She arrived late to the competition. It wasn’t intentional. Or perhaps on some level it was. The last battle was long and wearisome and had taken its toll. The scars she had were not by her hand, though she took them on without complaint. That was part of the rules, was it not? But after the 25-year battle, she hid, healing the wounds with salve given to her by the Earth, ensuring others wouldn’t be infected. But she was ready, knowing what she offered was valuable.
Her eyes, though battle worn, were intent and aware as she surveyed the gathering of competitors. She cringed at the sudden feeling of inadequacy. How could she possibly compete? She watched the leaders selectively sift through the crowd, letting strands of hair fall through their fingers, cupping faces more youthful than hers against their palms. The young ones were eager, wide-eyed, optimistic, less willing to cast doubt or question their leaders. They were desperate to blindly follow, compromise their values, and become something they were not, in order to serve them.
Oh, she had made that mistake so very long ago. Never again. Perhaps that was her downfall, her own boundaries getting in the way.
But she couldn’t deny the shift that was palpable in every fiber of her soul. The confidence she had in battle now whittled down to nothing as, one by one, the leaders passed her over. What could they possibly want with a veteran who saw life through narrowed eyes? They looked for trainability, not one so set in her ways. The sudden rejection left her vulnerable and weak, her ego judging her worthiness based on their approval.
It occurred to her that though her body was strong and her mind stronger yet, the young ones were skilled in ways she was not, for while she led her own battle, she’d neglected skills she rarely used, and those had eventually withered away. She argued that she had different skills, stronger skills, life skills, skills the newcomers had yet to discover. She held up the weapons that were well-honed, time-proven, and sharpened with age and wisdom. She insisted that her youth was a shadow behind her maturity and calm, and that she could fight alongside them.
But none of that mattered.
Was that punishment for the years that she refused to back down?
She stepped away from the crowd, her spine straight and jaw set. She fought against the tears that spilled from her heart as she saw her future denied by virtue of her past. It occurred to her that she had her place, but it was no longer on the front line. Times had changed, and she along with it. But she had no idea.
Until now…. until it was almost too late.
I never thought it would happen to me, but there it was. I had known about it for six months, but assumed I could right the sails and keep the boat afloat. I got caught up in what many families are facing: The end to a well-paying, long-term job. During those six months, like a cornered animal, I got a tad cranky. I felt threatened. After 18 years of working in my bunny slippers, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand, I had a wake up call. One I didn’t want to answer.
I was about to be thrown out of my comfort zone and into the world of *gulp* job hunting.
Which wasn’t easy. Especially in this small town where professional jobs are at a minimum and the lines are long for the rest of the jobs that open up. Small towns are awesome. Small towns create a sense of belonging. I love knowing everyone at the bank or the grocery store. I love the fact that one of our busiest streets really isn’t so busy after all.
But none of that matters when the well runs dry, when I’m faced with decisions, when I feel like a failure. A new plan was needed fast. The more I thought about it, the more I looked at the circumstances, the choice was clear. I needed to look outside of this town.
If I were to be honest, I’d been feeling as if my wheels were spinning and that I forgot who I was – still. I’d been talking about a finding new direction for awhile, but since I was swimming in my comfort zone, I had no reason to get out of the pool. Well, guess what. Losing my job was the kick in the ass that I needed to move forward.
What I hadn’t counted on, though, was that I would be going at this alone. The boys and I had been a tight unit and I assumed we’d move together. But ‘twas not to be. They wanted to stay with their father in Idaho for their own reasons. Reasons I understood, but still I felt I failed on many levels. Was I that bad of a mother that they didn’t want to be with me? Shouldn’t I sacrifice a few more years and stay here just in case they needed me? How much would this hurt them in the long run?
Infused with guilt, I spoke with my uncle who reminded me that, in the face of knowing we would miss each other, would miss the routine we’ve developed over the years, both boys made a very deliberate decision. Sure, they could have taken the easy way out and followed me, looking to me to handle things, but I’ve taught them to be free thinkers and to make choices based on what they felt was best for them. It had always been my intention to pass at least one morsal of something to them, and here I had my proof.
Feeling somewhat better, I chose to practice what I preach: Do something that is best for me. After putting my needs on hold for 25 years, now is my chance to follow opportunities that will further my choice of career. Opportunities I cannot find here in North Idaho.
I want to show my boys a side of me they haven’t yet seen before – the woman who waited patiently behind the mother. I want my sons to see me as a healthy and successful person, not the overbearing, overprotective mama bear who pushed them to realize heights I knew they were capable of, all while I was feeling frustrated because I wasn’t reaching my own potential. I want to be the best person I can be, to show them that my happiness is as important as theirs. My reasons for doing this, as painful as the process might be, will serve them as well as me.
And the timing is right. My job had allowed me to work from home for the last 18 years and over those almost two decades I’ve seen my oldest through to graduation and my youngest get through middle school. I’ve taught them as many life lessons as I have experienced myself, taught them social graces, and how to be kind to others. Now the rest is up to them.
Yes, I’ll definitely miss the little things, the daily routine, the chance to hug them when they’re feeling sad or happy, but through Skype, texting, phone calls, and Facebook, I’ll still be able to nag – I mean, guide – them through the trials and successes and celebrations big and small. The moments we share will be sweeter, the visits will be anticipated events.
The silver lining to all of this is that I will have the opportunity to discover who I am and what I need to feel whole, because when we become mothers and wives, so many of us lose sight of ourselves. It’s a continuous process, one I started two years ago. I have a very specific plan A, with no plan B, so there won’t be any falling back. Only forward movement. By expanding my horizons outside of this town, I will be able to bring more of the world to the boys. It’s the put-on-the-oxygen-mask-first-before-putting-it-on-the-children mentality.
My uncle also told me, “Go ahead and feel guilty if you must, but it would be a mistake not to try.”
So try, I will.
This song, The Reason, by Hoobastank, is for you, boys. You are my reason. I love you.