I’ve had a rough time lately – say, ever since I finished my graduate program, actually. Which I have not wanted to talk about because, hey! I should be on top of the world, right? Finally finished with school, with the job of my dreams, a husband who adores me and time to finally see my kids and grandkids and friends. Right? Right?!?!?
The truth is that I have been overwhelmed and feeling stupid, which is something they touch on in school but no one can really make you understand until you live through it. Being the guy where “the buck stops here” is not a comfortable ensemble to don – it takes some time. I am lucky to have some wonderful, generous and understanding friends who are physicians and other nurse practitioners who have assured me that yes, they all went through it too, and yes, it does indeed settle more comfortably on one’s shoulders.
Also, for the first time since I was 19 years old, I live in a home with just my husband (and our now three dogs). No kids. And let me give a word of wisdom to you young mommies and daddies who are longing for some alone time when the little rugrats are grown up. You’ll get it. And it takes a while to get used to.
Kids who used to think you were the smartest, most wonderful, and most important Supreme Being in their lives grow up and get their own lives, and are as harried and tired and running around in forty different directions at once as we were at their age. And mommies aren’t quite as high on the priority list. In fact, sometimes we become a downright nuisance, an item on a to-do list to dutifully check off (“call Mom”).
I’ve been wandering aimlessly in this fog of uncertainty, unsure of where to place my next step, and paralyzed to the point of just standing still. I have probably actually “grocery shopped” once in the last six months. My homemaking skills that were once so honed I could perform them in my sleep are lost, like a stroke patient knows how to walk, but their legs don’t have the same memories.
And then last night I was wandering around Menards with my husband. Menards is a place I avoid like the plague since we did our kitchen remodel six years ago, because it makes me seasick to go there. It is wall-to-wall and floor-to-super-high-ceilings with stuff that I don’t recognize, in great part. But this time I started noticing things with visual interest – stacks of 2×4’s all in a row, their edges exposed like bricks; cast iron burners on stoves; paint chips arranged in waves of gradient color.
Inspired by an amazing and talented man, I have been taking photos with my smart phone, so I took out my phone and started shooting random photos of random things, like piles of carpet samples, and shag carpet close up.
And on the way home, I found myself smiling. I realized that slowly, my navel-gazing is starting to turn outward. I am noticing things. My self-absorption with everything that has changed in my life is waning. There’s an amazing world all around us, hidden from our view by our busy-ness, and our focus on our own little dramas.
The hours I spend at work are not the sum total of my life. The children I launched into this world are not my last achievement. There is beauty to be savored, and with which to surround myself. There is joy in the everyday. There is pain, yes, but there is solace readily available.
I realized that I am not the only one that longs to be heard and seen, and that billions of lives are playing out parallel to mine. That doesn’t diminish the problems I encounter, but it puts them in their proper place as temporary, and manageable.
The fog is starting to lift. Months ahead of schedule, springtime is returning in this little part of Iowa.