Last week was one of the most difficult weeks I've experienced since Katie's passing. There are many factors involved. The first and most important thing is that David is a senior, with senioritis, who is just over one month away from high school graduation. (When I use the term senioritis, I am referring to a whole host of behaviors which I will not detail here. Those of you who have been through this will know what I mean, and for those of you who haven't been through it: just trust me.) David is going to leave public school for good, and go away to live at college in the fall. He is pulling away, in what I am told is a normal fashion (which is to say, it is excruciatingly painful and messy, at times). He is a wonderful young man, but he is 17 and full of himself. Normal - everyone says so. We have had various conversations about this, Gregg and I, David and I, and Gregg, David and I. I'm going to be brutally honest and say that it's been a very hard time for me. We have different perspectives, styles, pain thresholds, needs, and responses to the circumstances and events right now.
David has been accepted to a very fine, private, Catholic university. They offered him a generous, merit-based, academic scholarship (partial). We have made a deposit for him to attend this school. He has registered for his autumn classes. However, he is on the waiting list at two other colleges, and won't know whether he will be offered a place in either one until early June. So we don't really know where he's going, but we do know that he IS going. That's a blessing and a privilege for which we've been preparing him, through his entire life. We are thrilled for him.
But it means the end of my job. I'm being laid off.
I've been a stay-at-home mother and a community volunteer for 10 years. A decade; more than half of our marriage. It's the best, most fulfilling, fun and rewarding job I've ever had. I don't want to leave it. But I'm going to be "redundant" soon. What is a stay-at-home mom going to do without any kids at home?
I love my job. I'm independent, my own boss, yet I get to serve others. I organize my own schedule, work around deadlines, and have full creative authority over how I do what I do. I don't take direction very well. I work well on my own, and have done so for the past 10 years. It would help our retirement immensely if I would go to work and earn some money. I've had 10 years free of that kind of consideration. It's been a huge blessing to me, and I am well aware that it has been a privilege. I don't want it to end.
Unfortunately, the recent stock market shenanigans have taken some of our retirement savings into oblivion, and I feel impelled to assist in putting some of those savings back. But I am wondering: who would hire me now? And who in the world could "supervise" me? If you ask Gregg, he will tell you that no one would be able to "boss" me.
So I am being laid off from a job that I love, and am going to try to find other (paid) employment, in a difficult job market, when I really don't want to make this change. Add to that the fact that I really wish my daughter was here, finishing the 9th grade, getting ready for her summer activities, and the fact that, if she were here, I wouldn't be getting fired...and you have a recipe for conflict and sadness.
In addition to the enforced career change, it hasn't been a time to rest on our laurels and congratulate ourselves for the fabulous job we've done. It's been a time of deep self-doubt and questioning for me, since senioritis doesn't show anyone at his best. To be honest, I have been wondering if my years of full-time mothering were successful. If we were to measure them by just what is happening these days, I would have to say I haven't accomplished what I set out to do, nor what I dreamed I would accomplish. The results just aren't what I thought they would be. So I have been plagued with thoughts of failure and disappointment in myself, wondering what I could have/should have done differently. This has caused stress on Gregg, too.
This has been a hard time for people we love, lately, as well. Cancer. Surgery. Unplanned pregnancy. First holidays after a bereavement. Financial stress. Mental strain. Grief. Difficulties in aging. I've been responding in an unconstructive way, by eating and drinking more than I should, and my pants are getting tight. Then I am unkind to myself about putting on weight. The weather around here has been a drag - gray, rainy, COLD (in the 30s and 40s) - really unpleasant, for May.
And then there is the grief that Gregg and I feel - separately - over Katie, which is wearing on us. No matter how much we love and enjoy each other's company, the stress of missing her has changed us both. And that's not going to go away. It might get better, or less intense, but there are some days on which it takes a phenomenal amount of energy just to imagine a different future, a less painful time. We have made progress; yet I can see the changes in Gregg and in myself, and they are hard to look at, sometimes. It's just not the life we wanted, worked for, or planned.
I'm in a doldrums sort of place, where I just need to lean on God more. Just take this to God, because there isn't a soul on earth who can make this any better. Time passes; lives get re-arranged. There are many people suffering far worse catastrophes in the world than we are. I am reminded that we don't get to choose what happens to us; we only get to choose how we respond to it. I confess that I haven't been responding well for about a month.
The brunch went well; the food was eaten with gusto, and the conversations flowed. We laughed. It was great to see my brother and sister-in-law. Our parents all get along well and were happy to be together. The moms loved their gifts.
There were some very trying and difficult moments in the day, though. We decided to take a little walk after brunch (the alternative was taking a nap), and Gregg's mom fell down. We caught her on her way down, so she wasn't hurt, but my heart was pounding like a jackhammer. It was very scary; she's 88 years old, and a fall at that age is not desirable.
Gregg and I had a difficult but important conversation after the brunch. I learned from it, but it was painful. And let's just say that David was not into honoring the "sentiment" of the day. I missed Katie, and my daughter's affectionate perspective - but who knows? Maybe she would have forgotten, or been unappreciative, at this age.
So, after everyone went home, I was happy to be getting ready to attend the James Taylor/Carole King concert in Seattle with Laura, Tom and friends. Gregg & David didn't care to go, and though it felt odd (and a little bit wrong) to be leaving them on Mother's Day, they both encouraged me to do it. So I caught the ferry into the city, and they went golfing.
I am a HUGE James Taylor fan, in case you didn't know. He was brilliant, as usual, and Carole King sounded (and looked) better than I think she ever has.
They simply radiated joy in their art.
I thought about that, as I listened. Their songwriting gifts have blessed people for decades, because they found their gifts and pursued them, no matter what else was going on in their lives. I wondered if I will find a gift like that within me, that I can use in service to others, and in fulfillment of my purpose.