Monday, November 25, 2013

The empty spaces

This Monday morning washes over me like a warm, fuzzy blanket. I’m curled up in my chair, coffee steaming beside me, while I contemplate my life and craziness it has been lately. Soccer season, for us and our senior son, is over. We went on a deep tournament run that ended one game shy of that elusive state berth. What a wonderful season it was, but as with anything that keeps us busy and happy--what happens once it’s over? 

It’s hard to look ahead and see what might be on the horizon because it’s easy to stay in the now. Now was easy--work, attend games, cook supper when I could, repeat. I didn’t really look ahead because I was enjoying all that was around me. After we came home Saturday night, mentally tired from the game, I sat on the couch and let the tears fall. Another milestone done, my baby the senior is done. I have watched my last soccer game as a parent. He will graduate in the spring and we will officially be empty nesters. Saying that it hit me hard wouldn’t quite get it right. 

When our kids are young, a lot of times we put off the dreams we’ve harbored inside. Our younger selves, full of ideas and dreams, are set to the side when children come along. At least this is the case with me. I was more focused on making sure my kids had a great childhood than focusing on me. There are many moms, I’m sure, who are able to do career and kids, but I wasn’t included in that. My make-up meant that I couldn’t go to work and yet give my kids the attention I wanted them to have. This was my choice and I would never go back and do it differently. Now, though, I am faced with that space that stretches after the kids leave. I can almost sense the solitude of the house, which I so longed for when they were little, and I’m a little afraid of it.

My husband ever so gently told me this, “Honey, now you will have me all to yourself!” I chuckled and know that yes, we are still young and are going to have fun rediscovering what WE like to do. It doesn’t need to involve anyone but us. So I’m faced with this barrage of lasts: Hunter’s last home game, his last tournament game, and his last day of school ever. These lasts are coming fast and furious, and that means I must face myself and what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life. 

My middle daughter, she of the sage words, told me this: “Mom, you’re going to find yourself and do what you’ve always wanted to do.” She may be right. For my birthday several weeks ago, I received three separate gifts that point me to what I should be doing full time. Selena gave me a journal; she said to write down my dreams, bits of ideas and make them happen. My sister gave me a wall hanging that says, “A dream not followed is a story untold,” and Belle gave me a beautiful bracelet with a pendant that has a fingerprint over the world--to make my mark, she said, because I make people think with my writing. 

How can I, after those pointed gifts, wallow in pity because my kids are nearly gone? My husband, my support and my rock, knows I have this in me and can’t understand why I’m not going for it. Why I’m staying safe in my little shell that I’ve created. He’s right, of course, and my thought process is slowly changing over to me--to Missy--to what I used to be combined with what my life has made me now. 

The drive inside me is finally revving up. I’ve been shown over and over the way my life is to go. People I don’t even know catch my eye as I’m going about errands. They say “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” and I just smile and know that they have probably read my column. They probably recognize me from my picture in the paper. I had a lady in a doctor’s office in another town ask me if I was the lady from the paper and say how much she loves my writing. I’m reaching people in ways I couldn’t fathom. My voice is being heard. 

We need to embrace ourselves and the strengths we have. We shouldn’t be martyrs and say to ourselves that it’s cocky or immodest to use what God has given us to use. Just as He gives us gifts, He gives us talents that we are to use and use to the limit. Why else would we have them? To languish inside and be frustrated that they never got to come out? 

I should add to that birthday list a box of chocolates that Hunter bought for me. He knows me well. He gave me a huge hug and kiss last night and you know what he said? “Sometimes you just need a hug, Mom.” He knows me, knew I was sad about the game and the lasts I’m going through. Soon he will be gone too, but I can rest assured that my kids have been well prepared for this world. They will be fine and will flourish. The empty spaces they create in my house when they leave, the spaces in between, will allow me to find me. It will point me even further on the path I’m already on. My kids and husband know this about me because I gave them so much of myself. I can’t disappoint them by staying safe, now can I?