boarding. My middle-aged self inhaled deeply, trying to calm the shallow breaths that thought created.

For those new to my blog, I am a divorced mother who just hit a Big Birthday. I have two sons, one of whom spends a lot of time at his dad’s. Something about fewer rules and expectations, which I guess is to be expected from a high schooler’s preferences. My younger son just turned 13. Both of my man-boys will graduate from their respective schools in 2018.

About five years ago, my world was turned upside down. My husband made a series of bad choices that spiraled out of control. And then showed no interest in course correcting. The resulting mess felt like a tsunami—financially, emotionally, even physically. Since then, I’ve worked more hours than I should, sitting at my computer and tired—but thankful for the work that has come my way. Freelancers should be or I think the freelance gods frown upon us and send “our” assignments hither and thither.

I have, if I am completely truthful, thrown myself into said work and the raising of two boys. I have done so with blinders on, knowing that if I look too far ahead, life may disappoint me. I have managed, despite the odds, to keep our house and the boys in their schools. We all needed the basics to remain stable. And, for the most part, they have.

But 2018 will be a year of change. My eldest son will head to college a state or two away. And after that, he swears to me he is going to move to “the middle of nowhere Texas.” The world will take him, as it should. Or rather, I hope he takes the world. Armed with what I taught him and the good seeds planted in him—even those I’ve not yet seen sprout into anything of consequence. Perhaps he will become thoughtful, gentler, kinder. I think the best men do as they move into maturity. Fingers crossed.

My youngest will begin to choose from the many doors open to him. Which high school? The highly competitive one that involves boarding or a long commute? Or the local high school, where he can for the first time experience a bevy of friends within walking distance? Our conversations about the world will shorten or cease for a while, I’m sure. Just another temporary side effect of teenagers.

And at some point, these boys will leave me for good to make their mark and find their way. I have raised them to do so.

Which leaves me. And my “golden years.” Right now, they’re not looking golden. They’re looking slightly more terrifying than that.

Will I move closer to my large family? Sell the house they grew up in? Keep it because it’s cozy?

I feel a restlessness lately when I sit to work. I wish for the financial security to indulge my yearnings—to travel, to experience new places and cultures, to soak in what I cut short when my childbearing years and my career trajectory were at odds. While I send my love and respect to Sheryl Sandberg, “lean in” is bullshit. Or, put more gently, it’s not usually an option for those of us doing a lot of it alone. No divorced mother I know likes that phrase. When you decide to have kids, someone is either there for them or they’re not. I chose to be there. And now, I do my best, despite my schedule.

I see friends who escape my restlessness, holding on to marriages or relationships because being alone is too scary. They’d never admit that, but it’s true. I can at least say I’ve faced the fear and walked through it. For me, that was the right choice.

So what do I want? Not a man. Not unless he is a custom fit, so very wonderful that the corners of my mouth turn up just thinking about him. I’ve waited long enough to hold out for that. Probably easier to have in your golden years, when child-rearing and careers are no longer on the table.

These are my musings at the panicked midnight moments. The moments when blinders are off and no work sits in front of me. No bills to pay. No dinner to prepare. No ferrying of children to do. Just blank space.

But, with that deep inhale, I allow for delight. For the man who is a custom fit, the friends who are wise & good & adventurous & true, for sunsets in distant lands. I allow for me, years from now, coffee cup in hand while watching a sunrise that heralds a day full of adventure. Of new experiences. Of new people and places. I already feel myself in some ancient forest, approaching a waterfall that is older than any of my ancestors. Forest bathing. The older I get, the more I hone my ability to delight in the moment. A new book. A fantastic hike. Coffee that makes my toes curl.

Perhaps my golden years really will be golden.

And, at the very least, I conquered this midnight moment. For those of you having them, don’t let them run fast and fierce into your resting hours. There are plenty of us out here, testing the waters. Unsure. Wondering where the time went and how we got so far off the mapped path.

Perhaps that’s where the delight lies. Off the mapped path.

I’ll let you know when I figure it out.



45 Comments Add yours

  1. Keep it real, girl. I couldn’t imagine doing this alone, trying to keep one boy in the air while I’m tripping every other step, let alone two. Something my favorite poet said haunted me all week: Everything that was done to him, he now will do. Seems I just can’t get it right. Mom’s always in the wrong, always to blame. If we don’t give them enough, we’ve screwed up. We give ’em all we can, we’ve spoiled ’em.

