10 years. So many clichés – hard to believe, we blinked, it flew by - but they’re all true. This Mothers Day marked 10 years that our family has lived together here at Stop Sign Farm. A lot has changed - like me.
I’m a different person than the 40 year old mom excited at the possibilities of making a home, making a farm in the middle of this island in the middle of Puget Sound. Close friends have walked through the fire, and then the ashes, of ultimately failed marriages. Dylan has gone to college out of state, my mom has gotten really, really old (93!), and both Mark and I are working demanding, fulfilling jobs.
We still run sheep and goats, although we give them the minimum attention they require; we’ve pushed the pause button on chickens since every predator on the island apparently got the memo that dinner was on us. The combination of my returning to work and Dylan going to a STEM high school then looking at and preparing for college had the unintended consequence of neglect for this place we lovingly built.
But, the good bones are there, we are back to turning our attention to making this place beautiful, and a new chapter in our lives begins to unfold – one with events of loss that are seeming to become the backdrop of everyday living – but with rewards and gratification and new adventures.
Yes, a lesson for 50 year old me appears to be that the 2nd half of our maybe-centuryish time on this earth is that you have to get comfortable with loss. Your every-Saturday-night friends break up and now Saturdays look different. Your comfortable dinners together are in the past. If you’re lucky, your child goes off to their college adventure and now you are that dreaded animal: the empty nester. Your beloved pets say good-bye one by one. It’s hard. Really hard.
But how can you try on new clothes if you keep pulling on the old ones? People who live on their sailboats always have one common piece of advice when interviewed – don’t bring on anything new without getting rid of something old. It’s good advice, and hard to live. Until life just makes you. Say good-bye. Start saying good-bye. Get good at it. Because if you don’t, there’s no space to say hello to anything new. Did I mention that it’s hard?
When your kid goes to college, everyone congratulates you. That’s nice. Of course, you’re excited for what lies ahead for them. But getting a little space to feel loss would go a long to helping parents not feel so isolated. Maybe it’s just parents of only children – or maybe it’s just me. But it was hard, last fall, to smile and talk of pride and excitement when I also felt a deep loss that I wasn’t allowed to acknowledge.
But, here’s the good news. If you’re lucky – and I’m really, really lucky – home is still home for them. For now. For a little while longer. Or maybe even a while longer than that. And then you get to enjoy the newness and excitement of this new chapter for them – and let go and make space for a little bit of a new chapter for yourself.
At least, that’s the plan. I’m getting there.