The last four and a half years has been a journey of facing the strain of changes. These changes have left me reeling and feeling various degrees of loneliness. It has pushed me to the core of my being and forced me to dig deep for resilience, hope and agility as I redefine my life and who I am as a person. It has been exhausting to say the least.
Now I embark on a new significant change - my youngest daughter going off to college and me being an empty nester. This has made the absence of Paul even more present than ever. This is not the story I wrote for my life. This was supposed to be the time for Paul and me to focus on our marriage, decide where to retire and enjoy our lives together in a way we never could while raising kids. It was what we were waiting for our whole marriage. But, here I am, facing this alone - without him by my side.
One of my podcast guests said something that was so pivotal and has haunted me since our conversation. She talked about how our children are always our immediate family and, for us, that never changes. But for them, it does. They move out of the house. They build a life where we are on the fringe of. At the center of their new life becomes friends, spouses/partners, children and a day to day life outside of us. Parents are no longer immediate family in their children's mind but extended family. When she said it, the reality of what was coming my way hit me hard. My Madison will launch into college, into adulthood, into a life where I will move from the center to the fringe.
I thought about Paul's relationship with his family. Infrequent visits, weekly phone calls at best, sporadic holidays and could see how true, what my podcast guest was speaking of was.
This isn't to insinuate that parents are no longer loved or important, because that isn't true. It is just the natural course of life where your children move on to a life outside of their parent's home.
Madison going to college is what Paul and I wanted so much. It is what we worked her whole life for. He would be proud as I am. But now, once again, I have to redefine myself. I went from being a married couple and family to being a single person.
Madison has been my "reason" for the last 4 1/2 years. She is what has given my life purpose and meaning. She has kept me focused on moving forward when I didn't want to get out of bed or go on. I have carried her grief along with my grief. Living my life became about her. In many ways it felt like my life was over. In many ways I wanted it to be over, but she kept me going. With her I turned to face the strain of grief. The strain of alone-ness. The strain of a life I didn't ask for nor did I want.
Now I need to turn and face the strain of more changes. A new path forward. A new me. A new life I need to figure out. I need to find a new reason and purpose. I really don't like this at all. In fact, it is heart breaking.
People look at loss as the loss of that person, but it is so much more and the losses keep on coming and each loss is impactful. From going through belongings, selling Paul's Jeep, taking off rings, the loss of friends, the loss of a partner to make decisions, the loss of the person you knew better than anyone and who knew you better than anyone. It has been an ongoing loss of who I am, who I was and a figuring out of who I am - who I will be.
As I turn to face the strain of more changes, I choose (that is the operative word here) hope. I choose to believe there is more for me.
Madison has turned to face the strain of her changes and now she launches into a new life. One that is full of hope and possibility. My plan, no matter how hard, is to turn and face the strain of my changes with a spirit of hope and possibility.
Time may change me, but you can't trace time ~ David Bowie