Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Being Okay with Being Alone is Okay...

The girls and I just returned from a few days visiting my mom at her new home after her very recent relocation.

While I know the process of moving physically, and moving forward with life, has been emotionally challenging for her after Rod's passing almost 2 years ago now, I'm confident this move was a good decision for her. I'm so proud of her for being brave to explore life and all the joy and living it has left to offer her. We enjoyed getting acquainted with her new, very cute, home and love that our drive to and from her house has been cut down considerably! We made our return trip to Iowa in just under 7 hours yesterday, which offers the possibility of more frequent visits in the future. Plus now when we visit Grandma, an aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins are just across town. For the first time I feel like my girls will get a chance to do some valuable family bonding with some of my family. It's a good feeling.

My mom has made comment about how this is the first move into a new home that she has done on her own. She didn't mean it in the sense that she physically moved on her own, but more in the sense that it's the first time she's been settling down in a new home without some combination of husband and/or kids at her side. It will truly be HER house, and after 40 years of sharing a home with others, I'm sure it's a bit of a adjustment that will take some time before it feels comfortable. My mom does not hesitate to admit she is happiest when her house is full. During our visit it was definitely full of activity, people, conversation, good food smells, and smiles. I hope it helped her feel a little more settled emotionally this morning as she woke to a quiet house amongst the boxes sitting around reminding her of all the physical settling that needs to be done.

Driving back to Iowa yesterday, sitting with my thoughts as we rolled through Nebraska on the straight, flat ribbon of road that is I-80, I found myself a bit emotional. While I know she will be okay, I worry about my mom and that she will be okay. And I miss her when we are apart. I mean, she's my mom. I'm still a bit emotional to today as I spend the day catching up from being gone, and preparing for the tasks needing to be accomplished this week in preparation for my return to work next week, followed by the start of school and fall activities. I've found myself quietly emotional quite often over the past few months. Well, more than a few if I'm completely honest. Life always has its ups and downs, and I seem to be in a bit of a long, low valley. As I tend to do, I'm probably over analyzing that fact, making it out to be more than what it really is, but at the same time I know how easy it is to unintentionally slip into a deeper, darker place after telling yourself for too long it's just the weather/situation/hormones, things will take for the better soon. For some of use a healthy mental state seems to be a constant walking of a fine line. I suppose especially for those of us to who spend a lot of time sitting with our own thoughts.

Any who, as I was driving I was thinking about what it will be like for my Mom to begin to carve out her new life alone. Not alone as in "lonely", but alone as in "I don't have to check with anyone else before I decide what to cook/when to go to bed/what to watch on TV/when to go for a walk/etc." It got me to thinking about how I've been feeling as of late, the bit of alone I've been feeling even though I am far from being alone. I remember feeling that way for the first time right after we moved to KC after finishing college. I was finishing my internship to make my degree official, working a part time job, living with my in-laws, all while living for the first time in a big city. Scott's new job required him to travel a bit during the week and besides my in-laws and my co-workers, I knew nobody in KC. After a bit I realized it was the first time in life I was living in a place where I wasn't constantly surrounded by similar aged people, living lives with similar schedules and recreational interests, which made it naturally easy to find someone with which to so stuff. Living in KC, for the first time, I had to learn to be comfortable with doing things like eating out in a restaurant or going shopping alone. I'd rarely, if ever, had to do that in high school and college. It was a strange feeling at first, but after a while it was just the normal and my activities of choice were less and less affected by whether or not someone was available to go with me.

Eventually, after living and working in KC for a few months, we did have involvements and activities that involved other people. Friends with whom we regularly shared dinner. Co-workers turned friends who had similar out of work activity interests. When we moved to Iowa to get back to our small town roots so that we felt more comfortable starting our family, I again went through a bit of a period of feeling alone. But as before, we slowly got involved, met people, and found our niche. Then we had a kid.

People say the easiest way to get involved in your community is to have kids. Having had 2 school aged kids during our most recent relocation, I would totally agree. Helping your kids be involved in activities is probably the next best thing to being a college student for surrounding you with similarly aged people with similar interests. We feel as involved, maybe even more so, in the Carlisle community after 4 years of living here as we did after 9+ of living/working/playing in Grinnell. But for me having kids offered something more, something I hadn't really thought about until this summer when I've noticed a shift in a different direction. With 2 small kids in the family I always have had someone at my side to do things with regardless of local social aquaintences.
  •  Have a little time to hang out at the coffee shop? We'd pack up a couple activities and off we would head for beverages, sweet treats, and conversation. 
  • Have the need to hit the store for groceries? Off we would go, finding some little way to make it a fun adventure along the way. 
Having small kids in the family for the past 10+ years has meant I've always had a shadow, or two, along side of me with which to do things. I was good with that.  It was just a given. The normal. Rarely did I ever find myself alone, and when I did it was kind of a treat.

This summer though, this summer things have started to change. This summer I have an almost teenager who we trust to stay at home, even with her sister, for short periods of time if she chooses not to accompany us to different activities. She's of that age when choosing to not accompany us seems to be more and more the option of choice. Her younger sister, while still often willing to be my side kick for many things, is choosing more and more to keep her sister company while I run out to do things like pick up groceries or run basic errands. I'm finding myself walking around Menard's alone more and more these days as I pick up supplies for summer projects. At first, it was kinda nice. Moms of small children will generally all agree, sometimes the best gift they can be given is the option for a solo grocery store run. Sad, but true. But at some point in the summer I realized my new solo runs are not just an occasional treat, they are a sign of what will become the norm in the coming years as the girls grow from little girls, to young ladies. I'm gonna have to figure out, once again, how to be comfortable doing more things alone. I subconsciously knew it would happen, I just wasn't prepared for that time to come so quickly. I guess I never really thought about there being a period of transition because once a mom, always a mom. Yes, even momhood has its transitions and at times I forget that fact. Though having a emerging teenager in the house is quick to point out, with a bright red flashing neon sign time of transition ahead!

I think partially spending more time alone is easier to do when you are happy with yourself. Right now, for a variety of reasons, I'm having a really hard time being happy with myself. Having once found a good, friendly place with myself after many years of struggle, I didn't expect some of my old insecurities to come rearing their ugly heads again so forcefully. It seems they have, and I once again need to do some work to find a more confident, more self accepting, happy place. I'm working on it.

It seems I'll always be working on it.

Isn't it nice of life to give us that constant opportunity?


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