I think one of the issues that we have is that we don't necessarily recognize that a thought is just a thought. We have a certain thought, we take it to heart, we build a future on it, we think, "This is the only thing I'll ever feel", "I'm an angry person and I always will be", "I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life", and that process happens pretty quickly.
My life is in transition. Or more accurately, the lives of those around me – three teenagers – are in transition and therefore mine is too. My eldest is thinking about colleges and careers, my middle one is embracing high school, and my youngest, just turned 13, has discovered the mirror and the face she sees reflected back at her.
And I am increasingly relegated to the sidelines. Having been the first person my kids turned to for anything, whether for dinner, help with homework, or an aching heart, these days I'm more often on the outside of conversations between my kids and their friends. It's developmentally appropriate, of course. I know this. I understand the power of the peer group and know that my young adults need to venture forth to test out their wings while the nest is still near enough for retreat when necessary.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.
And so I find myself, more than I'd like to admit, convinced that this sadness will follow me the rest of my life. That the best days are behind me. That I spent the potentially best years of my career focussed on raising children. That I squandered years nursing my broken heart post D-Day.
I wallow in maudlin thoughts. That's probably the last time I'll ever push my child on a swing, I think. I've probably run my last 10K race, I figure. I doubt I'll ever write a bestselling book, I tell myself.
I feel old. Tossed aside. My best years behind me.
I felt that way after D-Day, of course. I couldn't imagine that I would ever EVER feel okay again. I was sure that the rest of my life, whether I stayed in my marriage or threw him out, would be misery.
I laugh at that now, grateful to have been so wrong.
But here I am, learning the lesson again. I'm sad and sadness can feel like a heavy blanket that we can't imagine getting out from beneath.
But that's today. Today I'm overtired having entertained 20 guests for dinner last night. Today I ate carrot cake for lunch so feel kinda gross. Today I decided not to go for a hike, which always makes me feel better, and instead to focus on the many ways in which my children are breaking my heart.
I have to remind myself that today is not forever. Today is just...today. A week ago, I felt on top of the world. A week ago, I was in love with my life. A week ago, I felt certain that my career was on an upward trajectory, that many of the seeds I've sown are taking root. I felt adored by my children, cherished by my husband.
My wonderful therapist whose words stay with me long since we've stopped seeing each other used to remind me, gently and consistently, that "feelings are not facts." This was usually in response to some declaration I would make. "I'm miserable," I would say. "I can't live like this for another minute."
"Feelings are not facts," she would say and, at first, I was annoyed. What the hell did that mean? If I don't follow my feelings, then how do I know which course to take?
Her point, of course, was that feelings change. Sometimes over years, sometimes over a day. She wasn't advising against following my feelings, she was advising against making life-altering decisions based on what I was feeling at that exact moment. Sit with them, she would suggest. See if you feel the same way tomorrow. See if you feel the same way after you initiate a difficult conversation. See if these are feelings or facts.
I try to remember this as I'm called upon to drive my 17-year-old to her boyfriend's place. I'm reminded that just six months ago she felt sure she would never, ever like another boy again, after the one who'd been careless with her heart. And yet, here she is. Smitten. The other boy relegated to the well-that-was-a-mistake pile.
And even though all she needs from me right now is a drive and I feel small and purposeless, I know that tomorrow will be different. Each day will take my kids further away from me, which is as it should be. But each day can take me deeper into my relationship with my husband. It can open up the time I've long sought to devote to my work. It can provide the space to revive friendships that have languished during the busy years of parenting, interests I've wanted to pursue.
Today I'm sad.
But tomorrow and the many tomorrows to come can be different. Just like the many yesterdays have been. A blend of sad and happy and confused and hopeful and a zillion other feelings that make up life.