Archive | September, 2013

Feeling Some Kind of Way

23 Sep

My daughter is gone. She’s been away at college now for almost four weeks. It feels longer. We text every few days, talk on the phone less and less as the weeks pass. I miss her, I knew I would, but there’s also another, amorphous, feeling.  Dealing with this shapeless feeling is the hard part.

During my morning dog walk in the park, I’ve been running into dozens moms (and a Dad) who are in the same space. We engaged in brief conversation, remind each other where the others’ child is in school and ask after each others’ state of being.

Most of them report vague feelings of loss.  However, an exchange with one women on my dog walk the other day, yielded an opposite reaction. She threw her arms up in victory and said, “I’m thrilled.”

Her response, her tone to me was assertive and made me feel as if she was saying I was a mush mom for feeling the way I do. At first I felt annoyed at her. I held on to that for a week or so (as HSPs–highly sensitive people–tend to do). I was frustrated at not being able to say to her  right then that the feelings involved in sending them off are not black and white, but gray.

I am simultaneously happy and sad and…

I’m thrilled that my daughter is engaged in her classes. She’s showing me, us, just how grown up she’s become. She is handling her bumps: roommate disagreements, hard French homework, persistent cold, all without my counsel. When I asked her why she hadn’t told me about some of the problems while they were happening, she said: “I wanted to work it out myself.” That makes my heart swell, that makes me throw my arms up in victory.

I’m sad because I just miss her happy, little way, her hilarious comments, spot-on observations and snippets about her and her lovely boyfriend. I miss her presence at the table.

After Ford’s baseball game yesterday, a 13-1 loss, I suggested we go have a late lunch. We decided to go to Raymond’s, one of Baldwin’s favorites. On our way to the car, I said out loud, I miss my daughter. Sitting at the table for four, the empty chair felt as lopsided as it looked.  Cliff misses our daughter too and while Ford maintains that he doesn’t miss her at all, he’s been sleeping in her bed since the day she left.  I somehow feel that my wanting is not like theirs.

I have to practically sit on my hands sometimes to stop myself from calling her. Sometimes I’m just worried. When she was at home and went into the city, she came home at a decent hour, always by the last bus. I would hear her key in the door and could drift off to sleep. Now they go into the city and I don’t know where she is unless she puts something on Instagram. (Thankfully, she’s letting me follow her.) I won’t allow myself to go too deeply into that worry pit, though. I breathe and tell myself to have faith and that parenting and worrying are synonymous.

Although we’re very close, I wait until she calls me. I text every three days, maybe two, but I don’t want to be that mom. I told her on the day of her high school graduation that I’d enjoyed every minute of being her mother–(okay, not when I was screaming  up to her room every morning to get her out of the house to school on time).

I know she will continue to have situations that she’ll handle on her own and sometimes she will ask my opinion.

This is what I raised her to be able to do. Will she make mistakes, of course she will; they all do, it’s called growing.

When she told me, after the fact, that she and her roommate weren’t getting along and she had considered changing rooms, I asked her what she’d done to contribute to their near breakup. She thought for a minute and gave an answer that was mature and thoughtful. She backed away from blaming it all on the roommate and they have since worked out their differences. Another victory lap.

I’m a big believer in owning ones mistakes. I’m clear that I make them all the time. I hate when people can’t, won’t acknowledge a mistake and I’ve tried to raise my children to avoid the habit of always blaming others.

I wish all these human mama emotions could be divided neatly into happy/sad. But the reality is I’m walking around with this  amorphous thing in the pit of my belly.
imageI’m three times Baldwin’s age and I’m still learning:  learning how to keep my comments to myself until she asks for advice and I’m learning to live with,  as Liz Branson used to say, “feeling some kind of way.”

Crave solitude?

13 Sep

Most people who know me would not believe that I am an introvert. Of the 23 signs on the Are you an Introvert list, I have 20.

How is that possible, I know you’re saying.

“You’re so outgoing.”

“You’re the mayor of Montclair. You know everybody in town.”

Even my kids can get confused. When we go out, whether it’s a stop at CVS or a bite an a local restaurant, before we leave home they say, “and don’t talk to anybody.”

