It’s 2:00 p.m. Usually at this time on a weekday in the spring, no matter what I’d be in the middle of, I’d be lacing up my tennies, gathering up my purse, my phone, and a good book and rushing out to my car to drive to my kids’ school. There I’d park for the twenty minutes or half hour or so before one or more child climbed into the backseat or the passenger seat and we’d either head off to another school or straight home.
I did that for 25 years in a row. Until today.
Today, my youngest took the keys to our 20-year-old secondhand car with him–along with the car, of course–and drove himself to school. This is the first time in a quarter century that I haven’t had to ferry one or more child to school or pick him up. That’s a long, long time, people. And with that one demotion, I feel my life as a full-on parent slipping away.
Some moms and dads would be delighting in the fact that they didn’t have to retrieve their kids from school ever again. They’d be thrilled to be able to stay at work or continue that book or not have a project interrupted. I, on the other hand, am feeling saddened. Twenty-five years feels like a long time, for certain, and I’ll admit that at times running out of the house at 2 on the dot was a pain in the backside, but a part of me enjoyed it. I liked seeing my kids for the first time in hours and going over their days. Those close quarters inside the vehicle would be where I learned about so-and-so’s getting called into the principal’s office or a friend’s not making the soccer team because of grades. I got to hear about the accomplishments of a good mark on an exam or an impending award or the heartaches of someone’s name-calling or someone else’s mean-girl moment. Sure, there were times I wanted nothing more than to continue what I had been doing uninterrupted at 2 p.m., but for the most part, I enjoyed the routine. I enjoyed, I suppose, being needed.
This having all four kids as drivers is a plus, for sure, but allow me to wallow for a while more, won’t you, in the fact that this job I’ve been doing for just under half my lifetime is coming to an end. Yes, I know one day all little chicks must fly from the nest, but this mama bird will not be giving them a big push.
I have a single friend, no kids, whom I’ve known for more than 30 years. She’s funny, kind, and we think a lot alike. When we get together, we have plenty of laughs. She has known me and my husband since before we were married and before we had our four kids. She takes a general interest in everyone’s welfare. So why then when we talk or text or see one another does the conversation go 80 percent in her favor and 20 percent in mine?
I’ve been wondering if my friend glosses over the news I have to share in favor of talking about her life because she’s single and she’s all she’s got. I started googling “self-centeredness in singlehood” and there’s some scientific info to back it up but even more articles debunking it, mostly in editorials, often written by singles themselves. These editorials state how people can be self-absorbed and narcissistic whether they are single or not. How true, and far be it from me to put all singles into a box and label it “self-involved,” but why does it seem that my single friends and relatives care more about themselves and what they have going on in their lives than what the rest of us are going through?
As I stated, my friend has a genuine concern for me, my husband, and our four children, but she rarely deeply questions how they’re doing or offers to lend support if I need it–and I’ve needed it quite a bit over the past few years. And when I bring up something going on with one or more of us (and there is a lot going on in a family of six), she gives short shrift to what I have to say. She just about never takes me up when I invite her to family functions or other events involving my family. Or she sounds enthusiastic in the moment, when I first bring it up, but when the day of the event arrives, she finds an excuse to not come by. I understand feeling out of place when being around a throng of people who share the same last name, but to events when there are other friends invited, single and married, she won’t show up to those either.
She is close to getting a new job and asked if we could get together spur of the moment today so she could have the big reveal on the name of the prospective company (she won’t tell me in a text) and fill me in on all the details. I was tempted to meet up with her for a walk, which I need to do daily anyway, and not hang out at a coffee shop she suggested, where she can sit across from me and talk a mile a minute while I nod in agreement and try to interject conversation just to get cut off. But then I thought, why bother? I know it will be a one-sided conversation and I would have to put my own work aside at a time when I have to make some money to put food on the table, you know, the one with the six chairs around it?
She texted me about the new job earlier this week. During the texting conversation, I mentioned my youngest having to take the driving test tomorrow and my having just booked reservations for a summer vacation (we take trips just one week a year) and where we were going and why I had to work to make a little extra dough to help pay for everything, and then I asked for a few more details on the job sitch. And you can guess what issues in that text she only replied to. Yes, just the parts relating to herself.
