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Rebirth…

I wasn’t sure what to title this post, but since I am reading A Tale of Two Cities (for the 7th time) with my Brit Lit class, I have the theme of rebirth on my mind … and truthfully, it fits here.

I understand that the grief process is different for each individual.  And since I have never experienced grief before, I suppose I had a pre-determined image of what that would look like for me.  I imagined the scene of The Godfather movie (my husband is Italian and I am well-versed in this genre)… where the professional mourners are dressed in black, gray hair atop their heads in a tight bun, moaning and wailing in the back of the church.  Only I don’t wail.  And I do not dress in black.  And I am not Italian (only married to one).

For me mourning took a different path.  I did not wail and honestly, I barely shed a tear.  My dad died in 2006 and two short months later I found myself responsible for the care of my aging mother who grieved in the form of hallucinations rather than tears.  Her psychological issues, paired with her physical limitations of orthostatic hypertension and congestive heart failure, nearly consumed me.  I was trying to raise my own children, fulfill a teaching career that at one point spanned nine different class preps, and provide her with the love and care that I knew she deserved.  In the end, she just couldn’t go on … and I assumed the guilt of allowing her to die.

I tried to mask the pain.  I treated myself to a thirty year dream of going to Paris – and while that was wonderful in so many different ways, it did not fill the void that was left inside of me.  I continued to teach, but the frustrations outweighed the long-term fruits of labor.  I was burnt out, but refused to accept my limitations.  In the end, I was fooling no one, especially myself.

So in these past two years since Mom’s death I have had to do some soul searching.  What is it that truly captures my heart?  What is it that I truly wish to accomplish in life?  Who am I?

The past six months have been difficult and quite honestly, I had no idea the answer to any of these questions.  I debated retiring from teaching – but I couldn’t voice that here in the off-chance that a fellow student might read it and not understand the full story behind the desire.  I managed to frustrate every person in my family and cause major anxiety and drama.  I was not me… and  yet I did not know who me was anymore.

I was no longer a daughter.  And I was now the “matriarch”  I was still a mother – and yet the mother of adult children, which is an entirely different type of parenting.  I was a grandmother and yet did not feel old enough to be called by that title.  I was a teacher and yet so weary of the grading.  What was the next step in life?  Did I have control of that step – or was it all outside my sphere of influence?

Such confusion.

But on this April Fool’s Day I feel less foolish than I have in a long while.  Today I feel more in control of my own life than I have in years.  I am quite hopeful of the future and am anxious to see what new adventures await.

My granddaughter….

Family is the first priority.  And while we are not perfect, we are family.  We deeply care for one another and we refuse to give up.  I apologize for the drama I have caused, but I am grateful for the grace and forgiveness I have received.  Being a grandmother is a gift – and I cherish each and every moment of being “Olly”

Teaching a part of me.  I did not go in search of this career, it found me.  But I have welcomed this phase of life and am not yet willing to let it go.  I have the distinct privilege to work for a group of people that are not only dedicated to their craft, but also to their Savior.  And I am indeed grateful to report to an administration that looks for the good in all.  I needed a break, for sure … but rather than quitting I have been allowed to scale back my schedule.  I will now only teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays – and I will be teaching only the classes that I truly love:  Brit Lit and English Comp.  I am indeed blessed – and I hope that I can continue to make a difference in the lives as students as they surely make an impact on my own life.

There is a quote by S. E. Hinton that goes something like this:  “If you have two friends in your lifetime you are lucky.  If you have one GOOD friend you are more than lucky.”  I have never been what one would consider popular – and it wasn’t until after college that I realized popular is not all it is cracked up to be.  The pressure of maintaining contact with everyone and being there when needed and providing the right amount of encouragement to all is absolutely exhausting to me.  But now that I am in my 50s I have realized that I am indeed blessed with friends.  I have three friends whom I know that I can call and they will be there for me – just as I will be there for them.  And I do not take that for granted.

And while my life is full with family, meaningful career, and friends … I am also blessed to have interests outside these spheres that keep me mentally challenged.  I am thrilled to begin a writing endeavor (I am not yet brave enough to call it a career), and I love the idea of capturing a moment of life in photographs as well.  I enjoy creativity in the kitchen and I look forward to continuing my interest in paper crafts.  Yes. life is full – and I want to experience each glorious moment.

So while I was not officially “dead” – I do believe I was dead in spirit.  The body can only handle so much stress and I was over my limit.  I needed to hibernate – hide away – and discern how to become whole again.

But I think I am there – or almost.  And I do indeed feel reborn.  I have another half of life to live – and I intend to live it to the fullest.

8 Comments

  • Sandy Nawrot

    I think with every decade or stage in our lives, we go through trials that test our mettle. I think the key is keeping your family close, keeping God close, and allowing yourself time for breaks. And you are doing all these things! Like Candace said it has been a rough time for you, but you have come out the other side a stronger woman. I look forward to hearing more from you!!

  • Carola Bartz

    Molly, your honesty is absolutely refreshing.

    There is a lot in this post. Let me just comment on one aspect, that of grief.

    I lost my youngest daughter (she was stillborn) 13 years ago and my mom 6 years ago. The grief for both was very different and is still going on in some way or other. My daughter's death was totally unexpected and very hard to cope with; my mom's death was a relief because she didn't have to suffer anymore. I shed many tears for my daughter and almost none for my mom. But I miss my mom very much, I think of her every day. I had always thought that one day I can finally cry, but that has never happened – and I have no idea why. My daughter's stillbirth still hurts, and no, time is no healer. At all. It does get easier, but it doesn't heal. Sometimes I wonder whether it has made me numb in some kind of way.

    Blogging, painting, photography have helped me. It feels good to write about my mom. I haven't written about my youngest yet. I have no idea whether I ever will.

    There is so much in your post that I could comment on, but that would be way too much in this space. It was good to read this because I can relate.

  • Literary Feline

    What a beautiful post, Molly. Thank you for sharing. I know it hasn't been an easy time for you and I can't even imagine the difficulties you've faced. Our experiences of late are so different and yet I can't help but relate to what you've felt and gone through on some level.

    I met with my therapist for postpartum depression for the last time the week before last, and I treated myself to a handmade afghan to "celebrate". I've always wanted one of my own (not talented enough to make one myself), and I like the symbolism–a blanket to comfort and warm me. A reminder to take care of and be gentle with myself.

    For a long while there, I felt truly consumed and lost . . . Having lost my dad during that time as well didn't help. I tried to keep a brave face, but even that crumpled in the end.

    I want you to know how much your words mean to me and how lucky I feel to know you. You are an amazing woman. Sending big hugs your way.

  • Kathleen

    Molly, you are truly amazing and always seem to inspire me with every post. I think these middle years are harder than we ever imagined and losing loved ones only make the normal changes and transitions of our children growing up and leaving us, more difficult. I'm glad you had some respite and are feeling more refreshed. I look forward to hearing all about your journey and where it leads you next.

  • Lisa

    I'm so happy to hear that you are doing better. You are so right, grief takes many forms and it's different for everyone and different with every loss. Yours came at a time of life that's already hard for women with so many changes in life. You truly are blessed with all you have.

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