Monday, March 10, 2014

Midlife Crisis by Suzanne Hooker Patrick

"The rush of panic, as the ringing gets louder, keeps me up at night. This empty nest thing is real, y’all. It’s painful. It’s frightening."
Just let it go to voicemail….

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. That’s all I can hear in my soul. The sound of a phone ringing. It’s a white courtesy telephone. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. It’s getting louder as the days go on. RING. RING. RING. RING. With each moment, with each blink, with each breath, with each ring, comes the reminder that my mid-life crisis is looming, and my empty nest lifestyle is lurking around the corner. RING. RING. RING. RING. Panic is setting in as I scramble to find my identity... to find my purpose… to find my reason for being.

That answer was easy almost 21 years ago, when I had my first baby. You see, all my life, all I ever wanted to be was a mom. Well, to have as much fun as legally possible in life, and to be a mom. Most days those two go hand in hand, and other days, not so much. But that’s not the point. Even though I graduated from college, it wasn’t because I attended in order to define what I should be when I grew up. Honestly, I didn’t really go to college to learn a profession. I went to have as much fun as legally possible. (You may have heard that already?) I went to learn a little, but mainly to enjoy life, and make amazing memories until I married and became a mom.  And I did just that. My plan had worked! My identity was handed to me the day my son was placed in my arms. I loved each and every step of being a mother. (Ok, well, let’s not get carried away… I loved most steps.) I cherished my babies and much like you, they are my heart. My entire life has been devoted to loving, encouraging, teaching, playing, and raising them. You know the drill. My life was complete. And there have been no casualties, so apparently, I don’t totally suck at this parenting thing completely! Go me! I was a mom and I was blessed two times over.

But, in life, there is a season for everything, and all good things must come to an end. Two years ago, my oldest son graduated high school and left for college, leaving a void in my world. Only my ‘baby’, who now has one more year of high school, was left at home. ::gulp:: I forgot the part about when they grow up and leave home no matter how much you promise to make them their favorite chicken enchiladas and bribe them with doing their laundry. Nope. They still leave home. I’m not ok with this.

With that said…. the rush of panic, as the ringing gets louder, keeps me up at night. This empty nest thing is real, y’all. It’s painful. It’s frightening. It’s heartbreaking, and if you aren’t ready, it will sneak up and pounce when you aren’t looking.  I know this because I tried to wear the ‘I’ve got it together … this is just a fact of life chapter’ mask… but no matter how big I cheesily smile like I’m ok, it continues to knock the breath out of me. It shows up in dark circles around my eyes… in my restless nights of sleep… It consumes my deep thoughts… It manifests itself in this mom’s soul... and it aches. Oh, how my soul aches. On the outside, I pretend I’m fooling the world- that I have it all together, but on the inside… I feel like a complete train wreck with a looming deadline. Can you relate? Have you been, or are you currently on this stupid path I’m on? While it’s true misery loves company, I hope you aren’t.


Wait- did you hear that phone ringing just now? It’s just so irritating. I’m pretty sure it’s my midlife crisis on line 1… I’m just gonna let it go to voicemail. I’m not ready to answer. I have things to over analyze. I have decisions to make. I have dreams to pray for. I’m doing these things not because I’m forced to, but because I want to beat this annoying chapter of my life to the punch. Stupid, unwanted, uninvited mid-life crisis with a side of empty nest syndrome. Who ordered this junk anyway? If I have it all figured out before I pick up the nearest white courtesy telephone, then I can continue on and hopefully it will be dead on the other end of the line. The sooner I get a handle on this, the sooner I don’t have to address my looming panic. The more prepared I am when my last child leaves home, the more I’m equipped to tackle my identity and who I want to be when I grow up… and most of all, I can avoid the pain and confusion and loneliness that comes with all of it. You see, parents, I’m not telling you anything that hasn’t been handed down from our ancestors. We’ve all heard the tales. I’ve listened to those who’ve gone before me, and warned about this empty nest thing… I never gave it much thought because it seemed so far off… but then I blinked. Stupid blinking. Your babies will grow up when you blink. So don’t. Listen, when it happens, it feels like a game changer, and I’ve never felt more ill prepared. When we’ve devoted our lives to our children, when our identity has been defined as parent, when we’re only known by our labels of ‘parent, child, spouse, sibling, friend’- we are stripped of truly defining WHO we are. As that dang courtesy telephone continues to ring louder and louder, my challenge for myself, and for all of you on this same journey, is to strip yourself of those labels I mentioned, and find out who YOU are without them… what YOU want out of life for YOU… what passion drives YOU… what speaks to YOUR heart and what sings to YOUR soul… search for the answers that illustrate what YOU were created for… because before long, that phone ringing is going to be for you… will you be prepared to answer? 

