“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” -Heath Buckmaster
Jarring is the mildest descriptor I can use to describe the space that is left with the departure of my last child. I feel lost in our home with only photos to fill the spaces that were not long ago embodied with the noise and mess of growing up. I cry intermittently at almost anything and struggle to imagine how to go from here, back to some sense of normalcy. But the truth is that there is no going back, only forward into a space that I cannot yet see. This is the way of transitions and growth, that we not only have to let go of what has been, but also be willing to walk willingly toward uncertainty. As I drove away from my son standing on the corner in front of his new apartment, he was summoning the same courage of moving into his first home on his own, as I was moving into a home empty of children. Our transitions of reinventing ourselves were more the same than different, both of us hanging on until we land back on our feet.
I recently learned that after the caterpillar spins his chrysalis, his body actually liquefies into an entirely new substance to reform into the life of the flying butterfly. It is a lovely and true metaphor for transition. By its intrinsic nature, growth is an unknown, there is no way to really prepare, except to be willing to go. This process of becoming someone else, or more accurately the person you were meant to be is a perpetual state. There are no clear beginning and end points in our life cycle of change. It turns out, maturing is really only about becoming familiar and comfortable with the unfamiliar. And for me what is most unfamiliar and uncomfortable after raising my tribe is time alone. Facing this space that I have so long avoided makes this letting go feel like quicksand.
Motherhood has defined my identity and my days for as long as I can remember. It was a role that I thrived on. My relationships with my four children have become the most intimate and complex that I have cultivated in my life. It is hard for me to imagine who I might feel closer to than them. Raising kids makes us compelled to witness the years passing by grade levels, but somehow their growing up didn’t always equate to my own aging. At the beginning, and throughout much of their childhood, I didn’t realize that when it would end, I too would have aged into another phase of life.
It was my oldest son who, on a recent trip to the grocery store suggested, “It would be good for you to feel good with yourself, giving yourself the time and attention you have given us all these years.” Such a simple suggestion, this idea of filling myself up the way that I have long poured myself into my kids. I laughed and cried as I tried to explain how hard it was to let go of the daily depth of relating that being a mom has given me, how frightened I was to search for that belonging in myself. “Mom” he said with certainty, “you gave us the ability to do it, of course it is in you.” For me, now, it is my turn to make my own chrysalis of change, to finally learn not only how to belong to change, but to belong to myself. At least I have my children to follow now, watching them glide into their futures, showing me the path to my own. I wonder who I was meant to be- maybe a mother to myself.