Fear and Faith

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It’s now March 26th.  The torture of waiting for college acceptance or rejection letters and checking the mail each day only got worse.  I would have written during the past few weeks except I was in a state of such paralyzing fear and I was unable to breathe long enough to form a sentence.  Last weekend was the most intense.  My daughter’s entire theater program from high school participated in a weekend-long theater competition.  This is a yearly event and her school always does very well.  I decided to go as a chaperone being that this would be the last year for us.  There are many competitions for the kids to participate in – Contemporary and classical monologues and scenes, mini and maxi musical theater categories, dance, one act plays, etc..  They even have categories for the techs and the writers.  My daughter was competing in the maxi-musical category.  She was Dolly (again), from Hello Dolly, and they did the scene with the dancing waiters into the Hello Dolly song.  And they won first place!  They were brilliant. My daughter also won third place for her Shakespearian monologue from Henry IV.

I suppose I was able to take in moments of the weekend, my beautiful daughter on stage in her bright red dress singing with twenty dancing waiters surrounding her, or listening to her perfect depiction of Lady Percy during her monologue competition.  But I spent the entire time with the knowledge that this was the weekend Carnegie Mellon was making their phone calls to accepted students. This was when she would know.  Each passing hour felt like an eternity and my adrenals were definitely on overload.   We had a short break from the stress of waiting when we went prom dress shopping Sunday afternon.  We found her the most beautiful and perfect dress and it was on sale.

As you may have guessed by now, the phone never rang.  The weekend came and went.  I tried to be positive but my anxiety was palpable.  It wasn’t only about the college admissions.  It was also about money not coming in and the bills piling up, my conflicting feelings about my business, my general fear of where my life is heading, and how can I stop all my horrible fearful thoughts from controlling me.

On Monday I went into acceptance mode.  There was no phone call from Carnegie Mellon. I  emailed my daughter’s college audition coach to ask her her opinion about all the schools we were waiting on.  She was encouraging and also told me that out of 1700 applicants to Carnegie Mellon’s Musical Theater Program, my daughter had been among the top 100. And there is still a chance she would be wait-listed.

And then something began to shift in me.  I realized that there IS one school my daughter has been admitted to, and it is right in the heart of Manhattan.  And even though it is her last choice of schools, not the exact program she was hoping for, it would mean she could be living in New York, her favorite City, right in the place where she ultimately wants to live and work.  She could be singing, dancing, making connections, joining a cappella groups, feeling the pulse of Broadway.  I started feeling like the sun was coming out, thawing the fear that had frozen me, and I saw that I had been putting way too much into this, as if it were life and death.  My daughter is alive, thriving, beautiful, and healthy.  She will go to her prom, finish High School, and continue to do what she loves.  She will go to college, and she will be fine. This process is not up to me.  All my anxiety and frozen fear wont help her get where she wants to go.

When we both got home Monday night, I told her what I had been thinking, that no matter what happens this next week as the rest of the letters come in, she will still get to go to college, and if she doesn’t like where she ends up she can always transfer.  This moment will not define the rest of her life.  She admitted to me that my anxiety and fear these past several weeks had been upsetting for her.  I apologized, telling her I had done my best to hide my negativity from her but I had not known how to stop it.  And thankfully for now I am okay, and she is okay.

There are still a few more schools we are waiting to hear from, and we will be making decisions during the next month.  But the sun is out and I know that everything will be just fine.  Faith is shining in our home.

Posted in Anticipation, Anxiety, College Admissions, College Auditions, Daughters, Fear, High School, Launching, Mothers, Musical Theater, Parenting, Single Parenting, Success, Teenagers, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

College Admissions = Torture (Part 2)

ImageMonday, March 3rd.  11:08 p.m.

Well, it wasn’t really really bad news.  It wasn’t an acceptance letter though.  It WAS from financial aid.  They are estimating that she will get almost $40,000 per year if she is admitted!!  This is good news, but I am still tortured.  I will keep praying, visualizing, and detaching as much as possible.  I will be SO GLAD when this is all over!

Of course she was totally calm about it.  She sauntered in at 10:48 p.m. and was telling me about a song she and her friend worked on for two hours.  (I thought they were studying?).  She’s still positive, unruffled and self-assured.  How is this my daughter?

