What I Did This Summer
This summer Studio512 was on hiatus due to construction at the station and the Summer Olympics. That meant we were pre-empted quite a bit and there were also a lot of reruns, but we were still out and about shooting segments. I decided going to visit family and friends out of town while they were out of school would be a fun way to keep my daughters cared for and occupied while I worked a lot of unconventional hours. As they pulled out of the driveway with my aunt the Saturday after school let out, it hit me that I was facing weeks without them (much longer than the usual overnight). My wish for more time to myself to run errands, shop, get organized, workout, eat, sleep and sip wine was about to be granted. And now that it was really happening I realized I did not know what to do with myself.
Begin Phase 1: SAD MOMMY.
My anxiety of being without them was immediate. That last push to the end of the school year is so intense. One more project, one more crazy sock day, one more class party. Then bam! It was all over for the summer and my little chickadees were on their way to Cookie’s house. (Cookie is grandma). The adrenaline of finishing school, packing them for their trip and saying goodbye totally crashed. I cried and cried and cried. I watched cheesy, sappy tearjerkers and wallowed in my alone-ness (and some Taco Bell) for two days. I admit the tears left me somewhat refreshed, but at the beginning of that work week there was this nagging pull. I kept thinking I forgot something…to pick someone up? To arrange a play date? To get home and make dinner? Nope, none of the above. For the first time in a long time the only one I had to worry about taking care of was me. I was like a dog walking in circles looking for a place to lay down but I just couldn’t find a good spot.
Begin Phase 2: WEIRD
When I am away from my kids for a weekend or a very short time, I can absolutely make the most of it. Live it up and have fun! But knowing the girls would be “away” away for so long left me paralyzed in “what do I do” land. It was like being on the high dive and afraid to jump in the water. It looked clear and refreshing but I just couldn’t take the leap into being by myself and doing “by myself” things. Eventually I let it sink in: your girls are having fun adventures and being taken care of by the people you love and trust most in this world. You have a chance to gather yourself and breathe just for you. Take advantage of it.
Begin Phase 3: WOOHOO! THIS IS AWESOME!
When it finally clicked, I signed up for fitness classes, made lunch dates, met friends for a glass of wine, watched anything and everything I wanted to on tv, stayed up late, went to hear live music…I even went horseback riding. When my dear friend invited me, it took me by surprise. Did I want to ride a horse? I didn’t NOT want to ride a horse. So I rode the horse. I had my own play dates! Grown up ones! I can’t even tell you how fun it was to go to the pool. At night time. By myself. And lay on a lounge chair and talk endlessly with other mom friends and know that no one was going to trip and fall or be in danger of drowning or interrupt me and ask me to watch their 800th somersault under water. (Which I love but…you know). It was awesome.
Begin Phase 4: AMANDA, MEET AMANDA
I had wished for “just a minute to myself” for so long. And getting a LOT of those minutes in a row was great. I learned to be by myself and not be in a hurry, to think about who I am, what I like and what I don’t, what I prefer, what I’ve grown out of, what I’m interested in. I got rid of “stuff” I didn’t need, I made plans for the future and what I want to do and what I want to show my girls. I was excited about being recharged and ready to greet them with fresh energy. I enjoyed spending time with a new version of me who showed up somewhere along the way over the past decade. I came to the realization that I don’t have to feel guilty about savoring time by myself. And once I gave myself permission to do that, I just felt…good.
Begin Phase 5: COMING HOME
After weeks of doing what I wanted when I wanted, my heart started to ache for my daughters. I couldn’t wait to get them back. Absolutely I missed them, but I had a new “buzz” about being with them again because I felt I had found new footing as a woman and a mom. When it was time to meet Cookie in Waco for the handoff, I was as hyper as a kid on Christmas morning. We all screamed and squealed in the Chick Fil A parking lot as we hugged each other tight. My littlest held my face in both of her hands and said, “Mommy, that was too long to be away from you.” And in most ways she was right. The mommy in me could not take one more minute of it, but I’m glad the rest of me decided to make the best of it. What started out as simply a good move logistically for family and friends to take care of them while they were out of school so I could work turned into a bit of an unexpected gift. It was a good chance for me to re-find me and refine me. Since they have been back I see all of us in a new light. I appreciate their personalities, the spunk, joy and perspective they add to my life in a different way. Absence does make the heart grow fonder! They are my most important reasons to keep hoping and keep loving. But I appreciate myself in a new way too, knowing that if I take care of me first sometimes, it really does help me take care of everyone else. I am my most important reason to keep believing, keep seeking and keep going. And it’s okay to not just admit that, but to be proud of it too.