Just Mom

It’s finally raining. I could watch the rain for hours. I’ve always thought that July is a harsh month with its insistent sun, blistering temperatures and brown, sizzled grass. Flowers hanging on only if they’ve been faithfully watered. Mine have been watered semi-faithfully, so they are only semi-dead.

We recently added a new member to our family. He’s hairy and brown, probably weighs less than a pound. We have him on a foster-to-adopt program if Ian’s furry animal allergy can handle him.

I wasn’t planning on it, but somewhere in the past week, I’ve fallen in love with this little guy. I don’t view myself as a huge animal lover, (I blame an incident with a German Shepherd when I was young.) and I didn’t expect to really enjoy, much less actually be fond of our new addition. But I am.

Daniel and I believe he bears a resemblance to Mr. Darcy from the movie Pride and Prejudice (the guinea pig that is, not Ian).

I’m reminded of how I like to care for things… babies, kids, plants, hungry people who like chocolate, and a guinea pig, I guess.

The other weekend was my 20th high school reunion. The dreaded question of the evening was “What are you doing now?”.

The kids will be going to school five days a week this coming fall, for the first time ever. Hence I’ve lost my part-time school-facilitating position that verified my college education was not a complete waste, even though my teaching certification has expired and I basically have no desire to get back into speech pathology or the education field.

The schooling change is needed. The kids are excited. I’m ready to be finished wearing my school teacher hat. The whole family knows it’s the right time, except my self-worth hasn’t caught on yet.

This is uncharted territory, being “just” mom of two kids who will no longer need me during most of the waking weekday hours. Nor do I think Mr. Darcy will require much attention since I’m convinced he is a gifted guinea pig.

I’m unemployed with absolutely no direction for the next stage in my life. I think this is the time I’m supposed to move back in with my parents, although Daniel may be a tad bit upset by that (hopefully).

With this change looming on the horizon, I’ve turned to two of my favorite men for guidance. Felix Mendelssohn and Frederick Chopin have become my right-hand therapists. Recently, I’ve spent a good amount of time in piano therapy. But I do admit, I wish I could get some decent feedback about how my sessions are progressing…then again, that might be creepy.

I’m scheduled to play prelude in church at the end of the summer, when this mini-self-worth-crisis may become full-blown as I feel the full impact of not resuming my usual teaching duties. Earlier this summer, I decided I could not play another tired, semi-easy arrangement of Come Thou Fount. The regular churchy music was too neat, too expected, too familiar. That’s not where I am.

Instead I dusted off some classical books from my high school days and have found myself relishing the practice. I sit down and dwell on notes, double flats, fingerings, dynamics, tempo changes. Twenty-two even notes in three beats against eighth notes. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It needs work and so much polishing.

The perfect fit.

(Some wise friends at the reunion suggested I figure out how to make my passions become my career. I’m pretty sure concert pianist is not in the cards.)

After the prelude is played, the Basement-Make-Over-Self-Worth Rescue Plan begins in September. The plan is for me to bring the last part of our house that still bears the 1960s vibe into the current century. I will tackle the dark, dingy basement with it’s stained track ceiling (thank God I don’t have to paint the ceiling!!), paneled walls, and paint-peeling floor.

It’s going to be a.w.f.u.l. I know I’m a decent painter due to my perfectionist nature, but I still hate it. Nothing enjoyable about it. I’m slow, and it kills my hands, so I get even slower as each project progresses.

I laughed when a friend at the reunion compared her early post-law-school days to Daniel in the movie Karate Kid. “Wax on. Wax off, Daniel-san.” Hours of mind-numbing grunt work while building muscles and reflexes required for the bigger picture.

But maybe that’s where I am. “Paint the fence [basement], Natalie-san. Up…Down…Up…Down…Don’t…forget…to breathe.” Hours upon hours of tedium. And just maybe this dark 1960s dungeon will become the sacred space where I figure it out with my good friends Mendelssohn, Chopin, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Miyagi.

When I’m finished, my answer may be overwhelming peace to continue being “just mom.” Or maybe I’ll be excited to journey in a totally new direction. Worst case scenario – the basement will be revitalized, and I’ll be quasi-ready to begin karate lessons.

I can live with that.