Time To Myself

It’s a rare day that I get a chunk of time to myself without feeling guilty or like I’m hiding from my responsibilities. 

This week the little one has theater camp so I get 3 hours of time to myself. I’ve been looking forward to it, thinking of things I want to do while I have this unadulterated time. I could read, podcast, sew, or even write. 

And yet here I sit in a gorgeous park with some coffee and a book. The shade laps at my skin, brushing lightly as the breeze pushes the leaves above me. Shadows dance around my feet as the delicious feeling of warmth and summer kiss my shoulders. 

And yet, I’m restless. I can’t focus on one thing. I read a bit of my book then flip through my phone to read a message or spy a picture on Instagram. I can’t seem to relish this freedom and instead I’m fighting to keep focused. 

  
I want to relax and find peace in not doing too much. The peace in feeling free to worry about me and only me for a few short hours. 

I feel the need to move. To find another place to rest while I wait for my son to finish class. 

When did my life become nothing but moments I spend waiting for someone or something else? Have I lost myself so completely? Is this the fallout of marriage and parenting, the keep and utter loss of a sense of self?

I’ll continue to contemplate this in my free time. Contemplate who I am and what I stand for while I wait for everyone else. 

Letter To My Son: Our First Summer Together

Jake,

Ten years ago, I was pregnant with you. Barely showing but feeling pretty strange dealing with the early stages of being newly pregnant. That could be counted as our first summer together. The first warm months living with the knowledge of your existence and my new role as a mom.

Then you were born in February, a rainy cold month and for the next few months I would bundle you and cuddle you as much as I could. Soon the rain dried up and the summer humidity hit and we spent your first summer keeping cool as much as possible. You wore very little those days, sometimes simply gurgling and rolling around in just diapers.

This was our first summer but in reality it was not truly spent together. I worked through it, keeping us afloat. We spent some time together when I wasn’t teaching or tutoring but for the most part, you were in the care of your grandmother.

In your 9th summer, my job had changed and I was home with you for the first time. After years of spending summer with your grandmother or in a day care or day camp, I was finally getting to be your stay at home mom.

I saw this as an opportunity to share with you new adventures and for us to bond again.

Little did I know this would be the summer I’d let you go. This would be the first summer I’d get to see you and all your abilities, independence, and confidence. I’d see your strengths and know you wouldn’t need me much longer.

We went to the beach together one day to spend some time with our toes in ocean and building castles in the sand like we had when you were little. I had these big ideas for us, that we’d chat and share and build together, never foreseeing that instead I would watch you walk into the bigger waves and play without fear.

Without needing me.

I’m not sad to say this nor am I sad to have seen it happen. All mothers know they will have to let go and let their little ones fly at some point but knowing when is the big secret. Try as we might to hold on as long as we can, there is no fighting the feeling when the time comes to release you.

When you weren’t battling the onslaught of waves, you played in the sand and chatted with others around you, never once reaching into the bag of beach toys you so lovingly played with as a child. I saw those bright plastic toys and battered miniature trucks sitting forgotten next to me.

Together we watched you blossom in front of our eyes. You no longer need either of us. Your toys were now memories tucked into a bag, covered in dust and sand from trips to beach all the times before.

It was then that I felt a little sadness creep up on me, sitting next to your forgotten toys. I felt my breath catch and my heart stutter a step as you ran headlong into the waves, abandoning the hole you were digging, and smiled back at me with joy. You were free and in charge. You were growing up so fast.

You stood up in the water, jumped through waves and ducked under others. You sensed when a wave was too big and you would judge each appropriately, all the while smiling and laughing.

Like life, the waves came at you from many different angles and at so many different speeds. Some were big, some were small. Yet you faced each wave with determination and confidence. As I watched you jump and play and swim, a part of me wanted to keep you back on the shore, hold you close and keep you safe from the unknown lurking beneath the surface.

And yet, as you turned to wave at me before you ducked beneath another wave, I realized you are doing alright on your own. You knew you could swim back to me if you needed something, your anchor on the shore. For the most part, you just swam and gave in to that joyous feeling of weighing nothing in the big, blue expanse that is the ocean. You went into each wave with confidence.

As the water washed in and erased your digging spot, covering it up with new sand and burying your past works, my sadness washed away with it, replacing it with pride and peace.

You will always be mine. From your smile to your stubbornness and your over active imagination, you will always be my son.

I can only hope from here on out that you’ll continue to want me around. The anchor on your shore. The smile that glances back at you as you take on each wave of life.

Your anchor always,

Mama

Superstitious

I’m a superstitious person. Not always. Only when it counts.

