Thursday, May 5, 2011

Missing Me

Today – May 4 – has been rough. Meteorologically speaking, my emotional state has been cloudy with isolated showers. And my barometric pressure reading is unseasonably high, even for this typically predictable season of emotional upheaval.

It’s birthday season – the highly anticipated and energy charged time of year when my oldest son, Stross, counts down the days to the May 5 anniversary of his birth. His enthusiasm and joyful glee is contagious, yet not strong enough to fully dissipate my annual angst. And, as I said, this year my angst feels uncommonly uncomfortable.

Part of the reason might be that this year, May 5 marks the completion of my 20th year of a complicated odyssey known as motherhood. For someone who once declared she never wanted to become a mother, that’s a pretty big deal.

Be assured that I have no regrets about having become a mother. At 26 years of age, I entered its unique state of existence willingly, even if a bit wide-eyed. I was mature enough to understand the risks and to accept the possibility of consequences. However, that does not mean I understood the reality of potential consequences nor does it mean I was prepared for them. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? Motherhood happens.

Conception, gestation, labor, delivery, and then baby is born. Ready or not, here he comes, and it’s what he brings with him that sets the storms in motion.

Redefined relationships.

Refined finances.

Sidelined careers.

Clarified faith.

At least those are the circumstances that comprised the perfect storm that Stross’ life set in motion.

I am not complaining, justifying, or whining. It is simply the way it was and still is. It is how I do motherhood.

My rough emotional condition this year seems connected to a greater sense of loss than I normally experience around this date – the anniversary of the day my life inexplicably and undeniably changed forever.

Today, one three-word sentence has infused my thoughts: I miss me.

I shudder at how Dorian Gray it sounds. As if who I am today is some twisted outcome of a deal I made years ago.

I also shudder at how pathetic it sounds. As if I live a stunted version of life, trapped in a past I refuse to let go.

It is neither of those. It is something far simpler. I miss me. In fact, I really miss me today.

Ironically, I am missing a version of me I never had the chance to know. A happily married working mother with a beautiful baby boy whose future stretched effortlessly into unknown but exciting days, months and years.

I remember being a happily married woman. In fact, I still am one – going on 25 years now.

I remember being a working mother too. I am still one of those as well, even if in an unconventional way.

I also remember holding my beautiful baby boy with a future that stretched into unknown days. He’s 20 years old now.

It’s just the package deal wasn’t packaged as neatly as I had imagined it to be prior to May 5, 1991. It has not been effortless, and its exciting days have not been free of shadows about the future – specifically my oldest son’s future and how that impacts our family’s collective future.

On May 4, 1991, I still believed that I would retain a sense of freedom about my life’s choices after becoming a mother. I believed that self-sacrifice would be a choice rather than a daily life condition, and I believed that happily ever would be a reality that unfolded not a state of existence I had to strategize to assure.

Please understand.

I do not hate my life’s circumstances.

I do not resent my son. Dear God, no.

I also do not regret one day of my life that has occurred since May 5, 1991.

I simply miss me. The one that never got to be. I think I just want to know if I would have liked her. I hope so. Because I’m trying really hard to make her proud of the woman – make that the mother – that I have become.

Happy Birthday, Stross. You are beyond a blessing to me. The gift of your life is my personal threshold to all things divine. A sacred mystery.

And so I am left to wonder. About her. About me. About your future and our family’s future.

Yes, May 4 has been a rough day. But May 5 has now arrived; and you, my son, will soon arise and shine like no one else. I have a feeling my clouds will soon be lifting. I also have a feeling I will always miss me … well, her. And that’s o.k. Her elusive beauty keeps me company on nights like tonight, and she helps me be a better mother somehow.

So again, Happy 20th Birthday, my dear, Stross. I love you. Forever.


KaKi said...

Very well said, Joy. i wonder if what you are feeling is a feeling that all parents, feel at some point in their journey. I wonder if most, like me, have that feeling marked by kids becoming more independent and not "needing" us like before? If it is that moment that most of us wake up and realize that "we" have been shoved in a box for the last 16 years? If maybe you are feeling this now, because with Stross you have never and will never have that moment of "he doesn't need me anymore"? Please know that I am simply wondering.....I love you. I love that you will allow that special boy to get up this morning and let those clouds soar away. I love that you can articulate your journey in a way that makes us all "wonder".

Joy said...

That's the thing: I'll never know which feelings of mine are like what other parents feel when it comes to Stross. As you said, we'll never get the "he doesn't need me anymore" feeling with him. He'll always need us and in large portions. Had he not been our first child, the feelings would be different still. This version of parenthood is the only one I will ever know. Thanks for wondering about it with me, KaKi.