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.