Many Milestones

I have been thinking about this post for a while, and would love to come up with some poetic beginning, an image or idea with which to tie everything together. But the words just aren’t coming, so here it is: right now I am experiencing milestones. So many milestones, and the combined affect has been tossing me about like a big wave headed for the beach. Saltwater up my nose? Check. Sand in my swimsuit? Check. Wave cresting too far away to be jumped? Check. Current powerful, relentless, and unpredictable? Check, check, check.

Well, ok. I guess I found a metaphor. It’s not really original. But it’ll have to do.

Here’s the (partial) list:

  • Joanna, aged 6, got a cello;
  • Emily, aged 6, got a violin;
  • my mom turned 80;
  • Hazel, aged 9, is for the first time gone for a week at camp;
  • Joanna and Emily will be entering kindergarten in the fall;
  • Hazel will be entering 4th grade in the fall;
  • I will be turning 50 in the fall;
  • Joanna is taking cello lessons from a friend of mine;
  • Emily is now taking violin lessons;
  • Emily stopped holding my hand while we walk a while ago, and now Joanna is stopping too;
  • At her long-expressed desire, I am going to spend 2.5 days camping with Joanna this week;
  • I am going to spend another 2.5 days on a little trip with Emily;
  • various other significant changes in relationships & life circumstances have occurred in my social circle.

Yes, there’s a reason the acquisition of the instruments are listed separately from the lessons. Each has been a significant event.

I have discovered as a parent that one’s children’s milestones are personal milestones too: *not* in terms of my own personal achievement, but in terms of their emotional impact. Additionally, there is a double whammy (at least for me) when my kid’s milestone occurs similarly to a milestone from my own childhood. In this case, Joanna chose the cello, and began it at age six, which is when I started lessons lo those many years ago.

Last week, seeing all those waves coming and being roiled by the ones I was attempting to jump, I started to hyperventilate. We all might know that panic doesn’t help in a crisis, but that knowledge is (often) not enough to do much as the adrenals start to pump.

In an effort to find a better way through, I have been trying to accept what I am feeling. Trying to avoid it all just gets water up my nose. Very unpleasant. So here is a portion.

The twins getting instruments brought up my feelings about them growing up, getting older and more complex, competent, confident, and continuing in their (developmentally appropriate) journey outward and away from me. It is necessary. It also brings up grief for me, as well as pride and joy.

The twins going to kindergarten means so many things. I will have more time. I will have time in the house by myself. This is a form of bliss the profundity of which it is difficult to convey. But oh my god, I will miss them. So much. There are not words. And the school day is long, and we have music practice after school, and they are facing a hugely academic program (we push reading very early nowadays) with little recess, and it is painful to see them marching forward into the difficulties and complexities of life. It is good. It is necessary. It is hard.

Joanna’s hand in mine is one of my most favorite sensations. I have to let it, and her go, to grow and flourish. And gifts of love change. The other day I was really overwhelmed and Ted asked me if I was ok, and I said I was feeling sad and overwhelmed, but I was ok. Emily got down from her chair and came over and hugged me for a long time, arms wrapped around my neck. I cried with gratitude. Those gifts of love are precious, so beautiful, freely given. The kids’ expressions of feeling change as they grow and change. Joanna wanting to go camping with me is an example. This process of loss and gain, of joy and grief, of all these intense feelings overlapping and intertwining amid all the wild input of family life, can overwhelm my circuits.

My mother is now 80. It’s a number. She is in good health. But this birthday has brought home the reality of the shortness of life, and I have been having a hard time with that. I don’t want to lose my mom, and I will, sooner or later.

I am about to be 50. It’s a number. I am in good health. But this birthday is bringing home to me the reality of the shortness of life, and that I had my children late, and they will lose me, and I’ve been having a hard time with that.

One cannot “do it all”. There is not enough time. And life goals & expectations and/or life narratives can become traps instead of inspiration.

So I keep coming back to the question of what I can do in the current moment. This past year I’ve made strides with food & sleep, with getting outside and moving my body more, with practicing more regularly and from a better place psychologically. I want to continue to challenge myself and to move toward health and in alignment with my values. But I want to be careful to be honest with myself about what is motivating me in any given moment.

When I get suck in the grip of fear, sometimes I find myself making choices from a terror of discomfort, in a (futile) attempt to avoid it. Sometimes, in that place, I thrash about and cause myself and others pain. So I find that only by getting out in front of that discomfort; observing it, accepting its presence, can I move forward to find what I love, what I want to do, and how to act.

I was really scared last week. Today, having spent some wonderful time with loving friends, and having gotten prep done for the trip with Joanna, I am feeling more centered. I know the waves will never stop coming. I know that sometimes I’ll swallow water. But I’m glad they are there, and I am glad to be alive.

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