Monterey, California, November 14
One of the joys of living alone is surely that now I can be naked when I make my morning coffee. No longer do I have to fear my daughter, somehow, being awake at 5:35 to see too much of me. I also don’t have to deal with her picky vegan diet. Oh, and since there is no significant other, I don’t have to make breakfast for anyone, so I can be selfish selfish selfish on weekend mornings and get right to the business of preparing eggs just the way I like them or a blueberry pancake and pot of coffee all for me without needing to consider anyone else’s desires or reflections on the day to come, the night that was—or wasn’t. I know, those are significant things, worthy things to find solace in, but in the grand scheme of things (the big picture) I do realize that I am missing out on the beauty of the humdrumness of daily interactions. Now, a conversation on the weekend takes on epic proportions, rather than life as people live it.
I have been told that it takes time to get used to being a single-mother empty-nester, and it has only been three months since my younger daughter went off to college. I guess this is the mother’s version of homesickness, call it childsickness. Never did I think that I would prefer her pervasive negative presence over my ability to put my laundry on her bed. Live and learn.
It is still hard, eight years after the disintegration of my marriage, to come to terms with the terms of my life: the borders that have come to define me are still not me. It is not that I always pictured myself a wife and mother, the matriarch of my clan, but neither did I imagine that the contours of my life would only depend on me. It is an awesome thing, in both senses of the word, positive and negative.
But that’s not true, is it? My daughters still seek me out and I seek them out. My mother calls, and I listen (or I try to in a distracted way) to the minutiae of her life. There is a pattern of interweaving of lives that never seems to cease once there is dependency, for it becomes, inevitably, interdependency. But still, we each have a core that has space for different kinds of love and relationships which give our lives an amorphous dimension that adds depth and perspective. As the physical heart has its various parts, so does the emotional heart need to beat to different tunes.
I wonder if this time of non-significant attachment is easing me into discovering that a fragmented heart burgeons more than does a whole, directed heart.
On Friday, after I finished reading essays that were submitted by students applying for a prestigious award, a colleague noted that I do so much. I looked at him with a quizzical expression. “This and the elections. Is there anything that you don’t do?” he asked.
At first I downplayed what I do by saying that I am not responsible for this project and I was only an elections officer, it’s not that I ran for office. Then I just said, “I try to do what I can.” And it’s true. Now that no one needs me in the way a young child needs a mother’s physical presence more than her advice, or the way a husband needs to see his wife at the end of the day, I can take on myself and other things that I care about.
As the eternal optimist that I am, I wonder if this reshaping of my heart is more prep work than simply constricting to conform with current reality. Is this a time of internal molting? A woman’s autumn that will bring her back to spring?
Garden in Monterey