Solstice Reflections: Growing Up and Just Growing
***Summer Solstice 1992: Me kneeling with Shannon and pregnant with Aislinn. Yes, I had my ears triple-pierced and my hair was in an asymmetrical cut under that sequinned headband, but at least not carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit, matching pumps, and matching stockings for a whole day!***
“And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me…
My boy was just like me.”
–“Cat’s in the Cradle,” Harry Chapin
A week ago, I was talking with one of my clairvoyant friends about how wonderfully things are going in my home right now when she got very quiet. I hadn’t mentioned any of the things going on with the girls or our houseguests to her so it took me by surprise when she said, “This next month, Shannon is going to be mirroring you — a lot.” My friend is usually right about these things.
I shrugged it off at that moment. I couldn’t really see how Shannon was mirroring me right now. As it turns out, at 18, she’s mirroring not the current me, but the me of my 20’s and 30’s.
Besides being promoted to manager at the yummy Cold Stone in Destin Commons, she was tapped to teach one of the most popular two-week courses at the local college–twice. She knew it was going to be a killer schedule this month, leaving early in the morning for classes and zooming straight from there to the ice cream shop for another 8 hours. The pay and high-level resume fodder of the teaching job makes it worthwhile, but she’s in a time crunch that I recognize all too well. This is how I used to live, except somewhere in there, I made time for a husband, two babies, and housework–plus an occasional graduate class and writing books via tape recorder while commuting to work. Today, I wondered how I ever did it.
Although Shannon leaves her job at night with other people who accompany her back to my house, I hate going to bed before she comes home, and I try to wait up for her, though that often means I’ll get less than four hours of sleep a night. Her younger sister, who doesn’t have to be up before sunrise, has stepped in and volunteered to wait up for Shannon’s “I’m on my way home” call, and if Shannon’s not home in 10 minutes, she knows to wake me and I’ll be headed out in a heartbeat to find my eldest 5 miles away. That’s a huge help for me.
Still, it’s been crazy stressful for Shannon and I’ve seen her so little. Her car is in the driveway when I leave for work at sunrise and I’m in bed, hopefully asleep, when she gets home at night. Today she called me to let me know she was just arriving at work. We talked on the phone for two minutes about some wonderful scholarship news and I let her know that I was driving home and almost there. Seeing her enjoying her jobs so much but so stressed over getting everything done and having so little time for socializing–or sleep–brought back a lot of memories.
For most part, my long hours were never about working two jobs, at least not for other people, but working one job that often took 12 to 15 hours a day, including on weekends, early in my career. Sometimes, it was 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, because we needed to get a weapon system out to the soldiers on time. Family and friends didn’t necessarily understand why my job was so stressful, but it was a constant fight or flight response to the work schedule and just never ever a break from the high pressure.
My life is not like that now, where I carry those same stresses, and I’ve made some major shifts in mindset to get to this point. Back then was that time when building a career was such a priority and I needed the extra money from overtime. These days, I put a premium on my free time, my creative time, my me-time, my spiritual time… because time is a more precious resource to me than money or prestige ever was or ever will be. Still, it’s a little bit of a shock to recognize the stress patterns in my now-grown daughter and realize that that jittery and exhausted energy that is temporary for her over the next month was how I lived two decades of my life.