We live in a go, go, go world. The to-do list is long. We hardly ever sit idle. Our minds rarely rest. You might think that is especially true for me. It certainly describes some of my experience in the unexpected role as the mother of a young-adult addict -- the times when circumstances consume me and overwhelm sets in, the times when I try to control (or convince, or influence), and the times when I try yet again to find another solution.
Whether it's this column, a newspaper article or a Facebook post, you know it's descriptive of society in general and parenting in particular. But this week's column isn't about that familiar frenzy. It's about slowing down, lightening up, even laughing. In doing so, it's about living now and living forward.
I have always recognized and welcomed a few minutes to stop, to breathe, to appreciate my surroundings, my realities, my life. No matter whether in the busiest of city environments, the calmest of the countryside, or even at home in our most frequent of all settings, I believe these are the moments that recalibrate the tick-tick-tick of life.
A few weeks back, I declared another step forward for myself. I decided to be more conscious of the time and attention that I was devoting to our son and to choose my level of involvement -- in time and in emotions.
He said he wants day-to-day distance, so I'm letting him take the lead in reaching out. I'm letting days pass without seeing him or talking to him. My mind and
It's a liberating change, too. I'm not preventing him from making decisions that could lead to consequences. For example, he received an unexpected refund check the other day from a community college he briefly attended well over a year ago. In the past, if he had any access to cash, he tended to use it for drugs -- for example, last year he was eager and giddy for his tax refund and promptly went on a pot bender. Although I did give it a second, third and fourth thought, I simply gave him the recent windfall, accepting that it was his choice what to do with the money.
Several days passed without hearing from him, so as I left town on a business trip I texted a quick hello. I didn't hear back. I could have obsessed over this -- and given his past, I'd have every reason to do so -- but I just let it be.
Instead, I went about my board meetings, calling home in the evenings. I welcomed the opportunity to immerse in more engaging things and to spend some time in one of my favorite cities without feeling the urge to check in with him.
I took a long walk and enjoyed people watching, imagining their stories and wondering about their lives. I heard different languages as I observed visitors at the 9/11 Memorial. I ventured to a different part of the city for window shopping. I appreciated a delightful meal, solo, at one of my favorite restaurants. I took in the sights and sounds instead of rushing back to my hotel room, laptop and email -- a welcome indulgence and so freeing to not worry (at least not that much).
In the early afternoon on the third day that I was gone, my husband texted: "(Son) just called from (his living accommodations). He accidentally flushed his cellphone while cleaning the toilet."
Instead of going off on a rant about his irresponsibility or propensity for cellphone mishaps, I just shook my head and laughed. How fitting. That's the end of that.
We've toyed with cutting off his cellphone (one of the only things we still provide, more as a means to ensure he can reach us in an emergency â ¦ or so we say). We're not replacing it. Maybe he will, if he still has any of that refund money, or maybe he'll save enough from his job.
Maybe it's like babies and pacifiers. One day, it's just done, gone. Bye-bye.
Tomorrow, I'm back home to Minneapolis to the life and family I love. I haven't always been the mother of an addict, and I don't know if it's a short- or long-term role, even though its duration at once seems fleeting and at the same time forever. What I do know is that when I can lighten up and laugh along the way, it becomes much more about living now, living forward.