I took a final epic road trip with my kiddo in August. And our final leg of the road trip was dropping her and her car off at college for her first year. And it was the kind of trip that feels so rare – I wouldn’t change a thing. The length (2.5 weeks), the side trips (see my mother, see some other friends, beachy vacation), or the final days together where my primary role in life was still to be a “mom”. Now, it’s a role, easily still in the top 2, but it can’t be number 1. Or rather it shouldn’t be or I’ll not be focusing on living that life that’s out there and I’ll likely be inappropriately interfering with kiddo’s life instead. 

I’ve been a single mom to her for so many years, and we’ve been so close that it’s daunting to contemplate life looking different than it has. We both cried ugly tears when she dropped me at the airport. I cried quiet tears when the plane took off. And when I had to run some errands back in our home city and ended up at one of her favorite places. It’s like there’s these bursts of emotion and then they recede. A lot like waves breaking on a beach when it’s not too choppy. Some minor ebbs and flows and every once in a while one that rolls in high and fast and smacks you in the face if you’re not watching for it. They say a feeling lasts 90 seconds. That’s seemed true so far. I’m not trying to resist any of it, so it just washes over me and hurts for a bit and then there’s a bit of catharsis, and I know she’s happy, and this is good, and I move on to my next moment.

Mostly, though, I just notice how quiet it is. How weird it was to grocery shop and not get her favorite yogurt or berries or whatever. Even just planning my meals for the week and not worrying about including her favs or excluding mushrooms. The house feels still. And I find myself moving through it quietly, like I’m not supposed to disturb the stillness. 

Before I left, I made plans to have a small gathering of friends the night after I got home to celebrate the end and beginning of the old and new chapters of my life. And to get hammered. Because hey, if I’m likely to feel like crap anyway, pour a hangover on top of it (which seemed like sound logic a month ago–my head the day after begged to differ). I usually throw fun, spirited and giggly bashes. Lots of chatter, lots of jokes, lots of dancing and general effusive happiness. And when it rolled around to time to have the damnable party, I put a dress on, a favorite necklace, some red lippy and told myself I was doing it… even though it felt like the last thing I really wanted to do. But I did. 

Blurred white and yellow fairy lights under an awning outdoors

Photo by Andrew Knechel on Unsplash

And it wasn’t all that bad. After the tequila and then the vodka/prosecco punch thing, things didn’t seem so bad 🙂 And I just let the people around me love me and let myself feel it. Let them say great things about my kid, about me, about the future. Let myself feel supported and not alone. Which is not my usual MO. And at some point, I danced and spun wildly under the stars. And that always feels good.

Later in the night, when I was feeling more tired and drunk but calm, someone asked me how I’m feeling. I want to feel excited. And I suppose underneath a bunch of other things, I am, a little. But mostly I feel scared and daunted. What if there’s nothing that calls out to me to choose to become or do or otherwise experience? What if there is and I don’t know how to start or am too afraid to start? My logical brain (not the one that decided to make the rum-based punch after the tequila and the vodka/prosecco punch – which was NOT A GOOD IDEA) says I can try a bunch of things until I find what’s next, no big deal. Trying is half of the fun and experience. That same logical brain also says it’s fine to be scared or daunted but that it knows who I am and that I can do things that are hard or scary or whatever because I’ve done it before a million times. 

But my squishy little hurt-soaked heart right now is saying, are you sure? Trying all of that seems so much bigger than me. So much. I don’t want this rediscovering, this ownership of my wandering to be just one more thing I need to pull strength from deep within to be able to conquer–I definitely feel like I’m tired of being so fucking strong all the damned time. But my strength is an integral part of who I am. I need to always remember it’s a gift–not something to resent.

Deep breath. Now jump. Do I look ready?

A blond wavy-haired woman in a blue wrap dress with a quarter moon necklace, with red lips smiling under lights in a dark yard.

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