I say to myself all the time that I cannot believe how fast time passes. Except for this year, the feeling is more pronounced for me than ever before. My oldest daughter is applying to college, my second daughter is halfway through the eleventh grade and preparing to do the same, and my son is studying for his bar mitzvah, which is coming up this spring.
In my mind, though, they’re still little kids, despite the fact that my girls drive and my son is looking more and more like a man every day. Without thinking, the other day I even purchased movie tickets online and ordered them for one adult and three children. I didn’t realize for days what I’d done and felt ridiculous when I did.
My children are growing up, I’m getting older, and I’m feeling nostalgic (code for weepy) because of it. Along with this nostalgia has also come a period of reflection – about the past almost 18 years since I first became a mother, six of which I’ve spent as a single mother, and 2017, as it quickly comes to a close. What I’ve noticed is that I’m a lot calmer than when I was younger, calmer than I was even earlier in the year. Not because I’ve done anything different either. I haven’t changed my diet. I haven’t taken up yoga. And, most importantly, I haven’t given up on my dreams or resigned myself to “my lot” in life, which can seem hard at times.
What I’ve learned to do is accept that which is out of my control and create space for what I can. As my 45 years have shown me, life is fragile and fleeting, and I want to enjoy every moment I have. With that goal in mind, here’s what I’ve taken to reminding myself every single day.
Write the email. But don’t send it. Not yet, at least. Put the phone down. Take a moment before responding. Breathe. Come back to it later. Because, usually after I do, the landscape appears different to me. Although I recognize how good it will feel to tell that person exactly what I think, I also understand there can be consequences. Even better is when I consider my words and am ready and prepared for whatever may come as a result of them.
What if X happens, then what? What if so and so doesn’t do Y? Once upon a time, I spent a lot of time speculating and, because of that, wasted a lot of time I could’ve spent doing anything else, especially sleeping! Based on experience, worrying about people and events I cannot control is unproductive. Most of the time, I’m wrong anyway. And if I’m not wrong, so be it. The only thing I can control is myself and my reactions. If I need something to worry about, it should be how not to make myself sick with worry. Here’s why.
I’ve dealt with a few health scares in my life and know all too well that when I’m waiting for results to come back from a test, almost nothing else matters. Miraculously, all the crap that’s been clouding my thoughts and sucking away my energy fade into oblivion. The key is, after a clean bill of health, to remember these moments and keep all the day-to-day nonsense in perspective. Whatever it is, I know I’ll get through it. As long as I’m healthy, that is.
I’ve learned (the hard way) that even with the best of intentions, someone, somewhere is going to either take offense or think I could’ve done more: I could’ve called, paid more attention, gotten there. The specifics don’t matter. As long as I know that I’ve done my best I don’t feel guilty. If someone does confront me, pointing out how I’ve disappointed them, I do listen, and if I’ve hurt them, I give them an honest apology (should there be any other kind?), and I try to do better the next time. If that’s not good enough, then too bad. I’m only human.
It’s a tough one, and I’m not sure I’ve mastered this concept entirely or that it’s something I even should. After all, it’s difficult not to expect anything from the people in our lives, especially when we give a lot of ourselves to them. To try and avoid feeling let down, I give without the expectation of receiving. I don’t keep score. However, when someone doesn’t meet my most basic needs – a need for respect and caring – I address it and if the circumstances call for it, leave. Though I’m likely disappointed, I remind myself my disappointment lies not with the person but, more so, the situation. Whatever part of themselves a person is willing to share is usually all they’re capable of giving at that particular time. It then lies with me whether or not I choose to accept the gifts they have to offer.
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