When I was running races each month back in 2012, I had my routine. I wore the same thing. I ate the same dinner the night before. I did the same stretching routine the morning of. My breakfast never varied and my races were always a success. Except for that one time I didn’t do all my little rituals.

That race was a disaster and it was because my good pants weren’t washed and I skipped my pre-race coffee.

I’m not running races any more but I’m seeing my superstitious side rearing its head when it comes to our trying to conceive.

This cycle I’m late. Not super late but later than usual. After so many failed attempts to conceive, just the hope that springs from this delay is making me ill with anxiety and fully superstitious.

I’d usually be chatty about this delayed start of my next cycle but instead have kept mum. Other than my husband (and these readers) I’ve not said anything to anyone. Not even my mom. Normally I share most everything with my mom but my worries that if I speak I will break the streak of missed days is keeping me silent.

By now I would have blown through a few Clear Blue tests to confirm my suspicions but not this time. I happen to have run out and instead of rushing to the store for a new pack, I’ve stayed away and refuse to pee on any pregnancy sticks. It’s almost as if I believe that having them in my house with jinx the way things are going. That just seeing one will instantly make me not pregnant.

So I wait. No tests. No talking. No nothing. We ignore it like its the big pink elephant in the room. I get up in the morning to use the bathroom and I hold my breath. So far, no signs either way. When I return to bed, I feel my husband release a breath he had been holding with me, anxious to hear if my cycle is still late or if it is starting over.

Together, each morning, we hold our breath and wait for a week to pass. Together we anxiously ignore any signs or changes in me and hope beyond all hope that this time we’ll get the news we’ve been waiting breathlessly for.

And alone I’ll continue my little superstitious rituals in hopes that something works.

Little Pebbles

In the last couple of days, I’ve acknowledged that I am feeling down. I can’t put a finger on where it is coming from but it’s there, hovering around me like a soft grey blanket that holds all the warmth in and keeps everything else out.

It’s funny, since putting words to my feelings, I’ve noticed every little negative detail in the past few days. It seems that when you are down and feeling low, you notice every little pebble that normally wouldn’t catch your eye.

Lately (and I know it’s probably more my perception than reality) I’ve been noticing how insignificant I am. How little of an impact I make in the world. It all started when I realized a group of people I saw regularly are acquaintances more than friends. This all rolled together with my hermitude made me feel so isolated and left out. Why wasn’t anyone making the effort to be friends with me?

At first I was very upset and wanted to blame everyone else, that they were blind to the goodness that is my friendship. Then it came to me slowly; I had done this to myself. I make myself untouchable. Why? To keep my heart safe, maybe. I’ve lost a lot over the years, especially in the last 4, that I seem to have built a shell around myself. Also could be that I get so emotionally drained by people and tired in general after social interactions that it’s easier to keep people at arms length than to submit myself to a commitment I don’t think I can keep. And I hate being judged when I don’t want to socialize like others. I like my solitude and my space but I also like to be around people, just on my terms.

Suddenly I could see each and every little pebble of social awkwardness and antisocial behavior and anything NOT the standard I had done in the past and it seemed so overwhelming. All these little pebbles under foot, scratching at the bottom of my toes. And each time I picked up a pebble to toss away, I’d find three more.

So I began to wonder, out of honest curiosity, what it is that makes me a good friend? What draws people in to me? What do I have to offer? Right now, not much. But in the past when I had friends and people in my life that stuck around, what was it that kept them near?

I didn’t think I had changed much over time but I’m starting to see that the common issue with my social life is me so I must be doing something wrong, something different to keep people from wanting to stay in my life.

This all seems so dark and self deprecating but it is what it is.

Now to work on it.

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Reopening the Wound

It’s been ages since I last wrote. There hasn’t been much to share because life has been just that. Life. It’s busy, chaotic, hectic, and beautiful. All these things rolled into one fast 24 hour span, seven days a week.

We’ve celebrated a first anniversary and a signing of a second lease. We’ve survived a new sport and second grade. We’ve lived through a tough year of trying to conceive without any success. Together, we’ve survived.

I come back to writing when I feel like my soul needs to get something free. To loosen the words floating about my mind and to clear my thoughts.

Today, I renewed my credential. Renewing this document has caused a rise sadness and anger of the likes I’ve never known. The resentment, the rage, and frustration all swirling together, making it hard to think or talk without stumbling on all those words tangling together. So tangled I felt the need to write about it. To work out the knots that have formed in between my synapses.