Posted in Anticipation, Anxiety, College Admissions, College Auditions, Daughters, Financial Aid, High School, Homework, Mothers, Musical Theater, Parenting, Single Parenting, Success, Teenagers, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

College Admissions = Torture (Part 1)

ImageOh God.  It’s Monday, March 3rd.  9:45 p.m.  I’m going insane.  I just got home from the gym about 20 minutes ago and grabbed the mail.  My daughter is on her way home from studying with a friend.  It’s raining, which is something good I suppose.  There is a letter now lying on the table, unopened with her name on it.  It’s from Carnagie Mellon University.  A million thoughts are racing through my head, and I’ve had to pour myself a glass of wine.  I can’t stand this.  I wish we never had to open the letter, to keep hoping..

This could be really really bad news, or it could be really really good news.  Because of the date, (they said they would be notified by mid-march), I’m thinking it’s a NO.  But it’s her top choice, her dream school, and they loved her in the audition.  We were so excited afterwards, she was so positive they loved her.  Maybe it’s just a letter from them about financial aid?  But it says Admissions.  And it’s just a letter.  Nothing fancy.  If it was an acceptance letter wouldn’t it be in a big packet?  Should I brace myself for her tears of disappointment?  She’ll be home soon.  I called and told her it was here.  She made me promise not to open it.  I’m sitting here with dread and fear in my stomach.  Should I watch TV? Call my mom?  How can I pass the time?

If it’s a NO, there are still 10 more schools we are waiting to hear back from.  If it’s a NO, she wasn’t meant to go there and her perfect college experience will be somewhere else.  If it’s a NO, then they were stupid, blind, unfair.  I want to shake them.  “Don’t you SEE how much this means to my little girl!?!?!  Didn’t you hear her, talk to her, see her? She’s AMAZING!!!”  And I suppose it means a little too much to me, but how can a mother separate from this kind of thing?  If she does become an actress I’ll have to figure out some way to detach.  This is torture.

I watched the Academy Awards last night.  Now I think of all the mothers of those nominated.  It has to be this same torture to watch your child sitting there in the audience in anticipation, a million people watching, most of them from an impersonal perspective.  They are far removed from the outcome.  But the mothers – they know how I feel.  It’s too personal.  When we see our child work for something all their lives, putting everything they have into their dreams, and it is up to a stranger to judge them, to choose something so vital to their future.  I can hardly stand it.

Monday March 3rd, 10:09 p.m.  She’s still not home.  I’m waiting to hear her drive up.  I have keep my own emotions in check.  It’s her experience, her life, her college audition process. She did everything she could.  We all did our very very best.  The rest is in God’s hands.  Gotta let it go.

Monday March 3rd, 10:22 p.m.  I’ve looked at Facebook. Watched Jimmy Fallon with Idina Menzell singing her song from Frozen.  Everyone still talking about how John Travolta messed up her name.  I actually feel kind of sorry for him.  I’ve triple checked my email. She-Is-Still-Not-Home!

Monday March 3rd, 10:25 p.m.  Heard a car door slam.  It wasn’t hers’.  I sure hope this is good news..  I can’t move from this seat.  Afraid of my thoughts and anxiety.  Just want her to feel good, to be happy, to succeed.  That’s not too much to ask is it?

Posted in Anxiety, College Admissions, College Applications, College Auditions, Daughters, High School, Launching, Mothers, Musical Theater, Parenting, Success, Teenagers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letting go – Really?

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Photo By Stephen Texeira http://www.texeiraphoto.com/

This is a little strange, but I am noticing a distinct change in my attitude toward my daughter’s launching.  The word “apathy” is too strong, but the feeling is somewhere on the continuum between apathy and engagement, leaning slightly toward the apathy end of the spectrum.  It’s not that I’ve stopped caring, I love and care about my daughter as much as I always have, but I think on some level my mommy well is running dry.  Quite frankly, I’m tired.  And I’m thinking of the time soon to come when I will be able to plan my days, weeks, and months around myself instead of her. So unexpected to be thinking this way.

I have been dreading the idea of “Empty nest” for so long, that I didn’t expect this new feeling – looking forward to having my own space and time again.  I am seeing ads and Facebook postings about dance classes, music sessions, events I’d like to go to, and then there is an unfamiliar thought that pops into my head, “I will be free to do these things when my daughter goes to college”.  It’s not as if I’m not doing any of these activities now, but I do feel I still need to be home most week nights to cook or help with homework, or the more recent college application insanity.  So it’s possible that my slight apathy could be a bit of burnout.  It has been an intense year in the life of a single mom, and I’m ready to have some down time.  It’s also a way of being in the world that I have not experienced for seventeen years – to think of myself first, and not constantly planning around another person’s needs.  I am in an in between place of transition, anticipating a huge change, listening to my thoughts and feelings about it, and trying my best to go with the flow accepting that I cant stop time.  But instead of dread and sadness, I’m feeling surprisingly good.

