Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

My struggles leading up to my Son’s departure for college and during his Freshman year were well documented in multiple posts in “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years, aka his teens” and even on this site, so I won’t rehash them here.

If you haven’t already read them, I’ve included links below.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/loosening-the-tether/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/season-of-transition/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/home-for-dinner/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/08/31/but-really-what-are-you-feeling/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/adjusting-to-my-new-norm/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2018/12/30/every-new-beginning-comes-from-some-other-beginnings-end-seneca/

https://wakingthewoman.com/2019/04/28/confused-self-image/

I mention these struggles because it sets up my state of mind this month.

AND

How my thoughts meandered from facing my empty nest again, to where I am in my life, to what comes next, to my age, and the thought that my age, late fifties, has got to be some of the weirdest and toughest times to navigate, next to adolescence and teens of course.

I’m no longer middle-aged, but not quite yet considered a senior citizen, even if AARP is available at 55. Although, some days I do feel like I’m prehistoric, especially at the end of a long workday or week.

With my Son in college, my parenting demands are extremely diminished. As a matter of fact, while my Son is away at college they’re practically non-existent. Which is quite an adjustment after single parenting from day one.

AND

I’m not old enough to retire, but most certainly wish I could. 

BASICALLY

I’m somewhere “IN-BETWEEN” raising kids and retiring, and not quite sure where I fit in. It’s kind of a time of limbo.

A limbo that will take some adjusting too.

WHY?

My Son does still need me, at times, so my parenting duties are on again off again. This creates a push and pull scenario with me.

Just when I get in the rhythm of flying solo, my Son is home on break and it’s back to full-time Mom duty.

Particularly in the kitchen. Having to seriously plan dinners for a week after a long break takes some adjusting to.

Then there are the fantasies about retirement that sometimes make the workday seem longer.

Knowing I have a little over 8 years till I can officially retire and get full Social Security can challenge my psyche. It’s like the notion of retirement is taunting me. Closer than it was five years ago, but longer than I wish it was.

The thing with retirement though, it may be too early to start a countdown, but it’s never too early to start planning. This certainly helps push me through every workweek. Realizing there is light at the end of tunnel, even though faint, lightens the load.

I have friends who have retired, as have the majority of my siblings, yet the bulk of my co-workers are just starting families, raising young children or just starting the high school journey. To them the thought of college, empty nesting and retirement hasn’t even crossed their minds.

Not that I don’t have co-workers in a similar place as me. It’s just that we’re out-numbered by the young-ins.

Being somewhere between these worlds is kind of strange at times, and really does make me think about my age.

Something I never really did before. I guess because I was too busy raising my Son and helping with my Mom in her later life to even consider it.

BUT, with my Son turning twenty in December, it finally hit me.

I’m knocking at the door of 60. 

Not that 60 is old, my Mom was 94 when she passed, and up until 90 she was doing pretty good. She was very youthful in her thought process, and I feel all her children inherited that.

Age is just a number; it’s your state of mind that impacts how old you actually feel. 

That’s probably why I never gave my age a second thought, until now.

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” years makes my mind wander to the past, thinking about all the life I’ve already lived.

AND

Wonder about the future and the prospect of retirement and how to make it a reality.

I certainly have a real desire to slow down and take a little more time for me, but because I still have the sometime demands of parenting and the full-time demands of work, it’s hard

Then I look around my house at all the unfinished projects (that accumulated during my Son’s high school marching band days) that I thought I would tackle once my Son was away at school and get mad at myself because I barely tackled anything during his Freshman.

Not because I’m lazy, but because I’m tired during the week, having a thyroid disorder and doing overtime certainly doesn’t help.

Weekends then turn into to playing catch-up

BUT

As I discovered during my Son’s Freshman year, sometimes weekends turn into driving an hour one way to the college because of an issue with my Son. Whether it is moving him to a new dorm because of a rude roommate, or his computer is on the fritz, there goes any free time that could have been for projects at home.

Those “IN-BETWEEN” years rearing their ugly head.

I’m beginning to think though that maybe the “IN-BETWEEN” years are really more like a stepping-stone to retirement.

A time to not only plan financially, but mentally and emotional work on the adjustments needed to go from working full-time, to no-time, or should I say My Time.

