I had a coworker ask me today if I was in my thirty’s and I wanted to kiss her, seriously, or at least give her a big bear hug. I’m definitely in the middle of the forty’s, middle aged is how I refer to myself these days. I’m the middle child, I’m of an average income, I have an ordinary family size, moderate size house and I’m at the top of no one’s “people I must meet before I die” list. I am average height for an American woman, my weight falls between acceptable and throw the scales out the window and forget about it. I have the most common color eyes and hair, and nothing about me stands out in a crowd. I even love the TV show “The Middle” and Sue is my favorite.
None of this mattered until recently.
Suddenly, with two kids out the door and one not far behind, I find myself struggling with my identity. I mean, who am I anyway? If you had asked me that a few years ago, I would’ve happily given you the list of my children’s names and activities; I found joy and purpose in being their mom. I attended every game and made sure I was at every activity. Front row, if possible. Yes, I am THAT crazy mom. Although, I must confess, I’ve never been one of those moms who had their child’s name imprinted on the back of a t shirt. You know the ones, they say “so and so’s mom” in big lettering across the shoulders or maybe in smaller print on the front. Not that I am judging anyone for wearing those, on the contrary, sometimes it is nice to be able to see who a child belongs to, ya know? In case of sudden flooding or earthquake or if a meteor falls from the sky and chaos erupts, we’ll know exactly where to take that child, there’ll be no question because of the name on their mom’s shirt.
For me, I decided that I do have a name and even though much of the time I found my identity in my kids, I still wanted to be called by it. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I feel I need to tell you that I have a t shirt for every single sport or activity in which my kids participated.
Is that the same thing?
Cross country, track, tennis, band, choir, football (this was only a middle school sport in our family), and then the generic school t shirt to cover all the bases.
I have them in all colors or at least in the colors that fly on our school banners. I have no idea what I will do with all of them when the last child walks across the stage to receive his diploma. I have spent the last decade of my life wearing them and it will be kind of sad when it’s time to let them go. I’ve seen others send their special t shirts away and have a quilt made out of them, and I think that is so great. They post pictures of their beautiful quilts on social media, holding them up smiling broadly. I always stop and look at those pictures and wish I was more like those parents. But, knowing me, I will ball the worn out shirts up and put them in a bag, promising myself that I am going to send them, only to find them two years later in some closet somewhere for safe keeping.
That’s how I roll.
Last week I found myself standing in the living room in the middle of the afternoon with nothing to do. Well, there’s ALWAYS something to do, like cleaning out closets, for example. But I did not have to be any place in particular and I had no appointments to speak of and no one was waiting on me. This is completely foreign to me.
I was completely forlorn.
I honestly did not know what to do with myself. I walked around the house for a while trying to look busy, although no one was home. I’m not really sure who I was trying to impress. I think I just needed to be doing something, anything so I wouldn’t feel the emptiness that was creeping into my soul. My phone was silent, only one car was in the driveway and it belonged to me. I’ve heard mom’s say they love times like these, when no one needs them and they can take a much needed and deserved break.
But, somehow its different when you know it’s more than just a break, it’s about to be your life.
Finally, I gave up the charade that I was cleaning or being productive and sat in my cozy recliner. I laid my head back and began to let my mind wander. Back to earlier years and happy times; times when I knew who I was and why I was on this earth, when it felt like what I was doing mattered. I’ve wondered through the years how I would react to these days, when my children were grown and I became the owner once again of my time. When I became an “empty nester.” Just typing those two words brings sweat to my brow. I’ve never looked forward to the idea of walking down the halls of my home only to see one empty bedroom after another.
I just don’t know what to do with myself.
I’ve always told others not to worry when that season of life comes, the Lord will fill up the days. And deep in my heart I know this is true, but somehow that doesn’t bring me the comfort that it used to, it’s all so close now. Since I’ve been through a few really hard things lately, I’m keenly aware of how precious life is and the gifts each day brings; the gifts of relationships, second chances, leaps of faith, and courage.
Life is too precious to waste.
I’m pretty sure that I will handle this next chapter of my life below average, not because I want to but because I’m struggling with more than just the empty nest that looms before me after this school year. I’m being forced to find a new identity, to figure out who I really am post child-rearing years. My husband says I need a hobby. I used to like to read, back when I had time. Maybe I’ll renew my library card, do they have expiration dates?
Guess I’ll check on that when I have a free afternoon again.
I do have one more school year with my youngest child. We took him to have senior portraits taken this weekend and I had a lump in my throat the whole time. He was a real good sport, and the photographer who has taken senior pictures for all of my children was sympathetic to my plight.
Most people are. You’ve either been there or you know it’s coming.
Well, band camp started today for my drummer. His last one. I’m thinking about going up to the school and sitting and watching him, maybe I’ll wear my band t shirt, after all, I only have a limited number of times left to wear it. Somehow, I don’t think he would be real happy about my idea. I guess I’ll just wait here in the recliner and ask him about it when he gets home.
Or maybe, I’ll go clean out a closet.
I know one thing for sure, I’ll be waiting by the door when he gets home to greet him.
This is my last time around and I don’t want to miss a thing.