This weekend is the beginning of her college auditions.  She goes to Chicago for five auditions, then home for a day, then to LA for five more auditions.  Next week there will be one audition in San Francisco, and then a final trip to North Carolina for the last one.  It will be an insane month for her, and weirdly, I am feeling a bit detached.  I’m helping with the final preparations of headshots, resume, dry cleaning of the dresses she will wear, and making sure everything is organized, but oddly enough I’m not, (at this moment) all that worried.  Aside from the money part, I know she will end up where she is meant to be and it is a relief to be feeling calm in the midst of her storm.

I can only attribute this state of mind to my recent intensifying of my self-care efforts.  I’m taking better care of myself than I ever have before.  Doing yoga, spending time with friends, eating really well, exercising, and daily spiritual practice.  It’s the most consistent I have ever been with loving myself, and it feels amazing.  It’s as if my newly felt sense of trust that I’m going to be okay is spilling over on into my current experience of mothering.   I know I have done all I can in raising my daughter to be a confident and self-loving young woman, and now she will have the opportunity to use her inner resources to get where she wants to go.  And this is really the important part – it’s her life now, not mine.  All I can do is watch and hope for the best, and surrender that this is no longer something I can control or fix for her.  It’s totally up to her now.

Posted in College Applications, College Auditions, Daughters, Launching, Mothers, Musical Theater, Parenting, Single Parenting, Success, Teenagers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rain?

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Where the hell is our rain?  Is anyone else as upset about this as I am?  I scour the internet daily looking for answers as to why we are so cracked and dry on the California Coast.  They say there is a high-pressure system, like an invisible mountain range, sitting off the California and Oregon Coastline.  It wont let the storm clouds through to the land.  So they go around, but miss us entirely.  The high- pressure system is staying put, has been here for a year now, and it wont budge.

I’ve never liked dry climates.  Having lived in LA until the age of fourteen, I always hated the year round heat.   Those hot dry afternoons and the endless days of dirty smog filled skies.  It always felt wrong that I lived there, like people weren’t supposed to live in sprawling blazing hot wastelands.  At least, not people like me. The only relief was the Pacific Ocean where I spent as much time as possible.  As a little girl I prayed for rain constantly, not realizing how useless this was in the desert of Southern California.  But moving to San Francisco I finally got more of the rain I loved, and in winters I’ve enjoyed the water rushing through the gutters each year, like small urban rivers carrying away the dirt, soaking the earth, feeding the plants, easing the sad dryness inside me.  I came to look forward to the rain, anticipating the change in the weather and breathing a sigh of relief each Fall when the heat of Indian Summer would drift away, the clouds filling the sky, and the lovely rain would begin to fall on thirsty hillsides and gardens.  When I moved to Marin County in my late 20’s I was thrilled to actually experience seasons, the leaves changing colors, the wet cold winters, and the gorgeous springtime when everything from the largest trees to the tiniest blades of grass came alive with vibrant color, as if there was a chorus of nature all around me singing “I’m Alive!!”

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Not this year I fear.  Although we have had cold, it is dry as an old bone.  Every tree seems to call out in confusion in its winter grayness – “where is the rain?, where is life?”.  Everything looks dead to me, but in a hopeless way, not like the dormant winter gray, but in a dried up brown that wont see a real spring.  I imagine there will be no fresh green new life coming this year, and I am devastated.  The hills are still as brown as they were when Summer came to its end.  They look sad and confused to me, like they are waiting for a parent to come feed them who never comes home.  The weather has abandoned California.  The meteorologists are baffled, speculating about climate change and whether we will ever see an end to this bizarre pattern.

But I think maybe I can do something to help things along.  I have been having a conversation in my head with the mountainous high pressure system that wont seem to budge from our coastline.  I realized that if this conversation were to take place, I’d have to treat it like I do when I call a company about a problem with my phone bill, or insurance policy, or worse when the internet goes down – to treat the person on the other end of the line like they are a good friend.  So I’m going to talk to the high pressure system like a good buddy.

Hi HPS (High Pressure System), How are you?  I’d like to discuss a concern I have with you. First of all, thank you for your apparent concern for California.  You seem to be doing your very best to protect us from the raging storms that are pounding much of the rest of the country this winter.  You are quite powerful and seem to like it here, which must be why you have stayed for a year now.  While I can understand your motives, I would also like to remind you that there are some urgent needs we have related to water that make us dependent on the very storms you have chosen to protect us from.  You may not know this, but our life depends on the water we get from our winter storms.   I’m not asking for anything huge here, just a break in your massive presence to allow a few storms to come our way.