    But back to us. To YOU. I know you’ll be okay. And tomorrow isn’t ours to wring ourselves out over. It is not yet real.


    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, yes. Staying in the present. The hat trick we all try to master:). In this entire universe, the one thing I have faith in is that I am raising a good little person :-). We have to hold tight to that, don’t we?

  2. Cindy Frank says:

    If you want to be there, you’ll get there. And you deserve each and every delight.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you☺️. Just have to trust it all unfolds as it should. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. We are here for the ride. I know you will share more inspiring and enlightening moments with us. I salute you for being an incredible mother.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). I am reminded of the movie with Steve Martin in which he plays a dad who struggles with parenting. His wife fares much better with it. And the video they show is them both on a roller coaster–up or down, she is laughing and rolling with it. While he looks alternately horrified and terrified. “The ride” is right. Perfect metaphor for life.

  4. Beautiful true reflections and fears Kristine, that many can relate too. I use this quote a lot when I’m not sure of the next chapter, “When nothing is certain, anything is possible.” 💚💕

    1. candidkay says:

      And the older I get, the more I realize that nothing is certain:). So this quote will come in handy–thank you!

  5. fritzdenis says:

    My kids went underground during their teen years. They seldom shared information about their lives, and rarely shared their emotions. The engagement returned when they hit their second years of college. They started to see me and my wife as helpful people once again, and at the same time conversations with them took on the characteristics of adult friendship. Kids usually figure out that they had a loving parent once the noise in their heads settles down.

    1. candidkay says:

      That’s good to know :-). The funny thing is-my eldest will talk my ear off about things. He talks to me about all sorts of things he doesn’t talk to his dad about. I just get the sense that my youngest may not. I guess I will have to live on into that answer.

  6. srbottch says:

    Looking forward to your dissertation on what ‘figuring it out’ looks like. 😉 You’re doing great, as seen from western NY, and I bet the boys live you for it. Yes, they do and when the very time comes for them to tell you so, your heart will melt and you’ll say, “wow, it was worth the struggle!” (I can’t believe I said that…)🖖

    1. candidkay says:

      That sounds like a wonderful scenario! Sold:).

  7. Roy McCarthy says:

    Acute observations as ever Kristine. I think ‘blinders’ are good (if they are the same as ‘blinkers 🙂 ) so we don’t glimpse what might be the awful truth. We all wake up each day hoping and imagining that things will be better, or at least no worse. Optimism is good and keeps us plodding along the yellow brick road.

    1. candidkay says:

      I guess that’s a good way to look at it, Roy! Forward motion is a positive thing:).

  8. George says:

    Figuring it out is sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, but the reality you speak of is layered and sometimes very sobering.
    Just know that you’ll figure it out and settle in one day. You’ll smile when you get there. And you’ll remember this post😊

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, George. Now that’s a vision of the future that I can buy into :-).

  9. We all have those midnight moments of one kind or another, but I’m definitely voting for a golden future – look at what you’ve lived through already.

    1. candidkay says:

      You always have the right words, Andrea. You don’t pontificate, offer advice or preach–you just quietly and wisely say your piece. And I so appreciate your “piece”–it always brings me new insight. Thank you:).

  10. God I hate those midnight moments. Been having too many of them recently. Wish I could shut off my brain. You’re doing so well, mama. Savor every moment you can and let the rest go.

    1. candidkay says:

      Too bad we can’t just call each other! I know many women especially who are having these moments. Thanks for the kind words.

  11. Thanks for putting some gold in towards the end of the post as I’m not seeing much here lately and was so right there in your future ha ha! I have to hope and work towards some gold in mine too…

    1. candidkay says:

      Meet you in the sacred forest!😉

  12. Bernadette says:

    K, two thoughts for you. 1. – most of the things we worry about never happen (expect the unexpected) 2. – everything is dreadful at night (all the creepy things go bump after dark).
    You are a smart, loving, capable woman who will not just survive but thrive.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! And you’re right-the creepy Crawley’s come out at night :-). I need to have these midnight moments at, say, sunrise :-).