My son graduated from college a couple weeks ago. Even though it’s kid/graduate number three for us, it’s still a pretty big deal. So the day before, when my son decided where he wanted to celebrate post commencement, I invited my friend, who loves impromptu plans, by the way, because her schedule is much more open than mine. Attending the restaurant lunch would be just the six of us and two of my brothers, one sister-in-law, and my sister, all of whom she knows. What did she reply? No, she said, she didn’t want to waste gas driving the 30 miles round-trip to the restaurant and back home–even though the meal would have been comped by us and I wouldn’t have expected a gift. (She hasn’t bought my kids anything since the oldest was born, and she’s now 30!)
I said I understood, that I’d be paranoid about spending even gas money too if I were between jobs. But that was before I heard of her plans for the long weekend: she’s driving four hours each way to hang out with friends at a nice hotel she’ll have to pay for, along with the food and drink, of course, she’ll consume while there.
There are more examples of her not making the effort on our part, and I give her a lot of leeway and probably shouldn’t have all these years. So part of this may be my own fault. But after having lost a dear friend to cancer a year and a half ago and finding out that another wonderful, helpful friend is moving away, I value the friendships I still have, good or bad. For some reason I just do. She and I both consider each other family members. But if that were the case on her part, why wouldn’t she come around to my family events? (She has no relatives in town.) Why would she constantly make excuses and then turn around and look like a hypocrite? I can extend my family to an infinite number of people. With her, I guess I’m it and I only am considered family on her own terms.
If I were single too, though, I suppose I’d call the shots as well, but I’d like to think, single or not, I’d still be less self-absorbed.
It creeped on over the years until I thought I was stuck. I couldn’t move down, just up. In weight, that is. Then I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “if not now, when?” Oh, wait, that’s what Oprah says in the ad for this weight-loss program.
But she’s right.
If not now, when? When you’ve put on more weight? When you’ve had to buy yet another, even larger pair of pants? When your lower back starts to ache from walking because of the strain your bulging midsection is putting on it? When your doctor prescribes a half-dozen different pills to thwart a heart attack? If not now, when?
I took the bait and off I ran. And you know what, it’s working!
I started reducing my food intake and exercising more on April 6. It’s now May 18 and I’ve dropped 3.5 pounds. I wasn’t huge to start with, but I definitely was starting to see a woman in the mirror I had never seen before and barely recognized. Every angle was now rounder. Every body part was now looser or wider or just plain bigger. My BMI was embarrassing. I shouldn’t have been in the high 140s at all. I should barely be in the high 130s even. But every year, eating basically the same diet as forever, the pounds kept adding up and were miserable to get off.
This losing pounds and getting more fit and healthy is still a work in progress, but I’ve read that it takes twenty-one days for an activity to become a habit. I’ve surpassed that time and I’m now in a routine of watching what I put in my mouth and upping the minutes on the treadmill or in walking the dog. I’ve increased my pace too. And on days when I don’t think I can fit another walk in, I’ll jump on the tradmill for ten fast minutes while the water for the pasta is boiling for the night’s supper. Or I’ll stick my feet under the wing chair in the living room and do twenty-five sit-ups.
I haven’t added up the calories I’m taking in, but I’d say it’s about 1,500 or 1,600. I stick to my basic toast and coffee and sometimes an egg for breakfast. I eat a light frozen-food lunch and a cup of my favorite Greek yogurt and fruit. And dinner is my usual stirfry or pasta or whatever I make for the family. And there are always veggies. I’ve just cut back on quantity, especially of carbs, including my number-one favorite item: white Jasmine rice.
Thinking about what goes into your piehole prevents you from, say, shoveling in another slice of banana cream or piling in chips one after the other. It makes you reach for a mandarin orange instead of a cookie. And when you do treat yourself–and that’s perfectly fine–you’ll probably not want a double serving of ice cream or a generously sized piece of chocolate cake. You’ll savor that cookie or that cake and actually taste your food.
I plan to keep this up until I reach my goal and then stick with it as best I can. I don’t ever want to get to the high 140s again, because just around the corner are the 150s, and they’re waving me on.