BEST LAID PLANS
My sleeping patterns have changed greatly since I have been thrust into surgical menopause almost three years ago this March. Where I used to have a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep these days I wake up often at three or four hour increments. The odd thing though is that when I decide that it is time to get our of bed usually at around 4:30 or 5:00am, I feel rested. One rule I have semi created is not to look at my clock when these mid sleep wakeups happen and this has helped me easily fall back asleep. There is something about knowing that you are up at 3:00am and that wild witching hour usually perpetuates the non return to sleep. I don’t keep my phone sound on ever, no ringing, no binging, no vibrating. I found early on that my short attention span brain became too easily distracted by this Pavlov conditioning and disciplined myself accordingly.
Needless to say when I saw light yesterday morning upon opening my eyes, I knew I had slept past my usual early wake up. So I looked at my clock on my phone and along with the joy of seeing 6:30am instead of 4:00 for a change, a record these days, I also saw the frightening mom’s worst nightmare of four missed calls from my son. The good news was that there was also a voicemail. As quickly as I could muster the brainpower to listen to it, I was as quickly relieved to discover that the only emergency was that he could not find his passport in our house. Normally I would not call a sophomore in college at 6:30 am but I learned through the additional text he sent me that he had an opportunity to go with some friends to Montreal for New Years Eve and they were leaving in less than two hours. Michael was at his Dad’s and I was at my partner’s house and he had no car because it was in the shop. The glory of the lives of our children is that this is what they get to worry about. Fortunate indeed. I had my day planned out, though. Wake up, make coffee, sit by the fire with my man, do some morning writing, go to an 8:00am last day of the year workout, and then secure a place on the couch and do the work I brought over to his house. I could not remember where I put the passports and strangely had thought about this about a week ago reminding myself to find them. I hadn’t so here I was.
“I will come back to Bristol, pick you up and we will find them.” I said this calmly and lovingly. “Are you sure?” he asked tentatively. After all, his experience likely with both of his parents over much of his years has been to sound annoyed and inconvenienced because of this poor planning. I was raised by the master of just say No first to everything. The response I always heard from my parents and then the man I married was usually a NO coupled with a big sigh and the clicking of a tongue, some eye rolling and probably even a flip remark. I too was guilty of this immediate going south reply. I had my plans set for my day and this new plan would surely throw a wrench into it. What struck me the most about my calm and normal non reactive reply is that it didn’t strike me, I didn’t have to think about it. It came naturally, honestly. I didn’t have to talk myself off of a typical trigger reply. I just responded. It was automatic. I was calm and I didn’t feel anything other than appreciation for the notion that I love my son and I could easily do this for him and wanted to. For the moms out there and I know many who respond this way normally and can’t imagine not responding this way, you are the lucky ones. This was not something I learned from anyone. I had to learn it, but in good old Al anon fashion, the first step is awareness, I didn’t even realize my normal response was anything but.
As I began the twenty five minute ride home on a one degree last day of the year drive in the comfort of my warm car, I noticed the light of the morning. I was the only car on the road on this final morning of 2017. The moon was full and ripe with possibility and all of a sudden recognized what just happened. I stared at the sky as I made my way over the beautiful Mount Hope Bridge and drank in the glory of the morning. At 52, I had made a correction proving it is never too late to see the results of the work I have been doing in my own life for my whole life. I felt peaceful and calm. I had a deep awareness of my own personal growth as a woman and as a mother. My plans had gone differently than I had intended and as I made the drive home to pick Michael up and help him find the passports I realized that my response to him was a life changer for me. What a lovely gift to myself and to him to realize that I have changed in a positive way that serves both of us as mother and son. I also realized that my partner Michael was instrumental in his influence over interrupting my automatic negative responses over the years past six years creating an awareness in me by his own positive behavior.
When my son got in the car, I am sure he imagined that I would be upset with him and had a sense of relief to see that I wasn’t. He humbly thanked me for changing my plans and I wondered in the mire of mom guilt how many times I may have made him feel like he was an addendum to my day, especially in the previous years of leaving my husband, his dad, our family as we knew it. I quickly stopped myself for berating my past and using this opportunity with him as a leaping off point to set a new example as his mom guide. As we made our way home to find the passport that I assured him was not lost, just misplaced, I began the gratitude checklist for the change in my day. The text messages that weren’t something horrible, the comfort of a warm car and a super warm house, the gratitude for having a passport that allows both of us to travel afar and blessedly re-enter this United States of America. The ease of throwing on my pajamas, turning on the stereo listening to some great jazz as I decided that the last day of the year would end with cleaning closets. After finally finding the misplaced passports about ten minutes before his pickup was about to arrive, I hugged him deeply or as deeply as a freshly turned twenty year old can return the hug. I sent him on his way with my credit card he did not ask for, but I insisted he take for emergencies. I said “better safe” and he said “than sorry” and I said “than worry.” I jokingly said that me giving him my credit card was self serving as it helped me relieve my sense of worry as he and three of his friends decided to drive to Montreal to bring in the New Year.
As he left on his journey north, I sat comfortably with my newly revised list for my day in the depths of deep inner peace on the final day of this year. Not only have I survived breast cancer, but I took great pride in my ability to continue to learn about myself, to be a better mother to my son and as a result an even stronger woman than I thought I was when I woke up yesterday morning. Strong healthy relationships are supposed to bring out the best in each other. I never really learned this except from peripheral family like my Aunt and my Grandparents. Because they weren’t my daily dose, though my example was my parents and then my husband at the time. As a result, I had to first recognize that this was something I even needed to learn. My friend, Karen taught me this everyday as I was serendipitously placed directly across the street from her mothering as my neighbor for almost twenty years. When I left, I took with me her “because you are his mother,” lessons in my trunk of the extraordinary gifts she and her husband Bob gave to me. My partner Michael unknowingly took the reigns from Karen and continued the lessons by his own example of calm and consistent behavior proving I am never to old to learn how to be a better mom, partner, person, human, woman. And now my son, Michael and I get to be both the student and the teacher together as we both learn how to navigate our lives in the healthiest of ways as he moves into his twentieth year and I move into my fifty third.
The best laid plans are often the ones that are not planned at all. In this New Years resolution crazed world we see in every social media outlet, perhaps the simplest plan is to just be calmer, more thankful and more present to each other. Maybe it is the greatest excuse to reach out to people you may have lost contact with or haven’t made time for. What I love about the New Year is what Oprah said in one of her quotes, “Cheers to a New Year and another chance to make it right.” Maybe this is the plan. Maybe this is enough.