When Dennis and I got married, we were already nostalgic about the life that lay ahead of us. One of our wedding songs was “Remember When” by Alan Jackson. It’s such a sweet song about a couple looking back on the milestones of their life together, from a vantage point of their senior years. One line says, “Remember when thirty seemed so old…” which was funny to me, being that I was just shy of 25 years old when we got married!
I’ve often been told that I’m an “old soul” and I relate to that idea. The feeling of looking back over my life nostalgically feeds something deep within me. I just finished reading a book that brought all this up: A Year By the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson. It’s a memoir of Joan’s year of separation from her husband as she hunkered down in their Cape Cod cottage to rediscover herself after a lifetime of taking care of her kids, husband, house, etc.
Many of the lessons Joan learns during her year by the sea felt so familiar as they echoed my own awakening. She has a perfectionist streak that she had to release and spent a lot of time “in her head” and disconnected from her body and feelings. A mantra that I repeat to myself often is “why don’t I wait and see…?” This is a reminder that I don’t know how I will feel later or how a situation will unfold, and I don’t have to try to control it either. Joan says: “In the words of Picasso, ‘I find, I do not seek.’ No longer desperate to know every outcome, these days I tend to wait and see, a far more satisfying way of being that lacks specificity and instead favors experience over analysis.” Oh, so good!
In another passage, Joan is reflecting upon her relationship with her adult sons and their wives. She describes the challenge of knowing where she fits in their lives as her role transitions from guide to supporter. Joan shares that her sons seem reluctant to share their struggles or failures with their parents: “It occurs to me that I will continue to know my children less if they think I want them to be more. Seeking perfection is a terrible thing when it robs you of truth.” Although Sienna and Mateo are still many years from leaving the nest, this reminder felt so poignant. They both want to please Dennis and me very much. As the years unfold, I hope to communicate openness and acceptance to them, along with encouraging their striving for excellence.
For many years, my striving for control could also be described as trying to “figure everything out”. I’d often get this unsettled, seeking feeling that I finally recognized was that desire to figure something out. Now, I realize that no one ever has it all figured out. Life is constantly changing. We are constantly growing and embracing the next phase of life. There are certainly aspects to each of us that are unchanging and constant, but life serves up plenty of new experiences, circumstances, and lessons to learn.
Joan refers to this idea as being unfinished. I love that word! It denotes the opposite of being “all figured out” or complete. As she and her husband reconcile, Joan concludes her year by the sea with this line: “Like me, he is on a new path. I can only sit by and honor what is unfinished in him – in all of us.” This line touched my heart, as Dennis and me are embarking on a new chapter of our life together.
At the end of June, Dennis “retired” from the law firm he worked at for almost 30 years! He’s now going to be a “stay-at-home Dad” to our children. The timing is great as my job now involves a fair amount of travel throughout Southern California. The past few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time sharing our hopes and dreams for the future and discussing the practicalities of this change in our routine. The feelings of partnership and commitment have overflowed.
The other night, we were watching Frozen with the kids and I cuddled in next to Dennis on the couch. Sienna looked at us and said, “You two are so cute!” For some reason, this little exchange was so fulfilling. As much as we focus on our children, they will eventually grow up and start their own lives. When they do, Dennis and me need to have a strong relationship that will help us transition into the “empty nest” stage of life.
Maybe this is the benefit of looking at your life from the “old soul” perspective of experience? This current stage of life, as wonderful and all-consuming as it is, will eventually pass and we’ll be looking back on it nostalgically. The relationships we’re building now will, (God willing!) be the foundations of our lives then. All the little seeds we sow, from daily connection with our spouse, to the acceptance we show our children, we will eventually reap later in life. Each of us is unfinished. How exciting to watch it all unfold!