In 2005 I got my credential and taught for about 4-5 months. Then I discovered I was pregnant. In light of this discovery I turned down a job opportunity, packed up, and moved home. There I got back into teaching by way of subbing in my hometown. Little could I have known, or anyone else for that matter, that the job I turned down to raise my son would be the last job opportunity I would be offered. Each year I would apply to teach full time and each year I would sign back up as a substitute when no interviews or opportunities opened for me.

After so long I knew I needed more. I needed insurance for my son and consistency for both of us. I needed an income that was steady and a work schedule that never deviated. So I left. I turned my back on teaching and did what any parent needing to care for a child would do: I sacrificed.

It’s been seven years and much has changed in the classroom. New policies and laws have made their way into the schools. Now that my child is in school, I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground and watching with a keen eye on the changing face of education. Larger class sizes and a new curriculum. And most recently, talk of ridding the state of teachers’ tenure, a ruling I’d happily stand up and clap for. No teacher has earned a lifetime job after only 2 years in a classroom and it makes it difficult to file against a teacher that isn’t pulling their weight and relying on their tenure to secure them a job each year.

With this news, it was suggested that I update my resume and make sure my credential was in order. And I balked.

“What resume?” I said. I hadn’t stepped foot in a class as a teacher in seven years! All of my references would be no good and I would have no letters to show off all my glowing achievements. Instead I would have empty hands but many years of loving my child. I don’t regret becoming his mother and I can’t regret stepping away from teaching. It was a decision that had to be made. But now, I’m nothing in the realm of education. I’m practically the same level as a student still finishing their student teaching semester.

Even so, I went along and updated my credential. My name has changed since and it was coming up for renewal anyway. I so did just that. I removed my maiden name and filed for renewal.

When I was done, I felt a warmth rising up my face and over my whole body. I wanted to cry. The dream of being a teacher, something I’d wanted since I was a little girl, had been shattered long ago. But renewing my credential almost feels like picking at a scab that had long since healed over only to discovered a festering wound still open beneath.

I’m still angry and frustrated at the hand that I was dealt. The bad luck that followed me down my path. As I waded through these hot angry tears surfacing through all my rage and angsts, I started to realize something else was bubbling to the surface. I am scared. I’m scared to leave my nest. I may be miserable here at times but I’m comfortable. I also carry the family on my insurance plan. I can’t just leave. I’m also afraid that I no longer will want to teach. It was easy to flow from school to the classroom. I had been teaching for years. But being away for so long has made me reconsider whether teaching is even a vocation I want to pursue.

This last thought, this realization that maybe teaching isn’t what I want to do anymore is devastating. Like a big eraser, this thought wipes away all the years of wanting to be a teacher. All the years of working for it and wanting it with every fiber of my body. The sudden idea that maybe this isn’t the dream I thought it would be breaks my heart.

Under the surface of all these warring feelings and thoughts, another realization is slowing rising like a patient balloon reaching for the sky. While I renewed my credential I also changed my name. I’m the same person but with a new name. Maybe this could be my fresh start?

For now, I wait for the notification that my renewal has been approved and that my credential is now legal for another 10 years. While I wait for this response, I will spend my time reflecting on the changing surface of my feelings. The anger and fear and hope and sadness. They swirl and swish together like an oil slick riding the sloppy waves along the coast. I’ll ride them out, address each one and allow them to each sink below until my mind and heart are clear.

 

The Permanent Roommate

Lucy knew what she wanted. She wanted the laundry to fold itself. She wanted a house with a yard and a small space for a tiny garden of herbs and vegetables that she used all the time so that she could have them fresh and waiting for her to cook with. Lucy wanted a dog, nothing too big or too small or fancy. Nothing with a long name that sounded more like a gourmet entrée in a French café than a dog breed. She wanted hardwood floors and long drapes to frame some windows that looked out onto that large yard in back. A home she could call hers.

Lucy also wanted to have another child. Her first two were growing fast, faster than she could have ever imagined. They were growing out of their shoes and pants quicker than she could keep them fed. She was proud of her children, of all their little accomplishments. But she yearned for another go at pregnancy and the infancy of new life. She ached to be needed by a small baby with pudgy hands and rolls of chub along their legs.

As Lucy put away the freshly folded laundry, still warm from the drier and smelling of cotton and sweet flowers, she reflected on all the things she wished for and sighed. All these things, these dreams and wishes, were once not only hers, but they were also Ray’s dreams, too. Dreams they shared oh those many years ago before marriage and children. The days long ago when they were more than friends. When they were lovers.

