Self-Care and Next Chapters

It’s a time of transition for two very important women in my life, my daughter and my mother. My daughter is starting her freshman year of college today, and mother decided to downsize by selling the home she shared with my step-father. It’s been almost a year and a half since his passing, they were married for almost forty years.

Due to the pandemic, my daughter was given a specific date and time for her dorm move-in, and she was limited to two people to help her move in. Just having her step-father and I was not a problem due to social-distancing. However, making multiple trips back and forth to the cars, up and down stairs, wearing masks in August when the temp in Texas is set on the regular “hellfire” setting was no joke. I was breathing like a dragon by the time we were done.

I also want to be there to help my mother with her move. She lives in Florida. Do I fly there to help her? What about potentially exposing her to the virus because of me exposing myself by the very act of boarding a plane to fly from Texas to Florida to help her? Would she be better off with me staying here so as not to potentially expose her? How do I best support her right now?

These next chapters for my daughter and my mother have emotional side effects. For my mother it was the initial decision to leave the dream house she and my step-father had built. The memories they shared there, I think they were in that house almost twenty years. Followed by a brief consideration of whether to move closer to me and my family. She decided to do what made her happy for now, stay in Florida. As for my daughter it’s time for her to spread her wings and fly. She told she was nervous, a little anxious about college but more about starting college and staying in the dorm during the pandemic. I’m nervous and scared for her as well.

I know my mother will be fine. The saying goes that time heals all wounds. I don't believe that’s entirely true when it comes to grief. Life goes on, and each day it can get better. It’s not that you heal, it’s just that as each day passes you go on living. Not that you miss the person less, or love them less. The pain of their loss can be just as fresh. But you are able to make it through the day better. I believe my mother needed to start this next chapter and I’m happy she’s doing it. Selfishly I wish she were moving here closer to me, but what matters is that she’s happy and healthy. The house is too big for her to be in it alone. She really doesn't need to worry about the maintenance it takes to maintain it. It is just her and her dog which she insists on calling “my sister.” I check with my mother constantly to make sure she is taking care of herself as she packs up her house to prepare for the move. I want to make sure that she is doing well on all self-care dimensions, she seems to be thriving. I’ve learned a lot from her about self-care in the first place. See this post by Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC describing the eight dimensions of self-care.

My daughter, I know she’ll be fine as well. Her classes start today, they are doing a “blended system” where the students are split into groups. Some will attend in person, and the rest will attend on-line then the groups will alternate. We’ll see how that goes this week. I’ve spent most of the past couple of weeks talking my daughter’s head off about Covid-19 safety, personal safety and etc., so the physical dimension has been my main focus for her self-care. There was a truck parked in the dorm parking lot and on the driver’s side window was written “I hope you learn something.” Clearly that parent was promoting the intellectual dimension and of course I’ve done that as well because that’s the reason she’s going to college in the first place. For the social and environmental dimensions, I begged of her "please do not have your phone glued to your hand in the dining hall, try to be accessible so you can meet people when you’re there." But maybe that’s too old school, what do I know.

So now that my one and only bird has flown the nest what now? In my blended family all of my other birds live hours away. My goal was getting my daughter to her move-in date on Friday. That’s where my calendar ended. Being a mother was one of the ways I defined myself for the past eighteen years. I’m still a mother, but she’s no longer in the house therefore I too am in transition. So this week I’ll be upgrading my self-care routine for my next chapter with my new normal.