I was 36 when my first son was born so I know I had “a life” before I had children. Thirty-six years of it, to be exact. If I could just remember it!
I have been a mother now for 23 years, and it has gotten to be a habit. If all goes well, in four years my nest will be empty. I am intimidated and scared by the prospect, even though I know about those other 36 years. I know I used to do all sorts of things to keep my days full but I really don’t remember it and sometimes my confidence is not that strong that I will be happy living on my own. At least not until I began reading Joe Dispensa’s You Are the Placebo. Now, hope is returning because I understand my unease a little better
I have been living as a mom for quite a while, and I have some habits developed, some routines in behavior and routines in thought. My brain, and mind, and body – like those of the rest of humanity – likes routines because they simplify life, and they are set up to keep me going in patterns indefinitely.
That’s what this first chart from Dispensa’s book is all about:
- Think the same old thing (Tomorrow is a school day.)
- Make the same choice (Set the alarm for 6:10 a.m.)
- Do the same stuff (Get up, make him breakfast, send him to school)
- Life is the same as yesterday (O.K., that’s done. Now it is my time to do what I need to do.)
- Feel the same feelings (Happy to be needed, another successful morning, now what?)
- Rinse and repeat (Same reality every day)
That has been my life, five days a week, for about the last 23 years. A little different in summer and on weekends, where a new routine sets in pretty quickly. (And boy, is the whole thing thrown out of whack when the kiddo stays home sick from school!) No wonder I feel a sense of impending disruption. According to Dispensa, my brain and body are completely wired to continue to do this forever, empty nest or not. Whatever routine I had pre-children has been long-erased from my physiology.
Then -thank goodness!- just two pages further into this book I find hope in a second chart. A way to prepare for the new reality that is coming, and a way to build my confidence that I can handle it, joyfully, when it does.
- Think some new thoughts (what can I do today to prepare my son and myself for the new world order?)
- Make some new choices (Set the alarm for 5:30 a.m.)
- Do some new stuff (Get dressed, head to a breakfast networking meeting and let him get himself fed and to school.)
- Experience something different (Adult conversation, new connections, new ideas)
- Feel new stuff (Pride in my self-sufficient kid, interest in my new world, hope for the future)
Perhaps Dr. Dispensa would polish my understanding of this process a little if he were to read this, but I think I have the basics down. In order to create my new desired reality, a content mom of adult children leading an interesting life while they lead theirs, I have to do things that will get my brain, mind and body out of the routine it has been in. I have to grow some new neural pathways whenever I get a chance and trust that the new reality will follow.
Which does not mean that I will suddenly throw the baby out with the bath water. There are plenty of little ways I can disrupt my current patterns and get myself ready for the baby heading out on his own.