But life had changed in the last couple of months. Ray’s job offered him a new position, one that was more demanding of his time and efforts but afforded them more luxuries like a healthier savings account and for Lucy to be able to quit her job and stay home. While life was easing into this new phase, their romantic inclinations were slowly fading away. Lucy couldn’t tell if it was the stress of the job or just the waning interest in a long term partner that had struck their intimate life down, but, either way, Lucy felt the pangs of desire but didn’t know how to approach her husband.

Bending to pick up a pile of books left in the hallway by the kids, Lucy thought back, trying to remember when it all started. As she racked her mind to pinpoint the moment their relationship shifted into this complacent, friendly area, she spotted a corner where a cobweb had been missed. Tsking her own work, Lucy put down the woven laundry basket resting on her hip with the pile of children’s books placed on top of the dirty clothes inside and reached into her back pocket for the dusting rag she had tucked away. Waving the rag around in a half-heart manner, she swiped at the accumulating webs and scattered dust from the corner. Stepping back, she felt pleased and considered that area now done when her eyes glanced at a framed picture of the two of them, laughing in a swinging hammock together. Her heart sank as she saw the glimmer of adoration in his eyes that she longed to see again.

She married Ray for his laugh and the way he could turn a simple meal into a two hour conversation about anything and everything. He always spoke with passion and interest. And it wasn’t very long ago that she was the subject of that passion. He always took the time to tell her how he felt about her, to hold her hand even when simply grocery shopping, and he made sure they had a date every so often to spend time just being together, alone. Those days were gone. Her role as wife was now more of a glorified best friend. As a permanent roommate.

Lifting the basket and slowly placing it against her hip, Lucy realized she had unwillingly slipped into this role as she supported Ray in his new job by being there and not asking too much. In doing so, she had become no more than a housemate; always there, always pitching in and sharing the space around them but nothing more. They talked and laughed occasionally over a dinner of macaroni and cheese. He’d hug her after a long day and she’d scratch his shoulders if he asked while they caught up on the news after the kids were asleep. There was always love and devotion, an unwavering vow of fidelity tacked on the walls between baby pictures of the kids and their honeymoon in Tahiti. But that was it.

Lugging the heavy basket into the kids’ room and depositing the missing books into their book-bin, Lucy stifled a sob. They didn’t fight or argue. They still got along wonderfully. Nothing was out of place and she was even granted the gift of staying home to tend the house and the kids when needed. But that was the growing problem, no one needed her. Not really. Ray could take care of himself as he always had been able to and the kids were growing more independent with every blink of an eye. And while Lucy would take being needed by either her husband or her children, just being wanted would have been enough. It would have filled the hole that had been growing steadily. The feeling of being wanted by those she loved would have mended the tear across her heart.

She no longer cared to be a wife or a mother. Or a roommate or a best friend. As she cried tears of grief and loneliness on her way down to the garage where the bulking silver washing machine awaited her with freshly washed clothing, Lucy realized she would like nothing more than just to be wanted.

Picking Up Where I Left Off

Along time ago, I was a teacher. I wore my keys around my neck, had pencils in my hair, and I spent my lunch break planning lessons and creating new ways to get my students to understand fractions and proper grammar.

Teaching is my passion. A career that’s both amazing and frustrating at the same time. And when I saw the door shutting on my dreams to have my own classroom and my own students, my heart broke. The lights dimmed and I considered my teaching future ended.

I’m still in that frame of mind. While I’ve kept up my credential and I’m still fully compliant, I haven’t stepped into a classroom as an educator in over 5 years. For the past 5 years I’ve been sitting behind a desk toiling away so that my son could go to school and play soccer and have health insurance and a secured future. A sacrifice that was necessary.

While my job is still secure and going nowhere, lately I’ve been feeling the itch to start over. To refresh my life. And I’ve slowly started to open up the files and folders that held the contents of my teaching career. It’s like removing the bandaid over a wound that took a long time to heal to see the shiny scar staring back at you. It’s all in the past, the rejection and the pain. What’s left is a tiny reminder of where you’ve been and what happened to your dreams. It no longer hurts, the wound has ceased to hurt. But when touched, it feels tender.

I’m not completely ready to jump into teaching full time again and thanks to my many years off and my lack of letters recommendations that are current, I wouldn’t be able to even if I tried. If I decide to wander back into teaching I’d have to start from the bottom as a substitute and take day to day jobs to build up my experience. The classroom has changed a lot since I was in one.

But now that I’m married and our income is secured by a second person under our roof, this is now more of a possibility than just a passing whimsy. I could teach again. Maybe…

Now to work past the fears of letting go of what I’ve known for almost 6 years so that I can reach out across the great unknown and grasp at any opportunity to fulfill my wish to teach. There are many more steps to take and I have months until I’m able to even apply.

But removing the bandaid is a start.