I am becoming a woman I can’t see. I am an empty nester and in, what experts would call, transition. You know, that period where one changes from one state or condition to another. I know, I am transitioning from dedicated, hands-on mother to… someone I am yet to know.
My son and daughter are young adults who are embarking on their own lives. My husband took a contract eight hours north of Calgary. At this stage, any wise woman would recognize this natural course of life and make plans to leave the kids behind in the house. They need her less. She needs to stay connected with her husband and father of those adult children. There is a part of me who can’t believe I have made this move by choice. Now that I’ve arrived in Fort McMurray, I realize my decision has escalated the emptiness of my nest.
I arrive at our condo on the edge of the Clearwater River and swiftly start in on the necessary changes and additions that will make our place feel a little homier. I place my new bottle of Carried Away lotion, by Bath and Body Works, at the edge of the shower. Surprisingly, the cream cotton throw and the burgundy, green and cream striped cushions that I toss on the couch, are a nice match to the existing décor. I add aromatherapy candles, a music system, a slotted spoon, a wire whisk. My favourite picture of my kids. And now, I am here in Fort McMurray, all settled in and wondering why I am feeling so unsettled.
I wake up to a quiet condo every morning. It is my own choice whether to break the silence. I wander to the kitchen, soft-footed, to prepare my morning coffee. I check my emails and my Facebook page for messages. I want to know that someone misses me. I want to know that someone needs me. With no kids around and my husband’s long workdays there is space in my life. I fill it by reading the Calgary Herald on-line to see what I am missing. 75% of Albertans in Debt, Calgarians Enjoy Lilac Festival Despite Lacklustre Weather, Man Dead in Back of Truck. Nothing. I check my emails. I check my Facebook page.
Yesterday, during my quiet time, I checked my email and was delighted to see my best friend needed to update me on events in her life. She is caring for her parents. She is planning a trip. She has a new beau. We connect for a few moments on Skype. I give my approval, wish her safe travels, and then she’s back to her life and I to mine.
Later in the day, I reach out to my kids via Facebook message. Twenty minutes passed and no response. They must know I need them. Where is everybody?
I know how to do this transition thing. I have done it before when starting school, moving to a new city, marrying my husband, becoming a Mom. I recognize each of those transitions involved an element of risk. Through each change I had leapt with faith and stepped out of myself. From the time I saw my son’s face I knew this time would come but it has come so soon. I wonder if I have the energy required to take on change once again. This is going to take courage and I need to muster more energy. My inner well is drained of zest.
Today, I decide the best thing to do is get myself out in the world. Back at my laptop, I surf the Fort McMurray websites: Keyano College, Boys and Girls Club, McMurray Today, Fort McMurray Public Library. Jackpot. The first meeting of the Fort McMurray’s Writer’s Club will be held tomorrow. And I just happen to be free! I feel like a little girl anticipating her first day of school, filled with nervous excitement and the urge to jump for joy.
Wait. A response from the kids. They have been busy, they say. They work full-time, care for their dog, cook meals, pack lunches and fill the dog’s holes in the backyard. They meet their friends to celebrate a birthday or take in a sporting event. They ask, “and what have you been up to?”
“I had the best day,” I tell them. “I am so thrilled! You won’t believe it but I found a writing group at the library here.”
“Very cool, Mom. We love you,” they say.
“I love you too, my big babies.”
The next day, always true to my nature, I proceed with caution to the writing group. Promptly at 1:00 p.m., I arrive at the meeting, feeling a little old and unsure of my decision to join in. Little by little, others arrive and introduce themselves. Before long, there were too many of us to fit around the meeting table. Taking it all in, I realize we are a diverse bunch. We range in age and culture and each of us bring something unique to the dynamics of the group.
After the meeting I suddenly think this whole transition thing is pretty exciting. Maybe this is a big, fat new adventure and a chance to explore life. I have found my people here in Fort McMurray and, personal crisis aside, I can’t wait to meet again. My image of this woman becomes a little clearer. Focus in to see colour emerge amidst grey and beige. Change is good, isn’t it?
(I’m sorry I’ve been MIA the last 6 months. It seems I have difficulty keeping my writing focus while amidst the hub-bub of the big city life. Now I’m back in Fort McMurray and reconnecting to my writing life. Looking forward to catching up on the happenings of last winter!)