Then the the high pressure system responds with: “oh, okay, no problem.  I was just hanging for a while, enjoying the scenery, but I can move on”.  “Wow.  Thanks”,  I say, “You’re a real pal”.

Another idea I have is for all of us, the hundreds of thousands of people living through this ridiculously dry winter, to start focusing on RAIN.  Do your best rain dance!  Meditate on flowing water in our streams and gutters!  Think of times when you have sat in a cozy chair with a blanket and cup of hot tea listening to the rain outside.  Think about using your windshield wipers again, and the smell of rain on the streets in the early mornings.  Think about the way the moss grows on tree trunks during the wet season, and the sound of streams running down into the valleys where you live.  Picture the rain in its abundant cleansing and healing of the earth.  This is what we all need to do, even as we prepare for a drought. It certainly can’t hurt right?  And it makes me feel better to think that if we all try our best to think this way, maybe there is still a chance for some rain this season.

In the midst of my worst anxiety, I finally did what I often do when I’m really scared about the future.  I asked my good friend Stephen, who, aside from being one of the smartest people I know, is also quite psychic.  I don’t ask him about small or trivial things, such as when will I earn more money or who will win an Oscar.  But I do ask about the big stuff when it seems vital to our survival.  I remember being terrified about the Bush administration and what was happening to this country.  Stephen told me it would be a bad few years, but that a senator named Barack Obama would be our next president and would turn some things around.  I asked him again when Obama ran for re-election, and he predicted things would be okay.  So I asked him about the rain situation in a text.  Here is our conversation:

Me – “And do you have an answer about the rain?”,

Him – “Oh, yeah, I do!  But it’s not a good answer.”

Me – “Well?  You have to tell me!  I’m obsessing.  I’m scared.  It’s global warming right?  California is going to dry up and we are all screwed”.

Him – “Well, it’s going to be a serious drought for a few years, but it will end.  It wont stay forever.  We are all just going to be taking much shorter showers”.

Me – “okay.  I can deal.”

Him – “Good.  Me too”.

Me – “thank you .  You eased my anxiety that it wont last forever”.

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Posted in Anxiety, California, Drought, Fear, Rain, Storm, Uncategorized, Water | 2 Comments

Let There Be Light

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It’s 10:00 o’clock at night.  My large pot of chicken soup is simmering on the stove, and my daughter just went to bed.  It’s rare that she is in bed this early, and I’m relieved that she seems slightly less stressed now that her big show is over.  All is well tonight, and yet..

It’s a countdown now until next August when she leaves for college.  I see now why so many parents have conflicts and power struggles with their teens during this last year before they leave.  Everything is magnified.  “Is this how she’ll be in college?  Have I done enough to teach her how to survive on her own?  Is there enough time left to undo some of the damage I have done?  Is it too late?”  These are the underlying thoughts that plague me all too often.  It is particularly unbearable when I see my daughter’s struggles with anxiety, which I feel acutely responsible for.  She has told me how hard it is to be at home alone when she has to do homework, or how anxious she feels whenever she drives.  I spent most of her childhood living in a state of anxiety, fear, and stress myself.  There was never enough time, money, or tranquility in our home.  There were definitely good times, and I know in so many ways I have been a good mother to her.  But I find myself longing for a device to reverse time so I could do some things differently when she was a little girl.   At a women’s empowerment workshop I attended recently we did an exercise in which we had a conversation with our bodies. In my conversation my body told me loud and clear how much I have hurt it by being so stressed, running late, and rarely slowing down all these years.  After the exercise I was filled with an unbearable anguish at how this same stress has hurt my daughter, and how much of her frantic and busy lifestyle she learned from me.

It is only now in her last year of high school that I am truly learning how to love and take care of myself, to manage time and money in a more sane manner.  But it is now no longer a question of me being a role model or providing a more peaceful home.  It is too late.  The damage has been done and I can’t undo the past.  I can’t change all the years of frantic mornings and being late to school.  I can’t change how my own painful struggles with anxiety leaked out onto her, like contaminated air she had to breathe by being my daughter.

