Sit. Feast on your Life

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your Life. – Love After Love ~ Derek Walcott

I am sorry for my absence. I have been busy feasting. On food? I mean yes, do you even know me? But more like feasting and thriving on my life. It’s official; Feasting and Thriving are my two fav adjectives of 2018. A friend told me recently, that I should share this part of my journey with people. Honestly I had been thinking about it but was unsure how to approach it. All I know is how I feel, it’s been hard to put into words, so be patient. I am occupying a different space in my life and in the lives of people around me now. It feels significant, and special; and I am well aware that I am not alone in it. I have thought for hours about how I would open this blog post, and then the poem above that was read to us by Oprah herself (casual) at her Live your Best Life weekend, came to mind.

I have welcomed myself back to the table, and am now Feasting on my own Life.

This piece will attempt to share the part of our lives as parents, that change when your child, the one you have dedicated your entire adult life to making healthy, happy and wise – grows up – uses the tools you gave them, (better than you would have used them yourself at their age) – to create their own space. This is me trying to find words to tell you what comes next. What can be next.

Shift Happens

Space. I keep coming back to that word. Space can be scary. I know it’s scary for most parents, it was to me as a mother. I didn’t like the idea of space between myself and my 60721247daughter. “You can live here for the rest of your life if you want!” I would often say – resembling overbearing TV mom Beverly Goldberg. “And then you can get married and we can get a bigger house and I can watch your kids and when we get older you can take care of us, like the circle of life!”. It sounded beautiful, but in reality it was my fear of space and I’m sure utterly horrifying to my daughter.

The shift started.

The air got thin in the small spaces of our apartment and relationship.
Uncomfortable. Irritable.
I quipped she’s not ready. She will never be ready. I have more to teach her.
She pushed and pulled backI’m ready… oh crap maybe I’m not ready. Help me be ready. Show me all the things. Never mind I know them all. Shit maybe I don’t.
Dad pushed with his tough loveLet her go and figure it out the hard way.

I started to get frustrated. Did I want her to be ready? Her dad seemed hurt, frustrated. Said he wondered why anyone would want to spend so much $ on rent when we are such chill parents. When you could stay here FREE and just LIVE and save money.
Because Dad – I need SPACE.
There’s that word again. Was I hurt or was I just scared of that word? Is it that scary?

1.a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied.

  1. “a table took up much of the space”
  2. 2.
  3. the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.
  4. “the work gives the sense of a journey in space and time”

…Within which all things exist and move….

My feelings were different that I thought they would be when we got to this point. I thought I would be resistant, sad, angry. But surprisingly I wasn’t. I felt like I was in a mad rush to a finish line. To get her ALL the things she needed to know before she found Space. Hurry, can you unclog a toilet? Do you know about deposits and utility bills? How about mail forwarding? What about budgeting? Savings – shit we have never had savings, never mind skip that one and we can go back to it and google what it means. Grocery shopping. Let’s gather things you may need – Ice trays? What about a pasta strainer? Will you need an iron? Do you even know how to iron?

And then all of a sudden it felt that I had been preparing without realizing it. I had subconsciously kept things over the last few years in preparation to give to her. A whole set of plates and glasses from her 19th birthday that I bought at Goodwill – “I will keep those if they are ever needed for big parties…” Blankets and sheets just because “Who knows when they will come in handy”. Two of most things just because. Was I subconsciously preparing for her space?

It was Fall. The air got even more stuffy in those spaces. Windows closed figuratively and literally. Time was closing in for this shift. I could feel it in the air. I wriggled to find elbow and leg room. My own path at my job was being carved with a heavy but beautiful shovel. Hard work, lots of brush to clear and new paths to pave, but it was mine. I loved the work, I felt pride. It helped with that stuffy air at home. To sweat it out making progress and be praised and rewarded for it. I felt like at work I was building a house with every tool I needed, and at home I was trying to do it with my heart and a stapler.

The majority of my adult life, until a few years ago – consisted of a collection of movements, choices, actions – that were all connected to other people. Helping other people do what they needed to do to continue on their path of happiness. It’s what made me the most happy. You think something is out of your reach? HERE, let me show you how wrong you are, let me show you you can do it, you can reach it,  you can achieve it. There, LOOK how GREAT you are! I knew you could do it! I was the powerhouse behind the powerhouses.

maxresdefaultOne day in late Fall, Maddi started to search for her Space. Not far from home – I would echo as her search began. You want us to help with your dog, and during busy reps for you right? Code for: Ok you can go but please give me some breadcrumbs and a key to your apartment…should you need us…

As the search narrowed, I tried to find things with my own eyes – to fill that space I knew was coming. But nothing could fill a space like that. Nothing ever. No one had earned my love on that level. Who else could I love as much as the human who used to fill that space? Who on earth…