Oh how glorious the sound of My Time is, but I know some people have a hard time adjusting when the daily routine of marching off to their job ends.

So it’s crucial to prepare for that change, and this “IN-BETWEEN” time is ideal.

And, I also have to start preparing for the day post college graduation when my Son heads off on his new career venture. This could be even harder than him leaving for college.

So, I guess, instead of being challenged by this “IN-BETWEEN” time, I need to embrace it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Images originally posted in “Waking the Walker” – purchased from 123rf.com

60 – 123rf.com – copyright – miceking

Finding Peace in Every Day

With my annual exodus to the beach to recharge my soul now behind me, I’m working hard at carrying the calm that comes from the sea air and surf with me as I face each day in the real world.

As I told a co-worker “I’m trying hard to hang onto my vacation shine.”

This is something I tell myself I’m going to do every year, but a month or two into the real world post vacation I’m working my way back into the “when is my next day off mind-set.”

I don’t mean the weekend; I mean an actual vacation day, a day with no real schedule, a day to play.

Like a day off is the cure all for the every day stresses we all endure. Granted it helps, but there has to be a way to find peace throughout every day, not just on a vacation day. Especially when they’re so few and far between.

Rumor has it, the key to finding this peace is to pause, breath deep and center your thoughts on something tranquil. This may be true, but the real trick is to prevent getting to this point

As I drove to work one morning since my beach trip, at a point in my travels where I crest a hill and the morning sun shines across the hills of the valley, my thoughts meandered to the calm I felt as I took in the beauty of nature. It was the same calm that happens when I’m free from schedules, deadlines and to do lists.

I may have been driving to work, but my mind and body were calm and free from the typical morning watch the clock en route to work mode.

It was at this point that I realized the key to carrying the calm the beach gives me is to find that calm from nature throughout every day, not just when I’m intentionally taking a break to do so, like a week at the beach or a walk or bike ride on the trail near my house.

I need to consciously pause daily to observe this beauty and soak in the calm.

Observing nature around me when I’m driving is the norm for me, but while in the office it’s a different story. Like most, my office is in a suburban area and I’m stuck in a cubicle. So observing nature takes more of an effort. Not that there aren’t windows in the building, but I have to leave my cubicle to access them which is certainly doable, but standing at the front door staring out may concern my Boss.

It’s a matter of being attentive to the smallest thing, even if just in passing.

A small bird building a nest above the front door, the wind lightly rustling the leaves on the branches of the tree in front of the building or the shadows the sun casts on the sidewalk as it dances through the leaves of the tree.

Allowing my attention to drift from my work to the beauty outside the window is essential to me fulfilling my desire to “hang onto my vacation shine.”

This might seem a bit spacey, but taking just 30 seconds to pause and focus on something other than the task at hand will allow me to clear the clutter of the day from my brain and allow my mind and body to calm itself.

At home I sometimes do this randomly, especially at sunrise and sunset. I’m a real sky watcher and the drama and colors that can explode at those times can stop me in my tracks, and often do.

SO, I do have this built into my make-up, it’s just a matter of consciously taking a moment during the busy work day to look out the window, soak up natures beauty and recharge, even if I’m not feeling stressed.

The idea of being pro-active when it comes to nipping stress in the bud before it strikes is nothing new. There are plenty of books, magazines and blogs with “how to” info, BUT, what works for one, may not work for another, so the trick is finding what calms you, and then figuring out a way to seek this during the flurry of every day.

For me that thing is obviously nature. It has a soothing effect on me. Using it as “therapy” during the workday is something I never thought of before, at least consciously.

Beyond the anti-stress benefits, I also find being in-tune with nature to be very beneficial to my spiritual growth which just so happens to also tie directly into my road of self-rediscovery.

Whether we want to admit it or not, all journeys of self-discovery or rediscovery involve some level of spiritual awakening or reawakening. After all, we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and our spirit is here to experience all the lessons this life has to offer.

So I see this “30 seconds of nature to stay calm epiphany” as a stepping-stone in my sojourn to rediscover myself. A stepping stone that can turn into a leap if I can truly live by my words.

The pressures of every day will be the real barometer of my success. I’ll keep you posted.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Confused Self-Image

Self-Image –
one’s conception of oneself or of one’s role
the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance

One of the key things I’ve discovered since my Son went off to college is the fact that my self-image is very much tied to being a Mom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Being a parent is at the same time the one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs anyone can take on.

