Our daughter Owen got married a few weeks ago. It was, by all accounts, a joyous occasion. It was the one cold, damp evening of the month, but her happiness was so contagious that it didn’t make a whit of difference. Everyone partied on until the wee hours—outdoors, mind you, in the limestone, twinkly-lit courtyard of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center—oblivious to the stinkin’ weather.
Yet there was the inevitable “crash” after the festivities, complicated by my right hip going out (too much wedding prep, three hours of reckless dancing) and the poignant realization that with each of our adult children’s milestones, my husband and I are fading into the distance. In five weeks, our eldest son Jesse is following matrimonial suit, and our youngest child, Sam, has settled into a serious relationship.
The bottom line: they don’t need us much anymore.
Now what, I think to myself. I’m hoping this is just a normal come-down from a high, but since I’m now walking with a cane, post MRI, and the “kids” are moving so definitively into their grown-up lives, I suspect that this is a symbolic transition into an older age that I have stubbornly refused to acknowledge. Could this be depression? I am not a depressed person; I might be sad for a day or two at times, but I never live there. This time, I’m not so resilient.
When the children were young, I used to picture myself as the Sun—radiant, powerful, even indestructible—with the smaller planets of my children, and even my husband, orbiting around me. Now I fear I’ve become a faint, distant star, light years away, losing my brilliance as I die a slow, inconspicuous death.
But I am not lying down for this (except when I’m resting my hip). I am swimming laps and otherwise doing water therapy, continuing my vocation as a psychotherapist, de-cluttering our house, faithfully attending my spiritual group, and trying to keep up social contacts. I have to admit, though, that my heart is not quite in it. I am going through the motions, but I’m burdened by coming to terms.
So I am trying to take my own therapeutic advice: sitting with these feelings, this sense of loss, and allowing myself, even assigning myself, to grieve. A part of me considers this a selfish process as in a way, what I’m really grieving is my lost youth, or at least my relative youth. I’m grieving my loss of significance, my loss of agency in the younger world of technology, and the loss of my old self-image as a kind of life force. None of this is admirable: me, me, me. Yet it IS human, and sometimes we have to burrow into ourselves in order to emerge anew.
For the time being, then, I’m burrowing. I simply have to keep the faith that eventually, I’ll see a faint light in the distance—that distant star, blinking, brightening, finally surging back to life.
*reference: Titled borrowed from the late musician Chris Bell/Big Star