There are times that being alone is a Godsend and others when it is a curse.
I feel like I walk between two worlds–the world that I created with a husband–family, community, friends–and the world that has been created in the aftermath–new jobs, new experiences, new apartment.
Most of the time, I happily sit in either of these, enjoying the sameness of my old life and the freshness of my new one. But it is in the space between, that I find disorientation and sometimes sadness.
In this space, I am neither fish nor fowl, but rather a straddler, desperately hanging on to what once was, or fearfully reaching for what could be. In this space, there is a lack of contentment and peace.
For instance, since spending the week in my NYC apartment, I look forward to coming home to NJ, sleeping in my bed, hanging out with my children–those home and those who will come home for the weekends–but sometimes, I arrive home and the mail has stacked up, with dishes to match, and the house will be deserted, everyone off finding their own entertainments, and I will try to squeeze myself into this scenario by doing “grounding things” like the laundry, or watering my flowers, or yes, even putting crusty dishes in the dishwasher. But I do it as a guest of sorts, without me being the center of the house, it is as if the house has just closed over the spot that I used to inhabit daily.
Conversely, the same happens in the City. On nights that I have entertainment for work, I come home tired, and jump right into bed. But on the other nights, I come into my apartment, dress for the gym, work out, reheat my lunch, listen to music and fall asleep. Not the sleep of the peaceful, but the sleep of the traveler. My apartment still hasn’t become comfortable enough to encourage a good night’s sleep, so I toss and turn, and count the hours before I get up.
That is the space between. Wondering, as I sit with my glass of water, if my kids at home could use my attention. Wondering if my time wouldn’t be better spent with them–begrudging myself this time of discovery and adjustment. Time is so fleeting. Should I remain home?
The OG Occupant of the Space Between
I remember my mother in the same position–a lovely apartment in the City, but her weekends were spent coming to our houses to help with whatever we had going on. We often accommodated her schedule, however, there was no doubt that she was fitting herself into the fabric of our young family’s lives.
We often wondered if she was lonely-she had ample friends, her children and grandchildren, and yet no relationship with another person. And now I realize that by not having a “someone” who would pull her into the next phase of her life, she continued to live in the space between.
In that role, she was a central figure, grounded as it were in the strengths of her personality–uncompromising and unconditional love, high expectations of behavior, demeanor, and appearance, and the sheer ability to make anyone feel loved.
I expressly remember a time when my very youngest child, at only two weeks old, developed pneumonia and was in the pediatric ICU. As the mother, I had insisted that there was something wrong with her, days into this crisis, and advocated for her to be followed until this morning, when I brought her directly into the hospital.
Once there, I allowed the process to take over and I sat watching, like a ghost in the room as the monitors beeped and flashed. I had surrendered her care to those that were capable, and stood back watching as the little body, laid out with just a diaper on a white sheet breathed shallowly in and out.
My mother, who at once flew out of NYC to be there, swept into the room and the very first thing she did was go to the bed and cradle the little body, wires, sensors, IV’s and all. I watched as the heart rate on the monitor slowed and her breathing slowed and I marveled at the magic of my mother. I had all the intellectual bandwidth to provide care, but it was my mother who instinctively knew what to do. From that moment on, we did touch and hold her as best as we could and she made a full recovery.
I think of this scenario and wonder–what would I have done, any of us have done, if my mother rediscovered a life in say, California? If she married someone who offered her a full life away from her children?
Lack of Commitment
One of my favorite sayings, and I say it to the equivocators in my life is “Pick a Lane”-commit to one side or the other. However, I find at this time, I can’t quite pick a lane.
For instance, I have dated and enjoyed going out and meeting new people. I have had relationships where my inability to “pick a lane” comes into play. My inability to commit to a relationship that will take me hours from my kids, or emotionally take me miles from my existing life is something with which I struggle. In the end, I bask in the space between and have made it my comfort zone.
I never demand a commitment that I can’t promise myself. I think I am the perfect girlfriend (though apparently one or two would beg to differ). I don’t put mad demands on their time, and, as long as I have a tentative plan, I can make any schedule work.
But even I realize that I can’t wallow in the space between forever. Eventually, my kids will be fully into their own lives and I would never want them to think of me as their “ball and chain.” I am independent and have the wherewithal to do what I want, when I want. If I don’t move on when they do, and if I’m not careful, I will become that grandmother, who inserts herself bodily and without permission into her kids’ lives, and goes home at the end of the day to share a can of “Friskees” with a cat named Mick.
I love Facebook and use it as a way to stay in touch with those that I probably would not pick up the phone and call (if I did, I would be on the phone 24/7, and I’m not a big “phone talker”.) And I truly love all the pictures of births, and first days of kindergarten, college–God knows I have posted enough of my own. And then there are anniversaries and weddings. It is these last two that have recently provided a “gut punch”.
Please do not get me wrong, I LOVE seeing all of my friends reach these great milestones–in this day and age, it really is an accomplishment and it should be lauded on any social medium, but for me, for just a second, it magnifies my loss. There I have said it. It doesn’t stay with me, but in that moment I realize that I am on the precipice of a great divide and that all of those wonderful people celebrating their lives together, are on the other side.
In that moment, I realize there is no “space between”–because there is no going back. The straddling of two worlds is an illusion. My mother chose the life she led, she chose to remain close to her family, she chose not to choose. The only world I am in now is the one that cherishes the life before, but carries forward, into this new frontier my family, my friends, and my memories.
Without even realizing, I have debunked the “space between” myth. There is no place where I can comfortably wrap my old life around me as a coat, and do my thing. There is no space between because there is no retreat. There is only forward motion, propelling me to God knows what or where.
Claudia Lucey is a widowed mother of four, mostly adult children. Her “happy place” is the beach, where she spends every waking moment in the Summer. But spending time with her children is her greatest joy. Her philosophy is that laughter, even through tears, is the greatest emotional outlet. Nothing makes her happier than a good laugh, even at her own expense. She is a Director of Marketing for a construction company, yet she is a trained journalist who loves to write and photograph buildings of any size or shape.