As a parent you’re responsible for molding a little human. For me I prayed every day I was making the right decisions in guiding my Son on the right path to become a competent and compassionate human being, capable of standing on his own two feet.

I put my heart and soul into being a Mom, working tirelessly day and night never looking for anything more than a hug or an “I love you.”

My life revolved around my Son’s needs. I took a back seat.

Who I was before having my Son became a distant image in the rear view mirror of my life.

BUT, what happens to me when my position as Mom is downsized because my Son went off to college?

It’s back to being about me, but who am I outside of being a Mom?

How do I even begin to see myself as something more than my Son’s Mom?

How do I rewire my brain?

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/a-year-of-lasts/

Becoming a Mom was a dream I had all but given up on, so when I became one at 38, nothing else in the world mattered.

By that point in my life, I had done a lot of self-discovery, so “Mom” became just one more facet of me. A facet I was thrilled to explore. And one that quickly took over and became the primary facet, which I was content with.

I absolutely love being a Mom, but I see now more than ever, I’ve also attached my purpose and self-worth to this one role.

AND, with my Son off learning to make his own mark on the world, I’m feeling a bit lost. I feel as though I’ve lost my purpose. I’m not quite sure who I am any more. Am I still truly valued?

I realize my Son does still need me and I retain the title of “Mom” but it’s only part-time, so I have to figure out just “who” I really am beyond being a Mom.

The “me” before becoming a Mom has faded away over the years, and now that I’m older, I’m not sure that “me” is still valid.

I have to find the new “My Kid is in College Woman.”

And, I have to find a way to blend both the “Part-Time Mom” and the “My Kid is in College Woman” into one complete “me.”

I figured once my nest was empty the rediscovery process would just come naturally, but I’ve found over the course of my Son’s Freshman year this has not been the case.

After the first few months I thought I had reached a point where I was past the lost feeling and would be able to jump that hurdle, but last month kicked me in the butt. I lost all momentum and feel like I’m back at square one.

Just when I start to allow myself to tap into the “who” I am beyond being a Mom, my Son is either home on break, or has an issue at school that requires my attention.

In a few weeks my Son’s Freshman year of college will be completed and he’ll be home for the Summer.

What happens then?

Do I put my whole rediscovery journey on hold?

That would certainly be the easy route, the avoiding the growth route. BUT it would also be a disservice to both my Son and I.

My Son needs to see a Mom who is a healthy, happy and vital woman. He needs to see me as more than just Mom. This way he knows Mom will be fine when the day comes for him to officially go off to start a life of his own.

AND, I know for my own wellbeing; emotionally, mentally and physically; I need to push myself to grow beyond seeing myself as just a Mom.

They say the first step to change is acknowledging you need to change. So, at least I’ve gotten to that point during my Son’s first year of college.

I know I have a long way to go, but once I peel back the first layer of soul searching the real adventure will begin.

In so doing I’m quite sure I will find a new direction/purpose and finally begin to feel whole again.

Let’s just hope I can stand my ground once my Son is back in the nest for the Summer. In all honesty that will probably be my biggest test.

I’ll keep you posted.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Female Icon – donets

OUT OF SORTS

So, after my ever-optimistic “Dare to Dream” post last month I headed into March feeling really good about everything. All seemed right in my little world.

I had direction and an end game when it came to my writing. Even if I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

I was adjusting to being an empty nester and even looking forward to free weekends that I could start to fill with unfinished projects.

AND

I was in a rhythm at work, busy, but not overloaded. I felt like I was firing on all cylinders.

UNTIL

The first week of March when I started to feel ”out of sorts.” Everything seemed out of whack. My mojo was seriously off and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

OF COURSE THIS MADE ME WONDER…

Was it stepping back into the world of the music boosters at my Son’s former high school to help with a fundraiser I had already retired from?  Going to a meeting after months of being away felt very strange. I most certainly felt out of place.

Was it the unexpected trip back and forth to my Son at college because his computer was on the fritz? This of course ate up a weekend. And the following Saturday because when I returned the computer to my Son, he injured his foot coming down the steps to meet me, which landed us a trip to the local emergicenter. So much for the free weekends to get back to unfinished projects

OR

Was it the slow period at work that lasted longer than a day or two? Which is not the norm. So much for firing on all cylinders, my cylinders were stalling. 