  13. Another very insightful post, K. Well done. I love that spirit of hope that you always come back to, no matter what panics you at midnight. You are a wonderful mother for several reasons that I know through your writing. That vein of hope is one of them.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Cynthia! I really do believe it’s a sacred job and privilege :-).

  14. We always ‘project’ what we think it will be like in those ‘Golden Years’ Kay, but we always seem to put it off.
    And nowhere is it more exciting than the discovery of self Kay. Now step off the path! Do the unthinkable and catch a plane or a train or a bus and just go do something you’ve always wanted to do. See the world or just go sit under a tree with a view to die for 😀
    Or…do I dare say it…ask yourself why you aren’t now doing it. Yes, there is the child thing, but your ex can handle an extra for a week. Our expectations can halt us in our journey, and quite strongly 😀
    Let’s go then, start the planning, and even take your laptop with you so you can ‘keep up’ with work. Whether your using it buried in the comfort of your lounge or in a hammock in the Maldives will not change the work…mind you, I think your writing mind would always benefit from a nice dose of Sunshine and a pina colada at hand 😀
    You never know…that may be where ‘he’ is waiting…and the laptop can go to sleep forever. But whichever it is, it won’t have the smile that your sleep will now have 😀 ❤
    Another great post my friend, a place we will all reach as time goes by…and (sshhh), a little secret…I too felt that loss as the last one went out the door. Oh, they came back a couple of times over the next couple of years as relationships took a dive or living arrangements outside changed…but you know what? After a while I was getting quite used to the silence, the 'my bits' that I had now discovered…and the steps I had begun to take off my so called path…onto mine 😀 ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Mark. There is no taking off for a week unless it’s his scheduled week for vacation :-). Enough said. But, I get the spirit of your comments.

      1. I can most certainly ‘hear’ the frustration in your reply Kay. And it will be an interesting junction when the young one’s fly the coop and your life takes on a whole new way of being. But the ‘Golden Years’ are a long way off yet young lady 😀

      2. Cindy Dadik says:

        I’m with Mark!! Come to LA – we’ll go wine tasting in Napa or Santa Barbara. Even just for a long weekend!! We could both use it!!

      3. candidkay says:

        Sounds heavenly!

      4. See…offers everywhere Kay 😀

  15. DeniseBalog says:

    I enjoyed your heart shared midnight post. You write beautifully.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I truly appreciate you reading and commenting. I am not always fond of those midnight moments but I know I am not alone in having them :-).

  16. I think you have mined a lot of gold in your midnight moments. Keep the coffee in hand when it suits. And embrace that entire mix of feelings, longings and aspirations. You may not see it all the time, but there is a light over and around you. Sometimes it warms. Sometimes it exposes. And sometimes it reflects in the most wonderful ways — just like you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, the light. What a generous, wonderful image to give me. I will keep that one close to my heart. And, it’s quite poetic. Gee, are you a writer? 😋

      1. In answer to your question, it depends who you ask. Cheers.

      2. candidkay says:

        Well, if you ask me, answer is yes!

  17. bone&silver says:

    It’s a shame women are so often not encouraged to think of their older years as exciting, adventurous, and deeply satisfying. Imagine having strong bonds with your sons, a smaller home closer to family so that you are freer of financial stress, and plenty of travel both domestic and international. Perhaps you will fall in love- several times- and perhaps one might even be with a similar wise woman. Who knows? We are so socialized to be ‘good girls’; I personally am delighting in exploring being 51, and liberating myself from as many self-imposed social expectations as possible. Good luck! G

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). I’ll buy it all except falling in love with another wise woman. She’ll have to settle for BFF status:). But yes–I do try to focus on the positive. I think contemplating my youngest leaving, though, leaves me a bit verklempt. When you divorce, the bonds with your kids become even stronger.

  18. Elyse says:

    Don’t worry. My only child, my son went to boarding school for high school. He then went to college, and just finished doing the dinner dishes. He’s 26, employed full time, and living here at home.

    1. candidkay says:

      Lol. This is the conundrum I keep reading about –families still living together when kids are in their 20s. I don’t think I’d mind it too much! 🙂 Especially if dishes were being done.

      1. Elyse says:

        I love having him here, although he doesn’t do the dishes as often as he should! He is saving money and he and a friend will be getting a place within a year. Given how tough the teen years are, this seems like a great way to do it!

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