Sometimes an idea comes to you from thought. Sometimes it comes from inspiration or example. Any of those can have lines drawn to them – but I am a true believer in fate, and timing and the universe aligning how it should and just as you need it at that very fleeting moment. It was that kind of moment that I found my passion project. It was the universe, being stirred with a wooden spoon by my brother, with a dash of my maternal back stock, that I had been saving for myself for a rainy day. This back stock is like the little section of cookie dough we save for ourselves when we are making cookies. “It’s not enough for a cookie, I may as well eat it”. That one. Over the years, each time I had prepared this love for another – I had saved a small bit for myself – a little each Mothers Day for the past several years. The love and care I was unable to sprinkle on the person I used to call mother – I was saving it up for when I needed my own mothering. I have often said I am sometimes jealous of the Mother my daughter has. But that means I am jealous of myself? How does that work? Regardless, how am I gonna season her and other people’s lives with this good shit and not take any for myself?

So I brought out my mom dust. My remnants of magic. And realized they needed to be used to season my own feast. I was that person, on earth – that could be loved as much as my own daughter. I was the person who deserved that space and that love. That mama bear magic, was ME. (cue tears cause I sobbed when I wrote this, Oprah would be so proud of me)

And practically overnight my passion project was born. Inspired by a photographer traveling through our studios, by my brother and both his life and his death, my struggles and journey as a mother and wife, inspired by my love of helping people and wanting to lift them up and inspired by my desire to carve a space out just for myself. My Space.

But then, like a whirlwind – everything happened at once. My daughter found a great deal on an apartment. Its perfect mom! BUT I would have to move in before Christmas and your birthday. It’s just 5 blocks away on the same street and LOOK you can see it from the window. AND it has all the bells and whistles!! *wince*

PAUSE. I waited with baited breath for my own reaction. Waited for the air to get stuffy and suffocating. Waited a little longer. I grounded my feet and bent my knees for when my earth started to tremble and crumble.

24294327_10156806327724256_1872130628326576842_nNothing happened. In fact I felt something strange. Was that excitement? Nope, couldn’t be. Okay maybe it was. YES it was actually. Okay we can do this. Let’s do this. DAMN this is actually going to be fun. You want me to help you unpack and get take out Chinese food like best friends? You want me to come over and just hang? All of this INTENTIONAL space. Intentional space with this human I made who now wants to make space for me. Every time we hung out in her space the first few times, I had to hold back tears. It was mind blowing.

Then in my space I began to build. With fervor like I had been hibernating of years. October 12th: Project envisioned. Week one – mission statement and title. Week two – self portrait. Week 3 – first round of portraits. 3 months in now – over 35 portraits and stories have been told. People in this whirlwind throwing around words like Publisher, Gallery Show, Book Deal. Wait wait – it’s almost too daunting. I remind myself “Self Care. Self Love. Self Awareness.” and keep going. But wait – I thought this was just going to be a little thing I used to take a few photos, of family and friends and that was it?

Wrong. This is what happens when you make space and your heart jumps in feet first.

And just like that, 3 spaces were born.
My daughters space.
My own space.
A safe space for people to connect with me on the topic of suicide, mental illness and loss through my passion project.

I have always felt pride. Pride in the way I have mothered my daughter, despite having not the best of examples. Pride in my marriage and my friendship with my husband. Pride for the adult my daughter has grown to become. Pride in our space, and our ability to make a lot out of a little. None of those things were pride I could feel alone. None. It was collective and that’s great, but none were things I am singularly proud of. So now I have this pride that bubbles. It’s a strange and awesome feeling. It’s just mine. I can create rules for it, boundaries, celebrate it anytime I want and navigate the waters absolutely alone. A good alone.

Does this mean I no longer want to care for people and take care of them? Of course not. Does it mean I have “found myself” and am dropping all of my care and self set responsibilities as a mother, wife and friend? NOPE. In fact my care for people has not faltered, and that  is something I am proud of. What it does mean is that with the same LEVEL that I have cared for others and all of these things, I am also now caring for myself. I am caring enough to want to carve a piece of this place out for myself, and sit with bare hands and eat it whole, letting it get beautifully messy. I am caring enough that I want that same size piece of love from myself and FOR myself, as I give to others.

I am asked almost daily by some that know me “HOW are you doing now that Maddi has moved out?? Are you OK!?? Are you so sad with your empty nest?” I am more than OK. I have my daughter wanting to spend intentional time with me, and including me in her life, in her space. I have my own space to room and grow. I am able to continue to help, nurture and care for my adult child from here, while making her proud of the help, nurture and care I am now giving to myself. Her, and my husband are my biggest cheerleaders, both vocalizing how I have been their biggest supporters over the last decade, and how now – they are excited to give that back to me.

I like this space. I wouldn’t have wanted it 6 months, a year, or even 5-10 years ago. I wouldn’t have had the compass to navigate it. I had to go through it all. I love now because of how I loved then.

For more information about my project, Faces of Fortitude feel free to visit my Instagram or Facebook pages.