In my effort to change my ways during this holiday season, I have been making plans to do fun things with her, and trying to ease her worries about grades and college admissions when I can.  In recent years there have been times when I was too busy and stressed to think about decorating for the holidays. Tonight I put up Christmas lights in our window – something I have never done before.  My daughter was out at a tutoring session and when she walked through the door she looked at the lights and said, “It’s Christmas!”  I felt happy and warm in our chicken soup infused kitchen.  Later I brushed her hair and insisted on tucking her into bed.  I came back into the kitchen and looking at the Christmas lights I saw them as a hopeful sign of a home where there is enough time to put up lights, to decorate, to make soup and keep the kitchen clean.  I thought about rituals around the holidays and our new plans to wake up early a few times a week to drink hot cocoa and look at the Christmas tree before rushing off to school and work.   These are the things I wish I had been doing all these years, before high school and intense pressure, before she absorbed the anxiety of an adult.

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 A couple of nights later she texted me while I was at a meeting and said she needed me and when would I be home?  When I got there she was in tears, overwhelmed by the pressure of upcoming finals, her thoughts about leaving for college next year, and fear that she wont get into any of the schools she wants to go to, or that even if she does there wont be enough money to go.  I held her for a while and listened as she cried and poured out all the things in her head that were too much for her young body to hold.  Later when she fell asleep in my bed, I watched her sleep and realized that the most important thing I can do is to be present with her now.  When I am solid enough in myself to just be with her – without trying to fix or change what is, without my own anxieties taking over the air space in our home – it is healing for us both.

 

Posted in Anxiety, College Applications, Daughters, High School, Homework, Launching, Mothers, Parenting, Regret, Single Parenting, Success, Teenagers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fulfilled

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For the past two weeks I have been trying to find words to express my current state of mind.  I can’t help but think of the Olympics – the parents I have seen on TV as they watch their child competing in their chosen sport and winning again and again.  I think of Michael Phelps’ mother who never gave up on her ADHD son, or Gabby Douglas’ single mother who sacrificed having her daughter live with her in order for her to pursue gymnastics.  This is the closest thing to expressing how I feel.  It is more than being proud of my daughter.  This is a deeper, more awesome experience, eliciting a profound emotion that is not easy to describe.  For the past few years I have been watching my daughter thrive.  But the perfect moment has come right now.  She is playing the role of a lifetime as Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly”, and quite frankly, she’s killing it.  It is truly the perfect role for her, and I am mesmerized by her performance each time I see the show.

For nine years she has been patiently and intensely working toward her dreams of becoming a professional actress in musical theater.  And being in a performing arts high school, she has been in the perfect environment to pursue this goal.  But there have been so many times when she was passed over.  Whether it was age, looks, weight, etc.. she always seemed to be cast in the lesser roles, or the old woman roles.  Starting with Annie when she was called back to audition for Annie but lost to a thinner red head who couldn’t act but had a great belt.  In Les Mis she played a boy – one of the students who dies on the barricade.  In Singin’ in the Rain (the first time she did it), she was a tapper and had one line as an assistant Director.  In Fiddler she played Yente, who does not sing, and in Music Man she played the Mayors wife, also not a singing role.  In A Chorus Line she played Sheila, the “old” dancer, and in Spring Awakening she played a School Marm and a mother.  Are you seeing a trend?  In Little Me she played the mother of the male lead, also a part with no vocals.  In Legally Blonde she played a saleswoman and the judge. But she got a new experience last Spring when she finally got to play the female lead, Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, and now, at long last, she is Dolly.

And what a Dolly!  She is so perfect and lovable as this woman, and she herself said she knows this is very likely who she will be when she is fifty – helping people find love, telling everyone what to do, and fixing problems effortlessly. She plays the part with such love and poise, I am speechless with each song she sings and the way her eyes light up the entire theater.  Her voice is strong and consistent, her stage presence unmistakable.  But the part that makes me, (and everyone else in the audience), tear up, is at the end of the show when all Dolly’s plans come to fruition and she is standing among her loved ones with relief and triumph.  She is only half acting in this scene as she smiles with an inner joy.  As Dolly she is surrounded by the people she has helped and grown to love, and as my daughter, she is surrounded by her dear friends from the theater department, feeling intense love for all of them and they her.  There is nothing like seeing the joy on your child’s face when they achieve their dreams.  Over the next few days I will watch her show three more times, and then we will begin to prepare for her auditions for colleges across the country, all with excellent musical theater programs.  She is on her way, and the path is very clear.

Yes, the best word I can find is Fulfilled.

Posted in College Applications, Daughters, High School, Mothers, Musical Theater, Parenting, Single Parenting, Success, Teenagers, Uncategorized | 5 Comments