ALL THIS WONDERING DIDN’T HELP – IT MADE THINGS WORSE

It put me into an overthinking mode, especially about work and money. Which pushed me into the “how am I going to make ends meet if this slow period keeps up?” and  “should I start looking for a P/T job just to be safe?” mindset. 

My brain got caught up in a constant loop, chronically rewinding and reviewing the same thoughts over and over again. This is the kiss of death and guarantees there will be no resolve to whatever the dilemma was I had built up in my head.

This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it takes over, usually for a day or two, and then I snap out of it. This time was different. It lingered, and meandered into every aspect of my life. 

I wasn’t depressed. I just didn’t feel like myself. It felt like my sense of order was gone. I was not inspired about anything. 

Even thinking about writing wasn’t enough to snap me out of the funk that had taken over. As a matter of fact I was at a loss for what the topic of this month’s post would be. Which is kind of ironic because being “out of sorts” is a perfect topic.

As the month unfolded things picked up at work, like a flip of the coin, so that helped me shake some of the funk, but it wasn’t completely gone. My mind felt very distracted at times, and my focus was off. And the fears of another slow down still lingered on the peripherals.

To be honest, as I write this it’s still kind of lingering around, especially with the writing. I’m truly struggling finding the words.

ADDED TO ALL THIS WAS…

My Son home on Spring Break for a week. Of course having my Son home is always nice, I enjoy the company, but it seems every time I start to get into the rhythm of just me at home, I have to switch back to being Mom full-time and all that goes with it, like making dinner every night. Something I don’t have to do when it’s just me.

And, this makes me feel like I’m starting all over every time my Son goes back to college.

AND LET’S NOT FORGET…

The time change. That certainly didn’t help. The first week went well, but by week two I started to feel like I had jet lag and it’s still lingering. I’m tired off and on all day at work, but at night can’t sleep through the night.

OH, AND THEN THERE’S…

Mercury retro from March 5 – 28th. Mercury retro can wreak havoc on many fronts, the most of which are all things electronic and communication.

Although mercury goes retro a couple times a year, I don’t recall ever experiencing this level of funk in the past, but considering all that has gone on, I can’t help but think it comes into play. Especially the mess with my Son’s computer and the stuff at work.

For those of you who aren’t astrologically minded, and would like to learn more about mercury retro, below is a link from my favorite astrologer Melissa Stratton. 

https://www.heavenlymessagesbymelissa.com/2014/01/31/mercury-retrograde/

SO….

As the month of March draws to a close, I am still teetering back and forth with coming out of the funk and meandering back in. Something is definitely off with me, but just what it is, is still not clear.

Despite all the wondering, I have not come to any clear conclusions.

Throughout the month however, I have tried many things to help break through the cloud of confusion. Some have helped, while others had no impact.

The one thing that aided me the best was verbal and written affirmations, especially in regards to my work/money anxieties.

Affirmations and prayer all tie into spiritual development and if there’s one thing I’m sure of, when on a journey of self-discovery, part of that journey has to tap into spiritual growth.

So, maybe this swirling cesspool of discombobulation is really just the universe nudging me, or should I say pushing me, to dig deeper into my soul before any real self-discovery can be accomplished.

IF there’s one thing I have discovered since becoming a parent, it is so much of my time has been spent doing, with very little time to just be. It is in those moments that we have revelations or discoveries.

I honestly don’t know what that means any more, and this month has certainly brought that to light. When I left my husband back in the nineties, I spent two years doing some major soul-searching. It was during that time I unearthed my love and passion for writing.

As I look back at that time, I remember how alive and free I felt. I know I can get there again. I just think it may take a little longer.

Why? Because I’m twenty-some years older now, and the life experiences I have had have made a huge impact on who I am now. Becoming a Mom being the most impactful.

Although my Son may be away at college, I am still caught between two worlds, the world of Full-Time Mom and Empty Nester. And it is in this limbo world I need to learn to exist, and grow.

SO, with all this said, I’m guessing my “out of sorts” feeling is one that will more than likely come and go until I can get to the other side of this limbo world.

Until then, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s hope April brings greater clarity allowing me to move forward.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2019. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Leap of Faith – Sawitree Pamee