Driving over 14 hours with my estranged ex-husband, I remembered I know how to thrive. Leading up to this trip I was in a funk, or my meds had stopped working, but it was definingly a low-grade depression.
Empty nest syndrome, my 60th birthday, dreading that the next 20 years might be long because I have already lived my life and chased my dreams. Add a Lupus diagnosis to my TBI brain and another disintegrating joint that will need to be fused to a body part so it does not fall off, and I was not feeling that great.
It was at this moment that my daughter asked, “Can Dad drive up to my graduation with you?” I agreed without hesitation and then proceeded to have nightmares and PTSD flashbacks that I was being strangled in the middle of the night.
I was already concerned about how I was going to manage such an intense weekend in my physical state, which often requires rest and resets. My yoga guru/therapist/spiritual advisor responded to this news with, “Well, I guess your lack of boundaries means we have much MORE to work on.”
The Trip of a Small Lifetime
Despite this ominous prediction, Friday morning dawned clear with all males, including my two grown sons actually showing up on time and ready to roll. I clearly laid out the ground rules. “We’re only stopping for gas, and you can use the restroom and smoke then.”
I looked at my ex and pointed my finger. “YOU are paying for gas. Let’s get in the car.” I drove, and my youngest rode shotgun. My oldest navigated from the back seat.
We were all excited to celebrate my daughter’s law school graduation, so emotions and voices were high, and I told the guys often to shut up and lower their voices. Despite this, and them all talking at jet plane decibels, I arrived in Concord New Hampshire with a migraine, my head spinning but I had left no one at the side of the road, and no one had poisoned my water bottle.
“We are having a pizza with my fiancé’s parents!” my daughter informed me at 8pm when all I wanted was my bed and two Tylenol pm.
I drove to the pizza joint, and plastered a smile on my face. Thankfully, the fiancé’s parents had already ordered five pizzas, and I swore not to drink but sipped my son’s beer trying not to dive into the pizzas like a specter of famine. Slipping my daughter my debit card I said, “Pay for dinner.”
The next day we had a happy blended family road trip to the legal weed dispensary, and we all smiled and held our white baggies for a group photo. There was a two-hour lull before graduation where I chose to take a walk and then rest.
I’m Driving My Car
Later, while a soft rain misted us, the graduates of Franklin Pierce, their parents, grandparents and children gathered into the tent to celebrate. I was so proud of my daughter as well as of my sons who got her flowers. My ex, for the entire trip, sat like a moldy French fry on the floor of the car, not requiring any attention or concern.
The graduation dinner, where entrees began at 60$ had me anticipating a conflict with the fiancé’s parents who kept insisting on paying. I had budgeted, and my daughter wasn’t going to feel like her people, to include her father, were Crapallachia (a derivative of Appalachia) which is a phrase she came up with to describe the hard scrabble setting she grew up in. My ex sat on oblivious or entitled. He ordered surf and turf.
I’d been feeling so fragile leading up to this trip – the PTSD flare up, a confirmed Lupus diagnosis, the real sense that my best days were behind me as if all I could every accomplish was just getting through my day peacefully, without killing anyone or more importantly myself. I felt a bit like Otto in the movie A Man Called Otto, starring Tom Hanks, about a sad, rigid, lonely old man whose only solace is being grumpy. Spoiler alert – he learns he is still alive too.
I came out of this weekend remembering that it might take some fire to thrive but that I still have fire, passion, can practice self-care, discernment and can get through physically and demanding episodes without being rushed to the hospital or the fifth floor (or wherever they take you when you have a breakdown).
My best self-showed up for this trip – I was calm, content, happy and grooving. A challenge and a precarious adventure shook me loose.
I have chronic and serious health issues, but I’m not going to blow away if the wind gets over 3MPH. I may get overwhelmed because my brain fritzes out but it works and, it actually works well enough that I can stop making lists like an OCD crazy person because my lists are actually making me feel like a crazy person. If I forget something, it wasn’t that important.
Despite returning home tired, I had a newfound sense of clarity and strength because I realized that treating myself like a hot house flower is not quite the same as practicing self-care. I can still dance on the edge, even with my orthopedic shoes and bunions, only now, I don’t stand on the edge with one foot.
Within 24 hours of returning home, a text came from a man whose name I can’t seem to ever remember because we’re distant acquaintances, and frankly, it has not seemed important.
“Let’s meet in Paris and then hike the Camino de Santiago – come on!”
For the first time since my car accident, I am leaning into an impulsive unchartered adventure. I can thank my ex-husband.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
Do you often feel fragile mentally or physically? Why? How do you get your Mojo back? What might be a small or big adventure that you could lean into?