I think it is typical for people to have a sort of emotional reaction after a long-anticipated event is over. I almost always do. Hell, I have barely recovered from my post-vacation emotional doldrums after last year's once-in-a-lifetime two-week cruise to Europe. Now, I am contending with a sort of one-two punch of sorts. First and foremost there is my reaction to my Dear Daughter's graduation. I managed to get through the experience without either a war with DD or an emotional meltdown. It would be impossible to pass a milestone like that without also having to acknowledge and deal with the passage of time. It seems like only yesterday I held her in my arms and rocked her to sleep. It was 18 years ago, as a matter of fact. The changes in her are all-too obvious. I don't feel as though I have changed at all. The fact is, I have changed and grown and developed every bit as much as she has in the last 18 years. My changes are just harder for me to see (or, perhaps, to accept). I am not the same woman I was.
Last week, I spent my time celebrating my daughter's accomplishments. This week, I've had to do the companion (and much less pleasant) work of acknowledging my own changing, and aging. While I truly celebrate the woman I am growing into (I've always looked forward to being a truly great Old Broad), it would be cheating to pass this milestone without mourning the woman I was. She was something special: happy, strong, eager, energetic. She embraced her new life as a full-time wife, mother and community activist with abandon, and made the most of all of those roles. Looking back, I am very proud of her. I miss that life. I miss the wonderful friends and co-workers I knew then. I miss being 35 and feeling like I had the world by the tail. I miss having my baby curl up in my lap and call me "Mommy".
The second thing I am dealing with this week is the impending resolution of a serious situation in my professional life that has lasted for a number of years. I purposely do not write about my work for a number of reasons and I do not intend to start now. I do have to acknowledge the confluence of the resolution of the situation at work with the other "passages" I am undergoing in my life. I am nervous, scared, and excited. I also feel a little bewildered at the thought that the situation I have lived with for so long might truly go away. There were times I thought it never would.
The sense of being on the verge of being able to breathe freely for the first time in a long time is exhilarating. In a strange way, it is also a little scary. What am I going to do without that albatross hanging around my neck? It's been there so long, I think it may take some adjustments to be able to walk around freely without it.
Perhaps I am encountering just a few of the many faces of Freedom: The freedom of the child-well-launched, with such rich possibilities for a future filled with joy and sorrow, hope and fear; The freedom of the empty-nester who is no longer needed quite so much by her child, both a sad and exciting experience; Freedom from a long-carried burden which has become so familiar I wonder how I shall ever be able to put it down.
"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." I used to think that was an incorrect statement. Now, I think it is correct, as far as it goes, but it is an incomplete statement. I think Freedom is the place where you have put aside the past (either because you have laid it aside voluntarily or because it has been taken from you by circumstances) to the point you have, indeed, lost it. That much is true. But, Freedom is also the place where you also have everything to gain.
The moment when we lay down the burdens of our past, and open our empty arms to an unknown future is the point of perfect Freedom. It is a moment of emptiness, fear (and even terror if you think about it too much), loss and mourning but also of hope, anticipation, excitement and joy. Hard as it is to imagine all those emotions playing out at one time, they can and do coexist ... at least they have all been running rampant through my psyche for the last few days.
Soon, I will reach some new equilibrium that will last for a little while. For now I am free-falling through emotional space/time, getting older by the second and casting aside responsibilities and burdens I have carried for years and years. It is a soul-shattering experience that is as terrifying as it is exhilerating (or vice versa).