Sleeping alone can take some getting used to. The middle of the bed really is the way to go.
It's not as if my husband and I have shared a bed every single night of our lives together -- we haven't -- usually because one or the other of us is traveling. That's when I've enjoyed staying up late, reading and watching old movies, usually at the same time. But last week, when the ice came and wouldn't leave, when the kids were both away at college and my husband was stuck out of town -- it not only wasn't fun, it was downright sobering.
I was all set for the storm -- I knew what to do and how to take care of myself. There were candles and flashlights and extra batteries in case the power went out; I'd bought groceries enough to last me the five days it was predicted to stick around; I'd filled my car up with gas; and I'd made sure pipes under the sinks and in the yard would stay warm. But I couldn't sleep.
Instead, I focused on all the worst-case scenarios. And how big this average-sized house suddenly felt, without anyone inside, but me.
Outside, the streets were empty. I couldn't have walked to a neighbor's even if I wanted to -- it was far too slippery. Had I fallen, nobody would've found me, for a day, at least. There were no phone calls, and nobody to pass the time with. Everyone I knew locally was stuck at home too, or worse, stuck somewhere other than home. My kids were far away, and hadn't a clue. Why would they? Who gets iced-in for days, in Texas?
We'd had plenty of "snow days" when the kids were little. That's when we lived on the East Coast and celebrated days off from school. It gave us time to forget about the routines that framed our lives. Even when the power went out, we made do, together.
Now it was just me. In the middle of the bed. And I wasn't celebrating, I was just plain bummed.
I thought about how my house and lifestyle was designed for raising kids who no longer live here except for school breaks. And in the cold and with the craziness that comes from being iced-in and alone for too many days, I faced what I've been avoiding for months: I'm not just waiting around for the storm to pass, or for my husband to come home so I can slide over to my side of the bed -- I'm waiting for my new life to begin. To figure out where to go from here -- the work I want to do, and maybe even the city I want to do it in.
It's my own fault. . . Here came faster than I expected, in spite of the fact that I made a conscious effort to transition to this empty nest. I've done it successfully in most other aspects regarding my kids, and my relationship with my husband, but not this one. And it makes me feel as if I have failed.
Silly, really. I help other people do this -- move forward, find their voice, their niche . . . I did it for my own kids. Why can't I do it for me?
Am I frightened? Maybe. Hesitant to make the wrong choice at this stage of my life? Probably. Feeling a bit like a dinosaur? Absolutely. Hey, I still prefer to print out everything I read for work and edit it with a pencil and pink eraser. I want to be able to flip real pages to see what's missing, find the holes in the story, review the characters. There's no way you'll convince me that doing this on a computer is as satisfying, or as effective.
I know what you're thinking . . . but it's not true. I like change, I do. I've changed the length of my hair, the cut of my jeans, my lipstick color. But this change is different. It's not superficial. It's more than skin deep. It's about me and who I am, and what I want to represent. And it's probably my last big career change before I don't have a choice. Nobody really wants to say that out loud. But that's the truth about careers and aging. If I were an actress, I'd likely only get the parts of older women and mothers.
I know what I like to do, what I'm good at, what I'm not good at, what I'm still curious about and what I will no longer give up. I've read countless quotes about midlife and reinvention, and perused the blogs and websites. And I've got something left to accomplish. I do.
Still, mine has been an untraditional route to storytelling. I left a full-time career to raise my family, taking on freelance gigs to help support us, to keep me connected to my "voice" and to the world I left behind. But it's not the same as going into an office every day. At least not to the people who hire you.
I know I'm fortunate in that I've been able to make some choices. But like a lot of moms, I did my share of juggling, and then some. The journey was long and complicated and one that I chose at a point in our lives when it was clear that something had to give. And I don't regret it. But I'm not 25 anymore. I have two sons in college. A husband. Responsibilities. And truth be told -- some dreams left unfulfilled.
In the past I put 150% of me, of my energy, into whatever I've done. But my energy is different now. It's coupled with decades of experience and learned wisdom. This time around I'm looking for balance, and hopefully I'll find it before bad weather rolls in, again.
I better get out of bed.