Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Peaceful Feeling of Time



Time for Sunsets
How is it already almost July?  The years really do start to fly by as you get older.  And I should know.  I am, indeed -- getting older.  This week, I'm celebrating my birthday and somehow, even though I'm in my early 50's, time is flying by faster, because I'm actually feeling younger with each passing year.  When I was a young mother, my own mom told me, once the kids were grown, I'd likely get my energy back.   She told me this one day, when I called her in tears  because I was so tired all the time and thought I might have some terrible disease, so I was a little insulted when she told me it was simply because I was raising a family.  Hey, I said...I'm a good parent, I'm not one of those moms who complain about motherhood.  I'm not tired because of my kids, I must have some sleep disorder or low thyroid or something.  I told myself later, my darlings couldn't possibly be causing me exhaustion...they were the lights of my life, I loved everything about being a mom to them and was 'energized' by them...to me, they were the only reason I could stay awake.  No, it wasn't them.  Mom was wrong.  After all, I thought, she was from another time, when they didn't even have microwave ovens, so maybe she was tired as a mom, but that wasn't my problem -- I was a modern mom with all the most helpful tools and technology for raising my kids -- I had a seven passenger van, for crying out loud.  What did she know?  I went, instead, straight to the doctor.  He'd understand that it was surely something medical.  I sat on the end of the white-papered exam table as he took dictation of complaints:  low energy, aches and pains, headaches, waking up every hour all night.  He took it all down, listened with his stethoscope, asked a few questions, and then suggested taking vitamins, eating right, exercising, maybe losing a few pounds (really? like I hadn't considered that before) and one more thing, try to reduce stress.  What?  Wait!  Stress?  "Having children is stressful, believe me, my wife is having the same problems."  No, I said.  Test my thyroid.  It runs in my family (he then reminded me, he'd already run that test the last time I was there).  He wasn't listening to me and all the articles said to make sure your doctor listens to you.  Be clear.  Be persistent.  Be your own advocate.  So I pushed.  I told him, surely being tired for this long means something, maybe before, my thyroid was just on the verge, and now it was in full-blown meltdown.  He gave me his best doctor face, a look I couldn't quite decipher and I thought to myself, there's no way I'm stressed from my lovely, little darlings.  He's wrong.  I'm just sick.  They're great kids.  Really.  And as if he could read my mind, or just wanted to get to his next appointment, Dr. Stress-Theorist smiled and obliged me with a script for a blood panel workup, which of course, all came back normal.  So maybe my mother was right.  Maybe I did have mommy stress.  But, I didn't listen to that voice and continued thinking it must be some hidden illness they'd missed that was making me so tired.  I read everything with headlines like, Lyme Disease -- The Energy Zapper (thinking I was probably bitten by a tick at the little league fields) and was convinced more than once that I either had low Vitamin D (couldn't be low iron since I was already on iron supplements) or worse yet, diabetes or heart disease.  Yes, I talked my doctor into those tests too, because my Mom couldn't be right.  I couldn't be that tired from just raising kids.  Could I?  And then this weird thing happened right around the time I turned 50.  My last kid went off to college and I started sleeping better, sometimes straight through the night.  No more carpools or last minute science projects.  No more groups of teenagers sleeping in the basement.  No more weekends filled with championship games and school events.  No more weekdays filled with PTA meetings and fundraisers.  It was quiet and even kind of boring around our house now.  Mr. Lane was falling asleep in his leather chair after work, instead of tossing the ball or practicing lay-ups out on the driveway.  The kids were gone.  There was so much more time, life felt luxuriously calm.  I didn't have to read books or do my edits on the fly while waiting for kids to finish with practices, orthodontist appointments -- guitar lessons.  I could read on a Saturday afternoon...all afternoon.  I didn't have to stay up late writing, the only time it was quiet...now I could write in the middle of the day.  Before I knew it, my energy started to come back.  Just like my mom said it would.  So much so, that I began adding back in activities I'd forgotten I enjoy -- golf, long walks, a gym membership, museums, the symphony, professional sporting events, book clubs, quilting, writing conferences, weekend getaways, parties, dinner with friends -- we even went to Paris three times in one year.   Time was flying by, and I was busier than ever.  But I was not tired all the time anymore.  In fact, Mr. Lane and I were out walking some trails recently and he told me he was having a hard time keeping up with me...could I please slow down?  What?  Awesome.  Mr. Lane is a strong, athletic man and he was having a hard time keeping up with me.  I was cured.  The stress of raising a family, even though it was the joy of my life to be a mom -- had indeed, been stressful.  I did worry about them all the time back then.  I wanted so badly for them to always be happy, for everything to go their way, even though I knew that wasn't really possible, that's what I strove for day in and day out.  I wanted them to feel safe and loved.  When someone hands you a beautiful, tiny, human being, wrapped up in a receiving blanket, it's hard not to try to take perfect care of that person.  And that can cause Mommy-Stress-Syndrome (MSS -- my own diagnosis -- and also an abbreviation for a finished manuscript, which can also cause stress, but that's another topic entirely).  You don't even know when you have MSS -- you don't have time to know and your ego will deny it anyway.  One thing I do know now, is that you really need to check your ego at the door when entering the parenting realm.  You'll be much better off in the long run.  Raising kids is hard.  It's time consuming.  It's tiring.  It's filled with worry and sometimes even a little despair.  Croup brings on despair.  When they swallow a dime from the collection plate at church, there's sometimes despair.  When they call you to pick them up early from the dance and cry themselves to sleep later because the boy or girl they like was dancing with someone else, there's definitely despair.  And when the principal calls, good news or bad, there is a moment of deep despair.  You take their hard days so hard, it's difficult not to feel the same way along with them.  Motherhood is all-consuming, and you have a constant urge to pull them close, shelter them like they are still in the womb, so they won't get hurt, or sick, or heartbroken.  But, it's that very feeling that causes the stress, of feeling like you should be able to fix everything that goes wrong, to help solve every problem they encounter, to heal every hurt.  But you can't, and you know that, so you comfort them and let them figure it our for themselves, because you have to, so they can grow into autonomous adults.  And that's where the stress comes in...the silent stress that keeps you tossing and turning, pushing you to make sure those uniforms are clean and ready, that every paper is signed, appointments are met, homework is done, vitamins are taken, rubber-bands are hooked to braces, rooms are tidy, the refrigerator is full.  When my kids went off to college, I didn't have to remember so many details, or witness every disappointment.  They were now out of sight and out of mind.  Most of the time, anyway.  I didn't have to fear that if I failed to remember something, their day might be ruined, they might miss the bus, they might get a low grade, they might not make the team.  No, they were on their own now and I knew I'd trained them well.  They could take care of themselves, even if they couldn't seem to do their laundry or keep their dorm room clean.  They were getting it done.  Doing well in classes.  Calling with exciting news.  Yes, after those initial two or three panic-stricken phone calls from college, about a weird roommate or a crazy professor -- they seem to take off, to be autonomous -- after all.  So the stress lifted.  I had done my job.  I could relax.  They were okay.  So now that things are peaceful, the years seem to be flying by even faster than before.  Because even though I'm getting older -- so are they -- my little darlings, and they are doing just fine.   Here's to another year ahead, cheers to getting older, getting wiser, doing even more...and admitting to my mother that she was right -- the kids are all grown, and I've got my energy back.  My Life on the Lane is full of busy days, sleep-filled nights, birthday candles, thousand page reads, writing new novels, classes, workshops, trips, book signings, book clubs, golf, long foresty walks, wine tastings and time, such a precious and perfect birthday gift -- time -- for me.