I just tucked in my son for the night. I pour myself a cup of tea and settle down with my laptop to get some writing done. I make the mistake of checking my Facebook first, now I’m clicking through picture after picture of weddings, babies, girl’s night out and vacations of the lives of people I know.
Suddenly, it’s late. A train whistle blows in the distance. It reminds me of lying in bed as a child and hearing the busy work of the steel plant that employed most of our small town. It has long since been boarded up and fathers who provided for their families for generations milling railroad tracks hung up their hats for good when the steel mill closed. Our little island took a blow that it would never recover from. I’m wondering if my illness is something my life will never recover from…
Everyone is doing something amazing with their lives and I’m just sitting here. My friends are married career women who own homes and take lavish vacations. I love helping with interior decorating, making wedding invitations, and listening to stories about Mexico and Peru. Of course I’m happy for my friends and family. I have the most incredible support system. It’s only because of the strength they give me that has kept me from falling into terrible dark places during those times when it seems like I may never get better. It’s just that lately I’m always feeling this sense of being left behind.
For the past ten years I’ve been telling myself ‘When I get better I’ll go back to school. When I get better I’ll go find work. When I get better…” Now I’m thirty. Last week I found three gray hairs. I have no college degree, no job, no assets…nothing to stand on. I know that it isn't because I'm not smart enough or lacking in ability. I have been given so many amazing opportunities over the years but I have never been well enough to commit to them. I've been held back by circumstances beyond my control. So it feels as though I’m just waiting and waiting and waiting for my life to start. Now panic is starting to set in. Time is whizzing by and I can't stop it.
“Mom?” I jump in my seat. My little man rubs his eyes looking so much like the little baby he was ten years ago. “I had a bad dream. Can I sleep in with you?”
I shuffle over and tuck him in for the second time that night. He gives me a hug and a kiss.
“Mom? I just want you to know, I’m older now. But just because I might not kiss you goodbye in front of my friends at school doesn't mean I don’t love you. You’re my best friend and the best mother in the world. ”
“I love you, too, pickle. Get to sleep, it’s late.” I plant a kiss on his forehead smiling to myself thinking it’s funny how he’s declaring his detachment from me at the same time snuggling down next to me in bed.
I’m watching him fall asleep and it hits me – I have the most incredible job in the world. A job where I can be myself. Where I learn new skills I will take with me all my life. A job which is challenging, but is infinitely rewarding. A job I love to wake up and do every single day. A job that is the biggest and most amazing adventure of my life.
My life started ten years ago when I became a mother. When I became his mother. I am doing something amazing with my life - and I wouldn’t trade that for a paycheck, a house, a wedding, a vacation or anything else in the entire world.