Saturday, September 14, 2013

oh, so this is what it’s like… (letting go)




Two weeks after we dropped Michael off at college he called to tell us his right foot was fractured.

We had moved him to school knowing about his swollen foot but he had insisted it was fine, he had just landed on it wrong and that it was getting better. Although I had one of those nagging feelings about it. Call it mother’s intuition but I wasn’t surprised when he phoned me after a week and a half of rowing practices and told me he needed to find a doctor in his new city. I did really well until he was referred to an orthopedic surgeon because his X-rays indicated a possible problem with his healing.

I called Mr. Moss at work.

“What should we do? Do you think we should have Michael call us from the doctor’s office so we can talk to the orthopedic surgeon, ask him our questions? He could put us on speaker phone.”

“No Les, he’s eighteen years old. He’s already two weeks into his healing, he can ask the questions.”

“What?!”  This didn’t feel good to me…in fact I could feel my anxiety growing.”He doesn’t know what to ask!”

“It’s ok. We’ll talk to him before he goes in and make sure he knows what information to cover.”

When I put the phone down I was still grumbling inside and thinking about the four hundred and fifty miles that now separated us. But I decided to take a deep breath and step back. Alright I thought, I can do this new thing that feels so weird to me. I need to back off and believe this will be ok (like I really had a choice).

And you know what?

It did end up being fine. Another instance of twisting and shoving myself through that tiny, mouse-sized door of trust. Met with a bit of success.

But it’s funny how quickly that sensation of letting go can hit you. Sometimes it feels like a soft, reminiscent ache. Like my first trip to the grocery store after the college drop-off when it hit me that I wouldn’t need to buy all those specially requested cereals anymore. Of course not, I thought, Michael’s buying his own now. But it felt like something real and tangible was right there in front of me and suddenly… it’s not. A whisper of loss.

And sometimes letting go feels like a jolt to my universe, like a blustering threat to my very identity. Hey, I want to shout back to the universe, I am a Mom. This is what I do. I go to doctor appointments, I fill out the information on the clipboard, I thumb through magazines and chat with my kids about their day at school. I see the doctor and I leave satisfied when I get my questions answered.


Yes, it’s true that Michael is eighteen years old but when it comes to sickness and broken bones and medical specialists my heart still remembers him like this.

Until something as ordinary as a trip to a doctor’s office, one I can’t be part of, reminds me that life is always changing. And that this new territory referred to as the ‘empty nest’ offers incredible possibilities.

There is value in these achy growing pains, my wiser self tells me. A kind of soulful transformation that happens when you dare to slow down and re-discover yourself. When you listen to your feelings. When you find compassion for those old, stagnating fears underneath all that holding on and trying to control.

This is the promise of letting go, it’s the quiet invitation to become something new, something more, someone wiser.


lou boos and shoes


I recently heard this wonderful story from Tara Brach about facing our fears and it goes like this.

According to legend, the Buddha had a name for his shadow side—all those feelings of greed, fear, hate, sadness, suffering etc...and he called these, Mara. And throughout his life whenever his shadow side called Mara would appear in front of him  his response was open and inviting. He would say: “I see you Mara, please come…let’s have tea.”

Buddhists use this story as an example of how to approach our own humanness, those painful emotions that are part of living. Instead of being reactive and fighting these uncomfortable feelings, or disconnecting from them or suppressing them, the Buddha is open to them. He wants to fully know them and so he invites them over. His approach is one that welcomes awareness, “Oh, so this is what fear feels like…” he might say. And he would open his heart to learn more.

I just love this story. It’s such a compassionate way to treat our own fears and struggles.



How do you talk to yourself?








Art and Sand said...

You don't know how much I needed to read this today.

Thank You!

Unknown said...

What a heartfelt post Leslie. It seems you are perfectly describing the process of letting go-be it full time mothering or other relationships. You are so right, life is full of change. I felt a shift as I watched my mother marry last weekend. Hello new step-father, step-brothers and families. Life is constant change and we learn to embrace that. Your kitchen is gorgeous by the way.
Happy Weekend my friend!
xx, Heather

Sandy at You May Be Wandering said...

What a lovely post which imparts some very important wisdom...I too am a mom who is having to deal with my children moving forward with their lives. It isn't easy! My son in California called to tell me he had an accident while surfing (he is fine) but I was still losing sleep with worry over what might have been. No matter how old they are, we can't help but react this way, I guess. Thanks for sharing this...

Unknown said...

Your story brought me back to the early 90's when my teenage children were living with their father. Suddenly I went from being "mommy" to "Mother". Because I wasn't taking them to the doctor's, doing their homework or cooking dinner every night. It was a jolt, that's for sure. And I felt really alone for the first time in my life even though I was being loved like I'd never been loved before. But time does change things and I've had many "mommy" moments since then, and "grandma" moments and soon to be mother-of-the-bride moments. Thanks for making me remember this wonderful shift.

Holly @ Down to Earth Style said...

I have tears in my eyes because I know one day it is going to be me getting a call from one of my boys saying they need something. I won't be close by to help (only what I taught them)and it will hurt. It's sad that we can not freeze time when it is at it's best.

Anonymous said...

That picture of Michael holding your face is absolutely precious. I love the story about Buddha too. We do need to speak more kindly to ourselves, don't we? Thank you.

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

What a wonderful post, Leslie...I remember my daughter having foot surgery, and it was the first time I wasn't the parent in the waiting very different...and not so fun. But she did fine...
I love the quote about talking to ourselves like we would to others. I've been so introspective of late, I need to remember to be good to myself. Thanks so much for sharing your insightful words!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Leslie, this is a beautiful post. I do not have children but I live far from my family as I age I find that my anxiety about my parents and siblings increases. Especially when they are sick. I am going to reread the part about the Budda so that the next time I am fretting in addition to prayer I will know what to do.

Thank you! I hope that you have a wonderful weekend enjoying your new path in life.

AntiqueChase said...

This was a great read... and feeling the same as you. My son flew to Oregon for his first college football game.. couldn't get his ears to pop for hours after landing... (he didn't chew gum on takeoff or landing..say what?) and texted me late last night he has a gushing bloody nose... It was hard not to panic or be there to "solve" the problem.. I am trying to adjust to this new phase. Not digging it.

Monica said...

Oh Leslie this made me cry. You are brilliant and wise and have a true gift with words. Motherhood is truly a perpetual cycle of letting go - and you are on level that I can't even begin to imagine. Thanks for sharing this today. I needed it.

Leslie said...

This is wonderful Leslie.

Once a parent..always a parent. My kids are older than yours and I will say that your concerns and watchfulness will always be. It just is. Change is the only thing you can count on.


Cathi said...

Letting go is the hardest thing do, especially when injuries and doctor appts are the topic. I have alot of experience with this of late and it's heart wrenching to be so far away but also trusting that our kids are pretty smart human beings and can definitely handle it on their own at times too. My daughter and her boyfriend have been on a fabulous road trip up to Portland and Seattle and although as a mom I always worry, they are having the time of their life and I couldn't be happier for them. Happy weekend, Leslie! xxoo

Lori said...

You poor thing ~ I cannot even imagine what you are going through Leslie but it must be heartbreaking. It is so hard to let the grow up. You have raised these boys and they are the smart men you always wanted them to be.....aren't they? xo

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