This has been a year of transitions. We moved across country. We became grandparents. My parents moved in with us. We became poster children for the sandwich generation. I have become lost in the ever increasing demands of my household. Every day is an endless stream of errands and housework. Some mornings I wake up and wonder where I am. Not physically. My body resides in the state of Connecticut. But who am I? I’m not sure I’m the same person that moved here.
I would like to think that I’m constantly evolving, becoming a better person with each passing day. But I feel like the same scared adolescent who left home for college. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. This is a problem: I’m running out of time. In some ways, who I become next really doesn’t matter. I have been successful in my previous metamorphoses; I can fail now. My problem is one of definition: who do I say I am? For the past year, I have identified myself as a newcomer, a stranger in a strange land. That’s beginning not to work. I know the area. I know the history. I’m not a stranger.
So what do I say when I meet people? I have had many titles: college student, a file clerk for a law firm, graduate assistant, stay at home mother, PTA president, band mom, writing tutor, middle school English and history teacher, high school English teacher, homemaker. I found it easy to say homemaker when I had children in the house. Now that my daughters are gone, the ghosts of feminists past rise up in front of me. Really? Homemaker? I could say blogger, but we all know that this is really my letter to friends. I feel like a poser saying I blog. I’d like to say writer, but I have four rough drafts of novels that I don’t like and have just a few pages of the one I am in love with today. And at my age, one would think I would have published something. So who do I say I am?
Some mornings I think I lost my identity somewhere in the Rockies. She climbed out of the truck and made a dash for it. Somewhere she is running mountain trails, stopping to enjoy the breathtaking views. Some mornings I have the uneasy feeling she is wandering along the California coast or driving a convertible top down along a desert highway under the stars. Or she haunts my old classrooms, sending chills up students’ spines. Wherever she is, she needs to come home.
For I am home. I still struggle with the transitions, the changes in routines, but this is my house, my world. My morning routine in Connecticut is really not so different than my routine in Southern CA. Every morning, I put on workout clothes and then put tracking collars on the dogs (in case they wander away because the yard is not fenced. Don’t worry, I only use the vibrate button). Once we’re all dressed, we emerge from the room, pushing and snapping, and growling. In the kitchen, I make coffee while they check the area for cat food crumbs. Now that it’s winter, we go to the sunroom next so that I can put on my snow boots with the Yaktrax, gloves and an old ski parka. Finally we are out in the snow. Once the perimeter has been secured, we tramp up the driveway to get the newspapers.
Our driveway is gravel. The first time it snowed in December, we didn’t set the snow blower low enough. The snow in ruts left by the car tires melted but not in the center. As a result, we had a sheet of ice down the center of our drive way when the second snow came. Driving down our driveway was like driving a kid’s car in an amusement park. You have to keep the car in the track. Then we had a heat wave (temperatures in the forties) and the snow melted. For a while we had mud. Last Wednesday it snowed again. That snow melted but now it’s snowing again.
And so our morning begins, a brisk walk up the driveway. Then I drink some coffee and the dogs eat breakfast. The cat box is cleaned before the dogs decide to help me with it. The dogs go out again (after I put layers back on) and finally I eat something. My husband in the meantime, showered, dressed in suit and tie, ate breakfast, skimmed the NY Times and left. When he kisses me good-bye, my routine falls apart.
What do I do now? I used to leave for work. I’d crate the dogs, load the essays back into the truck and drive to a classroom. Bells kept my routine on track. Here I am trackless. I tried running first thing, but found I lacked motivation. (Ice on the streets and trails is also a great excuse.) I tried writing first, then taking a break. Some mornings I think I should do chores first. Then I fail to exercise. And chores often suck up all the energy of the day so I get no writing done either.
I tell myself I need discipline. But I have discipline. What I need is a routine that is sacrosanct. I tell my family this, but no one seems to be listening. Somebody always needs something done immediately. And after I drive here and there, the day is gone. My novel remains unwritten.
I do have some help. My youngest daughter does most of the vacuuming and will gladly shop for me, but I then have to watch my grandson. J.K. Rowling’s baby must have been a much better napper. Grandson hardly sleeps during the day. He plays on the floor of my office. I write a paragraph. He fusses. I amuse him. Grandma is well trained. And she gets little done.
The past two weeks I have tried to maintain a schedule. I try to start exercising by 8:30 am. I’ve gone to the gym when the weather was too yucky for outside sports. I ran along snowy trails in spite of the cold. Later in the morning I volunteered at the library. I made time for new friends. After lunch I wrote. The demands continue, but I am getting better at saying ‘no.’
I confess that part of my crisis stems from the fact that I still suffer bouts of California-sickness. Tuesday I found myself crying during spin class as we did a hill climb to the Counting Crows’ song, “Long December.” I longed to be running or cycling in the hills of southern California. But the next song was “I’m Going to Make This Place Your Home.” And I knew that this place, this town, is now my home. My identity will show up—she’s just one variable in the long equation of life.