An ache swelled in his heart he had not known before. For many winters past, he’d found his way from childhood to manhood in this wooded area he called his home. There had been a time not long ago that he welcomed the chance to leave, but the spirits unseen would have their own say. The tasks that had been put before him were not to be ignored, and like the acorn that strained against its shell to become the mighty oak, he’d found the strength to become the warrior his mother had wished him to be.
Across the field, the weathered trees that interrupted the horizon swayed in obedience to the insistent breeze, causing a shudder to pass atop his shoulders. The forest and the plains had not changed overmuch, and almost seemed to have stilled its heart, but to his astute senses, this place, and the very air that surrounded it, he knew was not the same.
He allowed the breath in his chest to escape and he put his feet in motion. It was time. Time to let go of all that he knew. There was no one left, no one for him to protect. The accomplishment was bitter in his mouth, for as he had watched them leave one by one, a piece of him had also gone. Oh, he would have those pieces back if only he could, but to ask would merely show a weakness he felt compelled to hide. No, at 20 summers he’d shown his worth and earned the respect of the people who gave it. There would be no going back.
A single breath caught against his ribs and he focused, as he’d done so many times before, upon his mother’s everlasting glow that surrounded him always, the constant he often forgot to remember.
His footsteps faltered as he turned to look back once more. No one needed him. No one called his name.
Yes. The time had come.
He followed the path he’d walked on with his brother not so long ago, holding his head high, keeping his eyes alert. He crossed the bridge to where the portal stood, his footsteps still crying out for the memories to follow.
From beyond the shimmering portal, his mother’s welcoming arms opened to him, and his little brother smiled with pride. Without looking back, and with his hand firmly on the hilt of his sword, he bit down on the memories, and left the homeland to begin the journey of an adventurous new life.
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.