I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: July, 2014

The Countdown

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Extra Strong or Maximum Strength?

My daughter moves to college one month from tomorrow. In 32 days. Exactly. Not that I’m counting the days. Except that I am. It’s this big looming day that seems to mark the end of family as we currently know it. I think I’ve been counting the days since the day she was born. Only 18 years with her! They’re going to fly by! Better enjoy it because before you know it she’ll be going to college!

So. Here we are. She is going to college. In 32 days.

We spent two days at Orientation. Thankfully, schools now include parents in the process, allowing us to familiarize ourselves with the campus, the curriculum, and all the transitional support services. It’s a massive relief to have spent those two days together — together but separate…they whisk the kids away from the parents.  It’s a massive relief to have spent those two days together in July, well Before Moving Day. I can approach the next 32 days with some familiarity about what her life will be like After Moving Day.

It’s not how it was done when I went to college. I moved into a dorm under construction into a tiny room with bunk beds and a roommate I had never met. My mother broke down in tears. Who could blame her? Except that it made it even harder for me to separate. I was very homesick. I think my daughter will miss home, a lot, but I don’t wish that kind of homesickness on her. As the mothers who have gone before me have told me would happen – I am sad and anxious but also excited and proud.  Really, all I want is for her to adjust as smoothly as possible and to find her own way as a happy and successful (whatever that means) young adult.

So. Here we are, cramming in doctors’ appointments, filling out paperwork, paying the first tuition bill, making to-do lists, and getting lost in the details of what needs to get done. In 32 days. Before Moving Day. Should I get the Extra Strong garbage bags or the Maximum Strength garbage bags? (Who is the marketing copywriter who thought those categories were clear to the consumer?) Frankly, I never would have even known that garbage bags are better than boxes if it weren’t for my amazing sister-in-law who seems to know everything I don’t know. I pretend I am more capable than her. I research stuff and come up with my own opinions. But when it comes to getting things done, she is way more capable than me. So when staring at the confusing array of garbage bag choices, I knew I had to consult her. Get the Extra Strong, she said. Extra Strong is better than Maximum Strength? Yes, she said. You can throw pillows and bedding into them. And for heavier stuff, like shoes, you just pack as much as you can carry. Okay. Well said. I completely trust you.

All this To-Do Busy-ness is a distraction from the momentous emotion of this still pause in time, between high school and college, a caesura before she leaves. I am too busy to cry. I am too busy taking care of the details to stand back and do what really matters. Be With Her.

So yesterday, we spent the afternoon together. She introduced me to Reiki a while back and we decided to do Reiki training together this year. Yes Reiki. Crazy Hokum, I know. I, the only offspring of scientist, aetheist parents, discovered Reiki through my yoga friends and my wise daughter who explained it to me, simply: “I don’t know. It feels warm and nice.” Indeed. She is so wise. Those engineering students are going to be lucky and grateful she is in their midst!

As my swirling nervous energy entered the Reiki training workshop, our wonderful Reiki Master reminded me to get out of my head and just be. Just feel the moment. Let it happen. Instead of wondering if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and feeling what I was supposed to be feeling, just appreciate the moment. When my nervous energy wakes me up in the middle of the night, sends me walking briskly at dawn, drives me to pick my cuticles or rub that poor sore spot by my right ear, she suggested that I feel my feet on the ground. “I feel my feet on the ground, calm and peaceful.” I try to say this when I’d rather be picking at the sore spot by my right ear.

At the end of the afternoon training, my daughter and I took turns offering and receiving Reiki from each other. As I was on the table and she was offering me Reiki, she was radiating energy. Such love and warmth were emanating from her. I wondered if I could offer my mother Reiki, allowing her to rest and be peaceful, to touch her with love and warmth? I imagined (or was it a vision? I have visions when receiving Reiki. Yes, I really do. Call it crazy hokum, but it’s the truest peace I’ve found in my nearly 52 years of this life.) I saw myself as old. Old and dying. And that she, my daughter, was offering me Reiki to send me love and peace. I can’t imagine a better way to die. I just hope it’s a long time from now. But it’ll be here before I know it. So I better slow down and enjoy every day. With her. (And all the people I love.) Before Moving Day. In 32 days.

If Mothers Led the World

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Whither Hope?

Remember the Nigerian girls? The 200+ girls that went to school to take their exams and were abducted by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram (“Western Education is Sin”)? The story that took weeks to hit the front page until outrage took the form of a brief-but-intense social media frenzy with #BringBackOurGirls? Three months have passed since the kidnapping and the girls are still not rescued. What are those mothers going through? Good God! Those poor mothers.

Since the kidnapping of the girls, the next event that transfixed me with horror was the death of the three missing Jewish teens that led to the eye-for-an-eye death of the Palestinian teen, escalating the latest violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Can you imagine saying good-bye to your child in the morning and them not coming home? Ever? Good God! Those poor mothers.

The thing is, I can imagine. I do imagine. It’s my biggest fear. Bringing home my newborn and hovering over her several times every night — every night for months! — to make sure she’s still breathing. Checking in with my son the first time he is home alone without a babysitter and then the first time he IS the babysitter. Putting my daughter on an airplane for her first international trip on her own. I pray he is safe. I pray she comes home. I worry that the world will see ever more conflict and that my children will be called upon to fight as soldiers. Good God! Whither peace? Don’t THEY love their children too?

Don’t you think there would be less conflict if mothers were the leaders of the world? I guess we are too smart or too busy or too subjugated. I know, I know. I know that mothers don’t have a lock on compassion and wisdom and I know many non-parents who are compassionate and wise. But Good God! Imagine if the leaders in power filtered their decision-making through the lens of having children. Because then the overriding question governing all decision-making would be: “What is best for our children? How will this action improve their future?” Ego would diminish. The differences between us would diminish. We would lead with our hearts, with compassion and tolerance and empathy. And wisdom.

It seems a lofty but unattainable goal. Even the pacifist Caesar in the latest blockbuster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes comes to a pragmatic and tragic understanding that the fear of what is different and the desire for power will lead to distrust and war. Spoiler alert, there is no hope at the end of that movie. Well, I take that back. There are the sons, both human and ape.  (Where are the daughters?)

Whither hope? It is in our children. We nurture them. We teach them. We love them. We hope. We hope they will be able to create a peaceful future where girls can go to school and boys of different religions can appreciate what is holy in all beings as they set aside their differences to save our Earth.

Photo:  The New Yorker

 

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