February 24, 2010

Can’t believe it. I’m an orphan. With Mom now buried next to Dad, I’m suddenly thrown into a new world where I don’t have to answer to them on any level. I’m free in a way that makes me feel like I’ve graduated. Is it too weird to say that I’ve become…a middle-aged teenager?

When my long-convalescing mother died on Feb. 9, everything changed. No more dreading the midnight calls from care givers reporting that Mom had fallen or had another stroke. No more visiting her in the nursing home and hearing her rant (over and over) about my dad, who has been gone 34 years. Suddenly, they are both silent.

Finally, at 53, my time and my life are my own to explore.

That’s pretty exciting.

It’s also unnerving to face this quiet, unfamiliar, open space. Great potential now, for new emotions and connections…

I feel guilty about sounding positive so soon after Mom’s death. After all, people are still sending me condolence cards and emails that make reference to my grief. Oh, of course, I do feel pain. And yes, I miss Mom. I’ve also never stopped missing my father either, even though he was such an old-fashioned dictator.

But I also think now about what my first therapist often told me: “Your parents never die; they live on inside of you.” And now, I have them both with me in the best possible way. Thankfully, they both died of fairly natural causes (old age, heart failure, diabetes). I was fortunate to make peace with each of them. I can keep them close in a loving place.

So….what’s a middle-aged teenager to do?

Well, we buried Mom on Saturday. Afterwards, my daughter made a random remark, wondering why I never sleep in. The next day, Sunday, I was inspired by my teenage Princess to stay in bed until 2 p.m. It felt tremendous! Then over the last few days, I’ve cleaned the house, washed dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, repaired the vacuum cleaner, answered emails, wrote thank-you notes, paid bills, bought groceries, serviced my car, made appointments to see the dental hygienist (teeth cleaning) and financial advisor (quarterly investment meeting).

After finishing my chores, I went to the mall yesterday. For a first date. A drink. That was fun. (That’s all I’ll say!)

I am a middle-aged teenager who is also fortunate to have learning opportunities in my life. In addition to teaching college and getting a charge from my students (professors can be energy vampires), I’m taking an art appreciate course (contemporary art in NYC) and my Friday oil painting class.

So it’s happened. I’ve always been a seeker who has fought hard for my freedom. The structure has been created for me to have my wish. My first taste of liberation came when my dad died and I didn’t have to take his orders anymore. Than I got divorced nine years ago and realized I didn’t need a husband anymore. Now, Mom has let me go too.

At this moment, it seems appropriate to quote Confucius. Quite frankly, I detest that man. I hold him responsible for relegating China to 5,000 years of mediocrity. All his talk about honoring elders and sacrificing for the family really put a damper on the youthful rebellions that lead to innovation and quality leadership. Confucius had zero respect for the individual spirit.

Anyway, Confucius taught that a woman is supposed to obey her father, her husband and her son.

Thank goodness, I have no sons.

Which means that I’m free now, to truly fashion a life of my own choosing. That optimistic, passionate thrashing around to discover the true self — that, for me, is what being a teenager is all about.