8 comments:

  1. Wonderful account of the roller coaster ride that is ALWAYS motherhood. The thing that gets me is that there are so many of my friends with older children, some with younger, and then me in the middle. I have learned every day (especially lately) that I will NEVER be ready. You are sweet to share. Good job.

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  2. Rich...vulnerable...heartfelt...raw....and real. Thank you for this sincere peak into your heart.

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  3. Well written and right on the money. I'm not far behind you and very much in the same motherhood boat! Frightening as it seems, it's nice to know I'm not the only one dealing with a midlife crisis.

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  4. Thanks for sharing, suz. I feel your pain. I was not at all prepared when my oldest flew the coop 8 years ago. I was not prepared to miss him so, to mourn his absence, to really, really miss him. It was heartbreaking. We had grown up together. Well, he had grown up, I felt like a little kid that had been abandoned. I coudln't stop to wallow in the grief. I had another chick to raise. Now, she is on the cusp of flying the coop. Her wings have sprouted and her departure is inevitable. All I hear is a ringing phone and I seriously don't want to answer. :(

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  5. Very well written! My heart is with you. I can smile through my tears as I read your anguish. I was in the same frame of mind about 16 years ago. I....we....hubby and I...worked really hard to find our new normal. You see, daddy was suffering at our house too, because his best shooting, scouting, 4-H buddy was gone! Our "little boy" will be 35 in 3 days. Our nest still feels empty and mighty quiet after his bigger than life personality and booming voice have visited us. We are patiently waiting for grandchildren to fill our empty nest!

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  6. Thank you for sharing! My "baby" is going to be 20 this summer, and while I don't think your children ever stop needing you (despite what they may think at times!), my life is so different from the way it was when mothering was a 24/7 job and.... I don't like it one bit! My house is too quiet. I miss the chaos and the laughter and the arguments and the constant motion that comes with three sons. They are spread out now across three states and it's quite possible we will never all live in the same city again. So while I will always define myself as a mother first, I am now trying to figure out what else I am. Not easy!

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  7. That dang phone is really annoying, yet necessary. It forces us to go through the 5 stages of grief which are necessary because we are grieving-we have experienced an incredible loss-loss of identity, loss of routine, loss of life as we knew it for 18 or so years. But the good news is once we process the stages and get to "acceptance", we get to experience a different relationship with our children which is an adult friendship with our children. I am at that stage now and it is a true blessing in my life. I think of it as picking the wonderful ripe fruit after so many years of planting and watering. Your fruit is ripening as you go through this process and hopefully in God's timing you will have "little buds" growing on that tree that you can spoil rotten! Yia Yia Becky

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  8. Beth Savill SlimakMarch 11, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Thanks for this Suzanne. Although reading this & trying to respond to you....I am wiping away floods of tears. Very often you take the words right out of my mouth. You and I are also similar in so many ways! We are very joyful & full of humor....while secretly wondering if & when we are gonna break. You are also just a couple years ahead of me, with my oldest just turning 15 & my baby turning 11 tomorrow. I also went to college for the experience & the most legal fun I could get the better. Must be the Gator is us!!! I have a couple degree under my belt....and yet all I wanted was to be a Mom. I got married & have not worked since I got pregnant with my 1st in 1998. What am I going to do with myself in just a few more blinks??? At least I know one thing. I have a beloved friend who has been thru what I am feeling.....and she is strong....and I know where to go when I need some compassion & understanding & more than a laugh or two. Thank you Suzanne! Thank you for sharing.

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