As a child, I was super shy. Or I thought I was, but there’s a difference between being shy and being an introvert. Generally speaking, shy is a psychological condition that can come with anxiety and fear of social interactions. According to American Heritage dictionary, shy means being easily startled, timid; drawing back from contact or familiarity with others; retiring or reserved; distrustful; wary.

One of the things that separates the shy from the introverted, according to Sophia Dembling, author of The Introverts Way (Perigee), introverts simply need, crave solitude.

The article 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert, is based on her book.

Here’s just a few of the signs that screamed my name:

1. I hate small talk; chatter about milk prices, weather, the neighbor’s grass, makes me want to claw the skin on my face. You want to talk about the neighbors’ divorce–you got my attention–and not for the gossip aspect. I enjoy the dissection of human interaction. What went wrong and why.

2. I go to parties to see people I know, not necessarily to make new friends. I will have a deep conversation with a stranger or enjoy one with someone I don’t know well–but it’s someone on the same vibe, probably another introvert who also hates small talk.

3. I sometimes feel alone in a crowd, feeling like the odd person out. I hate crowds, although that’s not quite the same thing as feeling alone in them. I sometimes feel that way too, but I’ve come to feel pretty good about being odd.

4. Although I can do it, networking makes me feel like a phony or some kind of person I don’t know. When I have to go on the road to promote my work, I shift into the outgoing one that I learned to be in college, but when I am performing this act, I can’t easily shift back into my writer self.

5. & 18. I’ve been called too intense & an old soul

6. I’m easily overwhelmed in environments with excess stimulation. I’m easily overwhelmed, period. It should be on my tomestone: She was often overwhelmed

7. Downtime can feel unproductive to extroverts, for me this is as necessary as oxygen

8. Speaking to 500 people is easier than mingling with 10 afterward. Lady Gaga says she’s an introvert. Introverts can want to be on stage, but after the performance there’s no going to an after party. It’s right to the hotel, home, the closet wherever, to get that delicious alone time.

11. Introverts are usually in a relationship with an extrovert. My husband is the poster child for extroverts.

22. You’re a writer

JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, said she is creatively charged when she’s alone with her thoughts.

This is why when I got married and was working as the entertainment editor at Essence, I thought something was very wrong with me. I would talk all day, in meetings, on the phone with writers, publicists pitching stories; then have to go out at night to see what was newsworthy in the theater, movies, dance, art. I would come home too tired to talk to my husband. On Saturdays I didn’t want to get out of bed, which was fine when I was single, but as a newly married couple, Cliff wanted to go and do things on the weekends. I wanted to sit home with a book. Obviously in 21 years, we’ve worked out our differences (you can read all about how when Welcome to My Breakdown, the book, comes out in May), but it was a challenge.

When my kids were little, the hard part for me wasn’t just the no sleep, it was also that I was never alone. I don’t know if introvert-ness is inherited, but one of my children is just like me. The other one is mixed.

Understanding oneself is a good, necessary thing, at least from where I sit. I believe we are all better when we know who we are. I want to understand my nature and human nature. I am highly sensitive and I’m sure for some, I can be difficult to figure out.
I’m on a quest to show up as the most honest and true me that I can. I believe it’s something we should all try to do. My friend Carmen calls it, Standing in your Truth.
After many years of struggling because I didn’t understand my introvert-ness, of being exhausted or unhappy running here and there, I have decided to stop.
I know that I have to have solitude. If I do too much socializing (as much as I like a good cocktail party) I will become irritated and depressed and then I have to take to my bed.
I’ve finally figured out what works for me. I simply can’t go all the time and sometimes I have to say no and sometimes I have to say no to things that I want to do. I know that it’s hard to understand because we’re living in extrovert land. Sometimes I may hurt the feelings of people I care about because they just don’t understand how delicate balance of being an introvert in an extroverts land is–how being thrown off by doing too much, isn’t as simple as climbing back on a bike after a fall.
I have to protect me, even though in the past I’ve disregarded that part of me and probably even hidden that part from you.
So, do you think you could be one of us?
I’d love to hear from you.