no book on menopause or post-menopause – that i have read thus far – really prepares us. i haven’t found a steponesteptwostepthree-handbook on how to sort this. the phases of a mom’s life intersect and overlap and are messy and as full of emotional upheaval as they are full of gratitudes for blissful. every piece, in my own messiness-of-this, is sticky and pulls at every other piece, like marshmallows in hot-off-the-bonfire s’mores. no matter the professional pursuit, the hobby, the exercise, the diet, the zen-yen, it is all interwoven with the loss of mom-identity, the constant babystep-by-babystep redefining of relationship with one’s children and one’s self.
of early days of motherhood, anne morrow lindbergh in “gift from the sea” wrote essays sparked by seashells, “eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.” she is the “still axis within the revolving wheel of relationships, obligations, and activities.” in a metaphoric nod to the shell argonauta, anne paints the picture of the mother argonaut floating to the surface and releasing the young, then floating away to a new life. sailors, she says, consider this shell “a sign of fair weather and favorable winds”. yet, she muses, “what does the open sea hold for us? we cannot believe that the second half of life promises ‘fair weather and favorable winds’.”
it is a total reorientation. it takes time to re-find the center of gravity. true center. even with a child of 32 and a child of 29, i find this not to have been or be instantaneous. one does not click off the light-switch, or touch the base of the 1980s brass touch-on-touch-off lamp, turning off the questions of identity. it’s the yarn of a new cape, from mom (and all the other titles) to woman (and all the other titles).
“whether we’re talking about giving up baby clothes, toys, artwork or schoolwork, the issue is not mere sentimentality. it’s about letting go of our children. […] we think that keeping all of those things will let us keep a little of each child who left us.” (claire middleton – “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering”) i would guess that, even in my intentional attempts to set wind for their sails, my children would cite my fierce hanging-on to them. at the least, they would attest to my quiet weeping at their leaving, each time they leave.
i clean out the house, clean out one thread of four decades of career, glance at my piano – always whispering to me “don’t forget this is who you are too”. i write, i cartoon, i write more. and then, more. i think about composing – new simple feathers of music, pieces that would float in breezes and find center. i sit in quiet. i wonder.
is this an identity crisis?
“but there are other beaches to explore. there are more shells to find. this is only a beginning.” (anne morrow lindbergh)
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