Her eyes twinkled with excitement, and she couldn't wait to shut the door.
I'm sure that once I left, she jumped and cheered: "Yes, yes!"
What do you expect? She's my daughter.
I drove away with mixed feelings.
"The time has come when the last child leaves the nest," I thought.
Although my older daughter had left a few years earlier, I had not been as affected then because someone had stayed back with me.
Someone to pamper, spend time with, care for; I'm a mom after all; that's what mothers do...
When I got to my now empty home, I crashed on the couch and stared in space for hours; mixed emotions, images from past and future, came to mind. Exhausted from the recent ordeal, I was soon carried away to the land of dreams...
My next few weeks were strange. I was afraid to sleep alone. You see, I was used to having someone in the house and silence was deafening! I was starving, thinking that it's silly to cook for myself or eat out alone.
Caring constantly for someone else was rooted so deeply within me that I didn't know what to do when it was gone. Of course I continued to meet with my clients, to exercise, etc.
However, I realized that my career, my personal satisfaction, and other relationships had become lesser priority. I always had a very busy and active life, but with the prospect of returning home to my children.
I spent many nights sobbing. I remembered what I did, what I didn't do, what I should have done... I felt lost, scared, unprotected.
How strange: We think that we care for and protect our kids, but they are the ones who rejuvenate us with their fresh presence.
All this time I was saying, "I can't wait until they grow up so that I can do what I always wanted!"
What did I want?
What do I want now?
These questions swirl in my mind.
You see our "wants" change; things that we thought we desired are now meaningless...
I didn't share this challenge of mine with my daughters because I didn't want to hold them hostages as I tried to cover my own emotional emptiness. My wish is for them to live strong, free, and independent.
I joined several meet-ups, went on silly dates, attended meaningless parties. I spent endless hours working, often stayed up all night, cried while eating dark chocolate with almonds as I watched lame movies.
I'm not sure exactly when the transition occurred.
I got up one morning for my workout and, as I looked in the mirror I said: "You look pathetic!" Maybe it was the poor light, or the fact that I had not slept well. Or perhaps, as an eighties' child, I saw "Rocky" reflected in my mirror, with his bruised eye, the look of impending defeat, the fear that this would be his last chance!
And that's when I burst out laughing!
With Rocky's theme still buzzing in my head, I had the best workout in four years.
Soon I started the transformations, first in my external world: my apartment, wardrobe, hair; I focused more creatively on my career; attended challenging educational seminars; reconnected with old friends; made new ones; organized interesting get-togethers; picked up new hobbies.
But most of all, I spent a great deal of time with myself!
And this is my main point: The best gift that I received through this change was to reconnect and reengage with myself.
You see, when I first stayed alone, I felt like a wild animal kept in captivity for a long time. Set free, I was afraid to run into the jungle. Freedom and the unknown feel terrifying compared to the "cocoon of safety" in which we are conditioned to live. And this is the greatest trap.
The first step towards true liberation is to reconnect with our self; to discover our deeper desires and get them! To achieve this, we need to be enveloped in the love, acceptance, and effective care of our self.
Actually, by inching hesitantly into the "wild jungle," I discovered that it's my natural habitat!
I'm alone, I'm alone, I'm alone; yeah!
As I gradually discover and follow everything that I desire and work to make it happen, I am gradually founding my balance
My relationship with my daughters has never been better. We have a perfect time when they return home and we trade... clothes and love! My self-assurance gives them confidence. My new activities inspire them and, to encourage me, they signed me up for sky diving on my birthday.
I dance to loud music in the morning without worrying that I might wake someone in the house. Oh, and I was able to cook my favorite okra dish without someone yelling "yuck!"
They say that when you are in love, you radiate it and this attracts the admiration of others. For the first time in my life, I'm in love with myself and my best dates are with me. This new-found reconnection reveals even greater love from within. As I dig deeper into its source, more gushes out and I can share the excess love with even more people around me.
How can we expect someone else to appreciate us if we can't first appreciate ourselves?
I now like all my inner and outer scars, wrinkles and other "attributes." They are parts of my unique and unrepeatable life; things that remind me of my defeats, but also of my greatest victory: That of being able to feel, live and express my sentiments, while always looking at the bright side!
Lately, when I wake up in the morning and look at the mirror I often say: "Wow!"
And indeed, I saw that same reflection in the eyes of the man who walked by me the other day, when he smiled in a telling way and said: "Good morning, wonderful day today! Don't you think so?"