Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Just Another Midlife Monday (on a Tuesday)

I've been in Walla Walla now for longer than I've lived anywhere as an adult. After living in the same house (barely even switching bedrooms) in a very small town from birth to college (and even then, I went to college in the town next door), the amount of moving J and I did in the first half of our marriage was crazy for me. From my hometown to Portland, a move within Portland, Portland to Worcester, Mass, and finally, Worcester back to the west coast to settle in Everytown, USA.

It was so weird to be moving 'home', but not. I'm very close to my family, so being only an hour-and-a-half from my parents and two of my sisters was fantastic. But it wasn't really home. Living in a smallish town is a funny thing. You know so many people, you see them out and about and say hello in the grocery store, and with social media you kind of know what everyone is up to even without seeing them in person. Which makes you feel connected. But still a little lonely.

Living in Portland, my best friends were the girls I worked with. We saw each other 5 days a week and had this fast and furious, incredibly emotionally draining job that made us each others' people almost instantly. When I started in that office, we were all fairly newly-wed or still single; there were less than ten of us doing the work of what would end up by the time I left four years later being three separate offices with a full team in each office spread throughout three cities in the county. There were babies born, engagements and weddings celebrated, and the shared grief of watching your dear friend lose her husband so very unexpectedly.  A decade later when my friend and I had the grand opening of our yarn store in Walla Walla, I looked up to see that these girls had surprised me by coming from Portland to celebrate with me. I had a full ugly cry because it was just the most unexpected thing. And everything I didn't realize I needed.

Living in Massachusetts, my best friends were my fellow moms-in-the-trenches with little ones. I'd gone from working very full time to being a stay-at-home mom to a super busy toddler H, and I got pregnant with Charlie the month after we moved in. It was daunting to move that far away and not know a soul. I signed up for a moms' group before we hit the road, and by the time I hit Iowa City to stay with my sister for the half-way pit stop, there was an email in my in-box from the President of the group with an invitation to have dinner at her house the night we drove into town. That group (three cheers for Mothers and More, Assabet Valley Chapter) was my life. It was a group focused on the mother, with book clubs and movie nights, a baby-sitting co-op so that you could have a date night or go to the moms' night out functions without spending a thousand dollars on a sitter that we just did not have. There were play groups and trips to the Children's Museum in Boston, Davis Farmland (the best place evah) to Plimouth Plantation, and more jaunts to the beach (both ocean and town) than I can count. There were even evening play dates once a month where you'd round up all the kids and take them to a giant park or indoor playspace in the winter with a stack of pizzas, so that  it was just bath and bed on your own. With so many nights of putting babies to bed alone; those friends were sanity-saving. There was just so much to do, and see, and be, and I loved it there. At the very end of my time there, I joined a running group and ran my first half-marathon, and made even more amazing friends. There are still a few girlfriends in particular who I meet up with as often as I can and every time we're together, the distance melts away and I leave my time with them filled back up with belly laughs and good conversation. And tasty cocktails.

Over the three years I lived in Massachusetts, some of the moms ended up not being as active in the group as their older kids got into elementary school and I was like, I don't get it. Why are they busier now that they've got kids in school? Shouldn't they have more free time?  As we were leaving Massachusetts, I would have an in-coming Kindergartner in Walla Walla, I couldn't wait to have bigger kids in school! I was just imaging all of the special things I'd have time to do one-on-one with subsequent little kids!

I know. Don't worry, that reality check was a good one. Having kids at school bring PTA requests and volunteer opportunities, and teacher conferences, and teacher emails about this baby who doesn't quite fit the regular classroom mold, and the checking of the backpacks, and the monitoring of the homework, and the oh my god where has my sweet baby gone and who is this emotional wreck in their place?! Then came babies three and four and the connections I had with women who were in H's class were hard to maintain because I had little kids to juggle whereas they were done, and the connections I could make with the little kid set were hard because I was finally the one with the big kids at the playground who the moms of littles eyed warily as they launched their large bodies willy-nilly. Not to mention a hard-working husband with a tricky schedule in his civilian job and a commitment to Uncle Sam that takes him away at least one weekend a month.

So here I am. Almost nine years in and wondering when I'll make connections like the ones I had before. I have friends here (with my closest friend being my business partner which now means opposite schedules), and I appreciate those friendships immensely.  I just don't have the situation where were we get to spend a lot of time together in person. And when we do get it, the amount of planning and orchestration involved to get schedules to align is usually rocket-launch-esque. My logical brain understands that, frankly, this is all a function of the time of my life right now. I don't have much time to foster physical social connections outside of my commitments to my husband, kids, business and extended family and I want to be fully present for the mothering and wife-ing, bizz-partnering, daughtering and sistering. That just doesn't stop me from feeling twinges of self-pity at posts of girlfriends out having a gay old time; even if I didn't want to be with that particular group of people, the want for having my people to do them with was there. I consider myself to be a reasonably happy person, who generally find enjoyment in whatever I'm doing at the time, so what is happening?!

So then, I finally did what any self-respecting do-it-herself girl does and I cried about it to my husband. He looked at me kindly and was like 'Awww, it's just that middle of life, what is my purpose, what am I doing kind of uneasiness. We all kinda feel that way for a little bit.' So I dried my tears and I sat with that realization. I've spent a good chunk of my married and adult life with big changes. New town, new apartment, new baby, new apartment, new town, new baby, new town, new house, new baby, new baby, deployed spouse, new house, new business, and then...no more cribs, no more diapers, no more strollers, no more moves and with each thing I ditched that was part of that life of change I felt a lightness and at the same time without even noticing it I was waiting for the next big thing. A big project, or a big move, or a big...something. Looks like my next something will be a big ol' case of almost-forty angst. That one might be slightly less fun to unpack.