I'm almost afraid to say it out loud. When you say something out loud two things can happen. One: It becomes a reality. Or two: It spontaneously combusts.
So I'm just going to say it.
I see the light. Not the Poltergeist kind of light. But a light at the end of the tunnel kind of light. A flicker in the maze pointing towards an exit.
Cate is now old enough to stay in the gym daycare. And since last week, Cate, Blake and I have gone to the gym four times. Four glorious times. I'm drafting this blog post at the gym right now, because they have free Wi-Fi. God love them. So, I've managed to work out, take a quick shower, and sketch out some of thoughts before my time is up and I turn into a pumpkin. Or back into a mommy.
I'm nervous about this freedom. I shush the voices trying to convince me the kids are screaming. The daycare workers assure me if that's the case, they'll come get me. After all, they know where I am. I'm right outside the door.
Freedom is tricky. The thought of it is exhilarating. On the first day back at the gym, I sang (inside my head), "Lalalalala!" And then I hopped on the elliptical machine and started going really fast. Like I needed to hurry and get the workout over with before the other shoe dropped. Simmer down. Slow down. This is your time. It's okay to have your time.
It gets easier. I know it gets easier. But sometimes, when I'm in transition, I forget.
I've noticed something interesting about Cate. How she came out of the womb with this built in survival instinct. When the nurse placed her on my chest, she tried to push herself up. She pushed and lifted and grabbed at my face. And sometimes, when I lift her out of the bouncy seat too quickly, she throws out her arm and clutches the mobile that hangs over her head. I have to pry her tiny fingers from the plush, foam-filled bird and tell her she doesn't have to hang on so tightly. That she can let go. I've got her.
Ten years ago, my husband and I moved from Charleston to Portland, Oregon, because Shawn got a job as a technical newscast director at the CBS station there. It was a great opportunity for him, and I told myself moving to a bigger city could be great for my career, too. So, I left my morning anchor job and our brand new house and my family and our friends. During that move, I learned that I'm very brave. Kind of a badass. The kind of woman who can drive a moving truck with a car strapped to the back for three thousand miles. Over the river and through the woods and down very steep mountains.
And, I learned I'm so very fragile. Instead of continuing my upward climb towards happily ever after, I began to unravel. I realized I didn't want a television news job in this big city. And what on earth was I going to do with that? The path I had so carefully laid out for myself and the beautiful life I was trying to build was falling apart, and I was overcome with this sense of how I had messed everything up. What if I had been more honest with myself and my husband? Why did I have to move across the country and make such a huge, unsettling change before I could start telling the truth?
I felt a lot like Cate when I pull her out of the bouncy seat. Flailing. Grasping. Searching for something to hold onto.
And I've felt that way, in some ways, during this particular time in my life: a 37-year-old mom of three children. A 37-year-old woman who thought that by the time I was 37, everything would be in place. I thought I'd be at the top of my career making six figures. It never occurred to me that I'd be taking baby steps towards a new dream. That I'd still be discovering new and more authentic ways to use my gifts and talents.
All of this reminded me of something that happened when I was in Portland. Shawn and I were at the gym, a warehouse converted into a 24 Hour Fitness. The gym was buzzing with music and people and the sound of treadmills and clanking weight machines. Shawn and I were side by side, doing sit-ups on those big, bouncy exercise balls. And in that moment, the heaviness of homesickness, regret and worry about my future lifted. A giant, internal weight dissipated and I felt happy. Or peaceful. Or connected. Whatever the feeling was, it was different. Better. The shift was marked and profound and then, I had a thought:
I can do this anywhere.
Today, I try to remember that moment and what it taught me. I'm seeking connection. I'm seeking the way it feels when my mind, body and spirit are in sync. I'm seeking the ability to feel grounded in the moment, comforted by its unwavering presence. That thing that I'm seeking feels so elusive. And yet, when I'm flailing around, it's right there. It's always within my reach.
It remains within me, even when I don't feel it. It follows me wherever I go in this life. Through every unknown. Through every season. And it says, See? You don't have to hang on so tightly. I've got you.
Perhaps what we want, what we need and what we seek is closer than we think.