Senior Year Stress – Not Just For Seniors

keep calm senior yearThere were multiple texts followed by a frantic phone call alerting me that the car keys were lost and Principessa needed to get to an appointment. I was expected to avert this crisis from work.

“Retrace your steps,” I advise.

“I DID!” Principessa screams.

I excuse myself from the drama and hang up the phone which allows me just enough thinking space to conjure the location of the keys from 20 miles away. Order and peace are restored.

This year promises to be rife with stress. Senior year of High School begets unprecedented tension.  College visits and applications consume us.  Marketing flyers from Universities threaten to take over our mailbox.  And senior ceremonies swallow our calendar, already.

One would think I’d be too busy to feel what’s happening. But sentimentalism strikes frequently and I am prone to waterworks of late.  Hence the trip to BJs for a bulk-pack of tissues.  There will be no shortage of mind-blowing moments this year.  I’m going to need the crying to empty me because I can’t possibly carry this level of emotion all year without releasing it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the porch lights have been left on all night by Principessa, AGAIN. The electricity policeman, AKA husband, is on a tear.  This scenario has become a ‘thing’ between them.   On occasion, I jump out of bed early to shut off the lights, hoping to stave off the inevitable scene.  This morning I miss my chance and husband airs his grievance to me.

“Stop,” I plead. I don’t want to hear it.  This cycle has a definite end.  Next year, when Principessa is at college, the light will not be on in the morning.  In fact, it won’t be left on when we go to bed because she won’t be coming home!

I will pause as I pass the front window, noticing without quite knowing what it is, that something is not right. A subtle feeling of emptiness and longing will creep in as I gaze at the darkness outside.  I will crawl into bed with a nagging pang in my heart and pray that wherever Prinicpessa is, she’ll get in safely.

I may notice that the place where Prinicpessa’s shoes would be dropped will be clear. And there will be no piled-up laundry to aggravate me.  I will miss the very things that presently annoy me.  Their absence will be a constant reminder that my nest is short one bird.  Cue the waterworks and the silent scream.

When I allow myself to travel down the no-good path of resistance to life, I struggle for air. It is difficult transitions like this that make the decision to be a parent seem downright reckless.  How could I have agreed to subject myself to the inherent risk of such immense love?  And to the pain of letting go?

It’s easy to forget that life is happening exactly as it should. Principessa is a gift that never belonged to me – one that I helped to ready for the world. Her time has come.  I cannot begrudge the beauty of that.

Halfway – Reflections From a Birthday Girl

twin peaks with flagI’ve reached an imagined halfway point – halfway between birth and death.  Research tells me that barring fatal accident or illness I could live to 90 years old, which sounds like a long time but it’s tricky to resist the ‘getting old’ mentality when wrinkles and joint aches pile up.

I’ve flirted with the idea of death and decline before, as have an increasing number of my middle-aged friends thanks to the ‘Big C’ and other cradle-robbing diagnoses.  What I’ve discovered is that if you marinate in fear of aging you’ll turn sour and ruin any chance of enjoying a delicious life.

I’m not the first philosopher to uncover the revelation that what matters is not how long one lives but rather how.  How have I lived? In themed decades, it seems.

In my teens I worried a lot. (About being popular and pretty and smart.)

In my twenties I dreamed a lot. (About success and family)

In my thirties I did a lot. (Bore children, cared for a house and a career.)

And in my forties, so far, I’ve learned a lot. About life.

Mainly I’ve learned that the older I get the less I know. In young adulthood I was so sure of everything.  The sky was blue, personal safety was my birthright and friends would be friends forever.  But maturity has a way of blending black and white certainty into a canvas of gray.  Losses and disappointments pile up alongside victories – twin peaks of the same mountain – and blur what once seemed so clear.  One day, maybe on a birthday, you stand atop the mountain and gaze across the horizon wondering, ‘what’s it all about and what happens now?’

In many ways I am at my peak.  I suspect I’ll spend some time here enjoying the view from the top. But I already feel the pull to begin my descent.  Life calls me to finish my journey in forward motion and not squander it with wishful thinking, refusing to budge from this sweet, sweet spot.

I know I won’t travel the same path down the mountain that I chose on the way up. I’ll bypass the gullies of naïveté and ambition and stop more frequently to cherish a loving gesture. I’ll be in less of a hurry to reach my destination and more willing to put aside my agenda in favor of lending a hand.  And I will love every step and misstep because it will remind me that I am still living.  Not just alive, but living.

In a sense I’ll be un-learning all the things that sustained me on the first half of my journey; gracefully (I hope) unraveling the knots of the rope that I climbed on the way up.  When all is said and done and I return to my starting point, I hope to look back with satisfaction knowing that no matter how many travel this way again, the mountain will never be climbed exactly as I climbed it.  No one can do or see or be exactly like me.  Each of us is unrepeatable.

 

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

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