My 20 year old daughter’s going away in a week. Far away (South America), and for a long time (almost a year). And totally on her own.
I’m so proud of Elise, and so excited for her. She was awarded a grant to simply travel and learn. She’s a beautiful, independent, deeply caring, smart, artistic gem. Elise wants to make a difference in this hurting world, and she will.
And it’s so hard for me to let her go. I’m in grief up to my eyeballs. I’m scared for her, too, traveling by herself in a world that clearly does not have her best interests at heart.
Wow. I thought I was “over” empty nesting. But no. Sunday morning I heard a song on Prairie Home Companion called “Letting Go,” about a young woman leaving home, and about the young woman’s mom. Oy. What a poignant, beautiful song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ns9491xhS0 (WARNING: If you’re a mom, don’t listen minus hanky in hand.)
David and I were getting ready to meet his mum for brunch. As I listened to the song, I put my head down on the kitchen counter and sobbed. I couldn’t stop crying. My heart was breaking with her leaving, which it’s been doing frequently this summer, this summer that I’ve been falling in love with her all over again.
David called his mum and explained we’d be late, and why. She understood.
I feel like I’m back at Mother and Child Square One all over again.
Sisters, I admit I hesitate to write this to you. After all, if I had my act perfectly together, would I be stopping every so often to blow my very red nose as I write this? If I’m such a hot spit teacher and life coach, shouldn’t I be bypassing this to tell you something uplifting and inspirational?
I suspect not.
I remember my mom telling me how after we kids would visit her, she’d spend the next day picking. Up. And. Putting. Down. Random. Objects. In. The. House. All. Day.
If she were here (she died two years ago next month), I’d be telling her how broken hearted AND excited I feel for Elise, how blindsided by this fierce and tender love for my daughter moving out into the world.
And I imagine her nodding, saying, Yes, in her husky voice. After launching four children and outliving three husbands, she really got the Big Yes. The Big Yes to love, and all that love brings.
She wouldn’t be exhorting me to be sassy and upbeat. She’d be gently reminding me to say Yes to what’s most important, no matter how hard it might feel in the moment.
If there’s one gift passing 50 has given us, sisters, it’s about having the guts and grace to say a Big Yes to life, unconditionally. No holds barred.
And this Big Yes to life is about saying Yes to it all: not just the postcard sunsets and smiling babies, but Yes to our grief, our insecurities and anxieties, our heartbreaks.
This Big Yes isn’t about being imprisoned by our feelings or wounds. It’s about living a life large enough, big-hearted enough, so there’s space for it all, even for the no’s we say, even for the ways we run from ourselves and our lives.
I offer you the no’s I’m saying this morning:
- No, I don’t want Elise to leave
- No, I don’t want her to grow up and away into an increasingly insane world
- No, I don’t want to acknowledge being old enough to have a grown daughter
All these no’s. All this messiness of being human, deeply loving other humans.
I stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and feel my heart stretching wide enough for all these no’s to rest inside, rather like exhausted little children just needing a safe place to curl up for a while.
And then I realize there’s nothing the Big Yes can’t shelter.
Wow. The whole luscious mess of being 54 (as of last week). An all-of-the-above, rootin’ tootin’ messy woman. A woman who’s got a heart wide enough at 54 for grief AND grace, fear AND love.
Maybe the Big Yes space is the right place for me to be launching Elise from.
Maybe the Big Yes space is where I’ve always wanted to be, the open-armed and wide-hearted assent to the meaningful messiness of my life. Not the Hollywood Version of my life, nor the Perfect Coach and Teacher version, but this. Right here. Right now.
And so I find myself, once again, dancing naked with that crazy Zorba the Greek on that wide sandy beach, celebrating the Divine Messes that we are. That I am right now, so excited for my daughter, and so broken-hearted to see her go, and so scared about the world she’s going out into.
As I dance on this beach, sisters, I realize this Big Yes is really all I need, ever, to keep dancing.
Care to join me on this sandy dance floor?
I’d be honored.