I’ve been thinking a lot about perspectives lately maybe because my son has just graduated from High School and would soon be leaving home. With this leaving, for the first time in the last twenty years, I would be completely without a dependent child living at home. I would have to wake up, not to tread over to a room to make sure my child get up in time for school, or in the evening, not to holler that dinner is in fact ready but to quietly sit down and eat my own meal.
It used to be that there were two children at home, and then one left, and now the other is about to leave. It used to be that I would either go up the stairs, stand in between two bedrooms and say, “Time to eat” to get my teenagers to leave their rooms. It used to be that I could look up in the rearview mirror and steal glances at two faces I cherish more than anything else in the world. It used to be that my backseat was occupied by two crying toddlers/infants, then noisy singers and hummers, then sullen teenagers or young adults laughing (or staring with annoyance) at their mother’s foolish attempts to engage with them.
There are a lot of “It used to be” in my vocabulary these days. You can’t avoid this sentimentality if you are a parent, no matter how much you force yourself to look forward to the road instead of glancing back. The future is scary. The future is exciting. The future is kind of lonely, and loads of anxiety producing. Of course, the future now also gives room for my own activities such as yoga at 6 pm, or poetry workshop that goes until 9:30 pm without worrying about hurrying home.
The other day I was thinking about how much sitting around I do in the car, having to commute one hour each way to work. Since I’ve been working for 20 plus years, that is a lot of moments lost in the car. Just when I started to feel sorry for myself, I remember the wonderful High School both my son and daughter have gone to, where something like 26% of the graduating class (The Class of 2017) scored higher than 30 in ACT, and 13 Commended Students and 12 Finalists qualified for the National Merit Scholarship Program. My son being one of the finalists. This is the school where teachers care about the students, and an emphasis is placed on academics as well as athletics. Oh yes, the best thing is that this school that has given great educational foundations for both of my kids is a public school. This is the school my kids could go to because we live here in this town.
So, then, my twenty plus years of lost moments in the car with NPR (in my earlier commuting days) and podcasts such as Tim Ferriss Show, The Good Life Project, and Tara Brach these days are not really lost moments, are they? I have raised two great kids who are empathetic, intelligent and open-minded, (who can hum to the tune of “All Things Considered” at the age of four from over exposure to NPR) and who at the moment are pursuing higher education: my daughter is currently finishing up her second year in Stanford University, and my son is heading to The Ohio State University in the fall. Besides, have I not learned so much from listening to the mentioned sources? How else could I have known about morning rituals, meditations, radical acceptance, stoicism, refugee crisis, immigrants striving for survival and what a good life means to me?
Considering all of that, what am I lamenting about? What am I really tensing against? The future is unknown, as it always is. Hindsight is so clear as it always has been. I have always placed an importance on education and character while raising my kids. Now, here I am, about to let both of them go out on their own. Already my daughter has been on her own for two years, making decisions, good or bad; and striving and trying to establish her own identity. I rarely hear from her during the school year, which I used to take personally as if I had failed as a mother to connect to a child. Recently, I have been looking at her independence, and her desire to be fiercely free of intrusion from parents, as proof that she is an adult now. She will be okay without me. Isn’t that what all parents want? That their child could stand on their own to brave the world. Imagine having a kid who constantly texts the parents for validation, assurance and approval. Then, I’ll have something to worry about.
So all of this writing and thinking is the roundabout way to assure myself that everything will be as everything should be. Good, bad, pretty or ugly, that is what present moment brings, and this reality is nothing new. Whatever this brief span of life brings, this is what I live in, like it or not. I don’t need to make it anything else. I don’t need to stand from the outside and look in. I don’t need to be anxious about. I am already in. So be in this wholeheartedly. That’s the new perspective. Here’s what I have found to be working for me these last few weeks: take a walk outside (2-3 miles each day, or aim for over 4 miles on a good day), take in the view of the trees and each blade of grass, each petal of yellow wild flowers, each inhalation of the scent of nature. Look at the green on the side of the road, the turtle crossing the road, the “Share the road” sign which I love because I think about all the things we are sharing on this road: the dogs barking from the windows of the passing cars, the joggers whose sweat pour from their foreheads, the older couples walking hand in hand, the hummingbird fluttering about, the kids on their scooters rolling downhill effortlessly. And after all of that, even if I try not to, I can’t help but feel my mind shift from worries to celebration.