Today I met a friend at a mom-to-mom sale at a church near our old college campus. For those of you who don't know, a mom-to-mom sale is a large indoor rummage sale devoted to mom and baby stuff. The scene involves moms digging through carefully arranged piles of baby clothes looking for a diamond in the rough. There are a couple of dads who typically hang back, sometimes with babies strapped to them or listlessly pushing a stroller back and forth containing a sleeping baby and re-used grocery bags filled with treasures.
My friend and I came from different directions but both drove past campus on our way to the sale. Mid-way through the sale, my friend commented about how sentimental she got driving past campus. I told her I had the same thoughts. Neither one of us wants to erase what we have. We love our lives, our husbands and our babies with every inch of ourselves, but we both concluded that it would be nice to have a do-over for college. To make more of the time we were given- study abroad, be more deliberate about the classes that we took (like taking life-enriching courses as opposed to only those that weren't scheduled at 8am or on Fridays).
I am the first to admit that I didn't exactly make the most out of college. By my junior year, all dreams of heading to NYC for a career in theatre had all but vanished as I decided to set my sights on more practical endeavors. It took me over 3 years after I graduated to set foot onstage again and for 5 straight years I performed in over a dozen productions trying so hard to make up for lost time. Theatre brought me so many gifts- confidence, friendships, a husband. So it was with mixed feelings that I recently turned down an opportunity to audition for a play. There are so many reasons why:
- I'm not feeling mentally prepared for the time commitment
- Jack needs me
- Baby weight issues
- I doubt I could memorize anything right now
- I go to bed by 9:30
- I just don't want to
That last one scares me the most. Because when I strip away all of those other excuses which are all things for which I could find support, I just don't want to be involved in theatre right now and sometimes I worry that I might be losing this piece of myself.
And that leads me to my conversation this morning. I close my eyes and imagine that I'm standing in a vast field. I am calm. The sky stretches out for miles and the only sound is the nearly imperceptible whistle of the wind through the grass. That is life before a child.
I close my eyes, I imagine me in that same field. It's quiet. Too quiet. My eyes dart all around and I'm running, faster, faster, calling out "Hello? Where are you? I can't see you!"
I am tethered.
I was tethered physically for 9 months and for 13 months since then, I've been emotionally tethered. I have spent time away from Jack since he was born, but not for any extended periods of time, save the 9 hours I spend at work each day. And despite the unpleasantness of the word "tether", I don't feel harmed by it. A tether is a cord, fixture or signal that anchors something movable to a reference point which may be fixed or moving. Jack is my movable object right now and I am his reference point and sometimes I feel very fixed. We are mostly weaned, which helps us both gain some independence. Jack nurses like most adults drink booze- only nights and weekends...and some mornings, but only if it's been a rough night.
Yes, sometimes I feel very fixed, like a stake in the yard and he's a little puppy yapping and chasing squirrels all around me.
But sometimes...more often than not... I see things this way.
Somewhere high above Earth, there is a space anchor, or ballast. Let's call it Nancy, and a spacecraft, let's call it the Captain Jack Rigel and they float up there, held together by a tether. In space, there is a technique called momentum exchange tethering where a rotating tether will grab a spacecraft and then release it at a later time. Doing this can transfer momentum and energy from the tether to and from the spacecraft with very little loss. And every day the anchor, along with her handsome anchor husband, transfers energy through that tether awaiting the spacecraft's inevitable release.
It's lonely being a space anchor. It doesn't leave you much time for theatre, hobbies, friends, good books, long showers, nail polish, exercise, movies or TV. And yes, as glorious as the physics of it is, there is some energy loss. But over time that spacecraft gains energy, altitude, momentum, and independence as it prepares to take off on a long journey. It's all possible because of that anchor who gives up its freedom for a little while.
I look at Jack. Our tether is quite short right now. Our galaxy consists of the thousand or so square feet of our little house on the corner of our street. In years to come, the tether will grow longer and longer until he gains the momentum he needs to fly.
Yes, it's hard being tethered sometimes. But if I remember to open my eyes to see what we have, I gaze at our little world, I see the tether stretching and, meanwhile, all around us...
we have the most glorious view of the stars.
|See that brightest star? The left foot of Orion? That's Rigel.|