I was nine when they drove away from my foster home. First, my parents. Then, four years later, my grandparents. Finally, it was me in the car, with my new mom, on my way to my new life. I was terrified into stillness.
I was ten when a handwritten letter arrived from my grandmother. Immediately, I responded. Poured my heart out. Two to three letters arrived each week after that. I always wrote back. Discovered writing was simply talking via pen and paper. Eagerly, I learned to express myself through this new medium. Being forced to communicate; to transfer what I was feeling to the written word was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a healthy form of survival.
I was twelve when social services informed me, “Your parents cannot do it. They are surrendering their rights.” Guess my parents were not those kind of parents – you know, the kind everyone else had? I became an orphan and started puberty, all in the same year. Alone. I was stunned into silence.
I was thirteen when I found myself beginning a new year, in a new house, with a new family. Kept to myself mostly, but on occasion, I would walk into a room and begin talking to my new mom as if we were already in a conversation. Just could not bring myself to address this woman as my mother. I could not say, “Mom.” Already had a mom. Loved her. She wasn’t there at the moment, but that didn’t matter … the fear of loving anyone new ruled my world.
I was fourteen when my new mom left my new dad. Left a note on my bed too: Your (new) father loves you more than he loves me.
I was devastated. She did come back a month later, but I kept my distance. Abandonment equals me retreating; I existed in a form of detached fear.
Transitions: even the word has hard edges.
I was sixteen when I decided I needed to make a life outside of the four walls I had been inhabiting. While I was grateful for the walls and the roof too (my bedroom was my haven), I was lonely. Found a job at a fast food joint. Began to accept and even embrace my new reality. Working worked.
I was eighteen when I glanced up one day at work to find a woman (who looked like me) standing on the other side of the counter. My body began to shake. Heard her whisper in miraculous disbelief, “My baby …” Leaning forward, her hand reached for mine. I recoiled in self-preservation. Scurried outside. Asked, “Please leave. I have a new life now.” Sobbed uncontrollable tears of grief.
Transitions: some are more painful than others.
I was twenty-three when my new mom called, “Hon, there’s a letter here for you. It’s from your grandmother.” My foster mother had delivered a letter from my biological grandmother to my adopted mother. I was dumbfounded.
I was twenty-four when I scored the job at Paramount Studios. Worked a lot. Volunteered to stay late. Perfect fit. I was connected to something I cared about. This was new to me–was I enjoying myself? A novelty.
I was twenty-five when I fell deeply in love. Again, fear of loving anyone new ruled my world. I said, “I do” to the wrong man, and “I don’t” to THE ONE. Trying to protect my heart, broke all of our hearts in the process.
I was twenty-nine when I begrudgingly gave my hand to entrepreneurship. We were a successful union for many years. My new found venture brought me things I had never had before: a 2,300 square foot house (with my name on the deed) that I could afford to furnish, and airline tickets to cities and sites and places I had only heard about. Then, a bigger house, bigger adventures, and bigger bills too! Found myself so busy I had very little time for people. Which was fine. There was a kind of comforting solace in my cocoon. Work was my escape from relationships; brought me a big lesson as well, though: loneliness costs more than all of the above combined.
Transitions: some are clearly life lessons.
I was twenty-nine when my doctor told me to wrap things up. Changed docs. Took control of my health. Still here.
I was thirty-three when my twins were born. My heart burst! For the second time in my life, I fell in love. This time, I vowed to risk it all. This time, I opened my heart. This time, I stayed.
I was also thirty-three when my grandmother died. We had only had a nine-year reunion. Passed away when my babies were three months old. My aunt agreed, “Your grandmother held on honey until you had someone new to love.” My grandmother had starved herself to death. I was grateful and heartbroken.
I was thirty-six when my youngest sister passed away from AIDS-related complications; attacked at seventeen, he left her with HIV.
My brave sister had fought for eight grueling years before she succumbed to the ravages of that relentless horrible disease. Found myself in awe of her courage and grace. Inspired me to live a fuller, more meaningful life.
I was thirty-nine when we both showed up to a Hollywood reunion. It had been fourteen years since I had seen him. I was side-swiped by a devastating life-altering realization: TRUE LOVE NEVER DIES. But we both now had young families. I wept all the way home. Emailed him the next day. Complimented his lovely baby girls. Wished him well. Threw myself into my kids even more fiercely after that. Got out of bed each day, for them. I devoted my minutes, weeks and years to my twins. What a wonderful childhood my children had, so unlike my own.
Transitions: agonizing challenges wrapped in a blessing.
I was forty-seven when I lost my mind. If you find it, let me know.
I was fifty when I signed on the dotted line. Divorce is painful. And not just for the kids.
Traded in my stock, title, and ownership in our company, in exchange for my freedom of choice. The ex and I had worked side by side diligently; went from eight hundred square feet to eight thousand square feet in twenty short years. We both made mistakes along the way, but our venture was a SUCCESS. Feels good to own that. I was a successful entrepreneur. We both were. That is something.
Now? Trying to get my head around the fact that I can retire, or, I can do something else. My choice.
Beginning my new life fills me with fear and trepidation. I miss being connected to something; being in charge, making a difference, building and growing on a foundation; being a partner, with a purposeful reason to move all day long.
I do not wish to be terrified into stillness this time, though, or stunned into silence. My whole life, it seems, I have been on the defense. I would like to try offense now. I want to persevere, to succeed. But I know, that requires courage.
Transitions: no matter what? HARD.
I was fifty this morning when it hit me: I remember this feeling.