There are a few things on my bucket list that are very long-term in nature. One of them was to successfully raise a child, which means he's upright and out on his own. Check, that's done. Louie is now 23 and out there conquering the world.
Parenthood was one of those life-events that took me apart till I was a million little pieces, and put me back together again in a completely reconfigured way.
Despite what bumper stickers say, it's not the one job that, if you do it well, you eventually lay yourself off. Instead, it goes from constant awareness of everything your child is doing, to very little information with just as much love and maybe a little less concern.
However, when there's something great that's happened in his day or something really bad, my son still calls and we either celebrate wildly or take a deep breath together. My main role now seems to be as maternal touchstone to let him know there's a place where he can always return to for comfort, but to get back out there because the world is a great place to go and explore.
It probably doesn't hurt that I went skydiving when I turned 50, and after surviving cancer, I'm determined to run again even with part of my leg missing. I want a life in practice, and not just in theory, and that's going to take some doing to accomplish.
Originally, I thought my job was to keep Louie safe and teach him things that would keep him safe, so he'd grow up and be safe. Safe was like a four-letter word for me. Instead, what I taught him was to be afraid and wonder if it was really possible to control anything, which it isn't. But I left him thinking that control was a necessity.
All that control has ever done for me is draw a tight little box around my life and fill the inside of it with anxiety.
Louie's a smart kid, though, and somewhere in his late teens, he told me he had enough and I was either going to straighten up and fly right or he was out of there. That was the push I needed to open my hands and let him go. Not just physically but spiritually as well, which is what made all the difference in the world.
In a bold move that was contrary to everything I'd ever done before, I decided to trust in something bigger that I call God, and turn over any ideas of how to stay safe. None of my methods were really working anyway, and I was exhausted from all of the efforts. Besides, I wanted Louie to thrive and be happy and I didn't know any other way to give him that than to surrender and pray. It was all I had left.
It may be one of the best things I've ever done as a parent.
The turn-around wasn't easy or quick, and for at least a few years, there were times I felt like I was constantly mumbling a prayer under my breath as I hopped from one subway to another or quickly walked down a busy street. But every day, change was happening and as I stopped trying to ward off what hadn't happened yet, I started to see the value in taking just the small step in front of me without having to know what it meant or where it'd lead or what was in it for me.
Lo and behold, I have managed to build a life despite my earlier efforts that is peaceful, loving and a lot of fun. Things keep happening that are, at times, a little tough, but I no longer take it all so personally, and it's easier for me to go back to being in the present.
There was still the Great Recession and that cancer and a hairy move from New York City to Chicago, but all of it was calmer, full of blessings and didn't leave emotional tire tracks. Now, there are new things to practice these new principles with, such as waiting to hear if the last piece of the puzzle to make my first novel, the thriller, "Wired," fall into place for Triton Films, www.TritonFilms.net, in Vancouver. I'm standing on one foot, waiting to hear if they get the financing. The script and the distribution are already in place. Say a collective prayer, everyone.
The difference between that life and this one, though, is that either way I'm OK, and can get on with my life. It'd be great, and I hope it happens, but it's not a deal breaker. My life is good and we're all happy. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." Free eBook at www.MarthaRa.