Sadness Is On Me, But I Am Not Sad

Senior year for our youngest has flown by. I know this is how it works. Senior year is heartbreaking, expensive, and fast as hell. I tried to keep it together while standing there watching the photographer take his senior photos. I struggled when I had to compose his senior page for the yearbook. He applied to five private colleges (University of Denver, St. Olaf, Reed, Whitman, and Skidmore), received acceptances to all of them, and then committed to attending Whitman in Washington with his brother, which gave me a measure of comfort while still making me sad. With that decision made, I designed his graduation announcements. And today I created a graduation collage for display at his high school in May. Jesus help me. It feels like the universe is trying to break me.

I would like to think all of this is preparation so I can cry myself out before the actual graduation ceremony, but I know that is a false hope. Graduation is rapidly approaching. So I went ahead and made a countdown clock to the ceremony because I need to prepare myself. As of today, we are 60 days out, which means I have 60 days to cry myself free of tears lest I end up an ugly-crying, embarrassing, Alice Cooper look-a-like at the ceremony. I don’t want to be that momma. Luke deserves better.

I have a distinct memory of a time when Luke was around six months old and woke up in the middle of the night. I remember sitting with him in a rocking chair in our living room, rocking and waiting for him to drift back off to sleep. When Joe woke up in the night, I would get so frustrated about the sleep interruption. As he was my first and I was not used to missing out on sleep, it was a struggle for me to be present when all I wanted was some damn sleep. With Luke, though, I knew it would be my last time to hold my sleeping child, so I tried to focus on the moments, to appreciate that this little person needed comfort and I was that comfort. It’s such a different feeling now as I focus on my present moments with Luke because I know he is almost finished needing me. I suppose this is what drives the sadness I am feeling. We have come full circle, Luke and I. My baby is ready to launch. And although I knew this day would come eventually and have been preparing for it since Joe’s graduation, the reality of it happening now is something I’m not sure I would ever be able to prepare for.

So, perhaps, I will go to graduation and cry like the soft, mushy person I am on the inside because this too is part of the experience. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to stay dry-eyed for it. I have to be there in it because there are only two constants in life, growth and change. Wait. I forgot taxes. So I guess that makes three constants. Growth. Change. Taxes.

I found this on Facebook the other day and it offers a different perspective of sadness:

So I am recognizing now that sadness is upon me. It doesn’t have to live here. It’s just here now. It doesn’t define me. I am not a sad person. I am a happy person with sad moments. And it’s okay to be sad sometimes. We’re meant to be sad sometimes. It means we’re fully experiencing what life offers. Sometimes we want it to be offering lollipops, unicorns, and rainbows, and it instead presents us with pain, overwhelm, and darkness. That is when we need to remember that if the sadness can be upon us, so too can the rainbows. I have 60 days to figure out how to find those rainbow-covered unicorns that hand out lollipops. If I can’t find one, maybe I’ll just have to become one. I’m sure the other parents would appreciate a lollipop at graduation. I think they’ve earned at least that.

No Rainbow Without The Rain

This evening’s rainbow

On the way to the water park today, Joe worried about the increasingly darkening sky. He watched out his car window, anticipating lightning. We had hoped to meet our friends earlier to avoid the usual afternoon thunderstorms that ruin a swim outing, but things simply didn’t go as planned. Life got in the way. When we got to the park, it was 2 p.m. The skies directly west of us appeared threatening. I talked to my friend about the weather, and we reworked our plans. I told the boys.

“Looks like we’re going to ditch out on the water park and head out to their pool. They have a membership so we can get in free. Then, if it rains and we can’t swim for very long, we’ll have saved our money to come back here later this week when we can get here earlier before the afternoon storms,” I explained.

“I was really looking forward to this,” Joe complained.

“I know. I was too. But, plans change,” I told him. “Who knows? Maybe we will have even more fun at their pool where it’s less crowded.”

Though he appeared less than convinced by my suggestion, Joe hopped back into the car and tried to suck it up. Sure enough. We made it to our friends’ pool before the rain started. The boys had about 15 minutes to swim before the thunder that had followed us made its presence known, and the lifeguards whistled everyone out of the pools for a 20 minute waiting period. We sent the boys to the park on the other side of the fence from the pool. The played at the park for a while as it intermittently rained lightly. They came back, the sun emerged, and the lifeguards’ whistles blew. They were back into the water. Everyone else had left, there were only 8 kids to fill the entire pool. They had no lines for the water slide or diving board. No one to fight for the swim noodles. They were having a blast. The rest of the storms caught up with us, though, and the lifeguards ushered everyone out again. Celeste and I called it pointless and decided we’d head to a new, nearby park instead. A lesson in flexibility and rolling with the punches, I figured.

When we arrived at the park, it was raining lightly. The kids, still wet from the pool, didn’t care. There was a flash in the distance. I told Celeste that hubby would not be amused that I was letting them run around out in the rain and lightning, but the boys were content and I shrugged it off. So, the four boys played while Celeste and I sat under a covered spot and watched them and caught up with each other. The skies finally lightened, the water features in the park turned back on, and they had even more fun splashing. Afterwards, we drove to Red Robin for dinner with our wet sons.

On the way home, I asked Joe if he had managed to have fun despite the fact that the afternoon hadn’t unfolded quite the way he had hoped it would. Turns out he had a wonderful time. He loved the pool and jumping off the diving board and sliding down the twisty slide. He told me we would have to go back to the park because it was “awesome.” I was glad that he was able to see how sometimes the things we think are ruined by change are actually improved by the adjustment and not, in fact, marred at all.

That has been a lesson it has taken me a long time to learn, far longer than I hope it will take for Joe to grasp. It’s been my custom to go batcrap crazy when someone rips the rug out from under me. I’ve been working on my need to control outcomes and to guide situations in my favor. It’s a challenge for me to try to let things go and roll with changes. But, tonight as we were driving home from our swim day turned park day turned dinner out with friends, I saw a rainbow and it occurred to me that when we try so hard to avoid the rain we sometimes miss the beauty that comes along with it.