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My phantom life

20 July 2010

My old life…the one before kids.  It’s long gone.  Past denial, past anger (years), past depression (more years), even past acceptance (relief at last).  For a long time it haunted me – my phantom life of being an independent person – a person without dependents.

I had my first child just before I turned 30, so I had plenty of carefree years:  college, working, traveling, eating out, sleeping in.  And though pregnancy (sort of like being taken over by an alien) was not the most comfortable time in my life, I could still get along as usual.  But childbirth…I was so focused on getting the baby out that I not see that simultaneously my old life was being amputated – irretrievably severed.

In half-awake moments my mind still feels it hovering nearby, sort of like a parallel universe.  The life where I don’t wear frayed jeans and ancient tee shirts every day.  The life where I get a paycheck.  The life where I have meaningful conversations with adults, eat hot food when it’s hot and cold food when it’s cold.  The life where I have uninterrupted sleep and can remember what day of the week it is.

And then something will jar me into full consciousness – a small body climbing into bed, a foot in my rib, the sound of “mah-mee” from across the dark house.  And I am so grateful for my warm little alarm clocks, even though I can’t set the time they go off (or the volume, or the frequency).  I am content having traded tyrants at work who can be escaped at the end of the day to tyrants at home who cannot.  Yes, the tyrants at home need to be fed, teeth brushed, fed, diapers changed, fed, dressed, fed, driven here and there, fed, bathed, fed, put to bed.  But they are tyrants I created out of my own body, tyrants that grow and become less tyrannical (or later, differently tyrannical).  They keep things interesting, keep me laughing, keep me honest, force me to be a better person – even though I would often rather NOT – because I can see that it makes them better people.

Funny how long I mourned my old life.  Mourned the loss of independence.  Mourned being able to take a shower or go to the bathroom without company.  Felt angry about having to do so much unending, unappreciated work for everyone else and never having a second to myself.  Felt frustrated that I had always thought I could have it all, a great career and a large family together.  Wasted years on that.

I had a lot to learn, and I resisted.  Resisted with all my stubbornness until finally, I was tired.  I capitulated, surrendered, bowed down to the universe.  Learned to let go of my anger.  Learned I could only live the life I had been given, not my phantom life or any utopian vision in my head.  Learned that I had spent my life under the utterly false impression that I was in control.  Learned that the only things I could control were in my head – my own reactions to and perceptions of my life, not the course of life itself.  Realized that in always wishing for “someday” I was missing out on the gifts of today.  Learned patience.

I still feel it out there, my phantom life.  But I’ve let go of it emotionally; it’s just an artifact.  And letting it go has allowed me to embrace what is real.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

venus damore 20 July 2010 at 8:51 pm

amen, sister.

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Russ 21 July 2010 at 8:41 pm

You write very well… keep it up!

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Meryl Selig 21 July 2010 at 9:49 pm

Once again, you captured the essence of a complex transformation. Hard to do it succinctly. I wish I could have read this seven years ago when my career stopped and life changed so radically. Thanks. I have to keep re-reading your message.

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Derek Isetti 23 August 2010 at 10:46 am

“I could only control my own reaction to and perceptions of my life, not the course of life itself.” Wow. . . that’s going to be my mantra for the next day/week/month/year/lifetime. 🙂

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Joy 29 September 2010 at 12:32 am

This is such a great article! You wrote this very beautifully. I would guess that you studied English literature if I didn’t know you. Thank you for sharing.

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Sharice 1 November 2010 at 1:41 pm

I really enjoyed this article especially the last few paragraphs and all the realizations that you have come too…I can relate in many ways about the control and learning patience! Thanks for sharing!

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cg 3 November 2010 at 3:47 pm

thanks sharice! love getting your feedback. =)

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Nance 27 November 2010 at 11:47 am

Apropos of your beautifully articulated post, one of the kids brought home the following book from school recently, and it made us all laugh (and made me well up as I related to the weary mom at the end of the story–the illustrations are amazing!). If you were closer, I would have dropped it off on your doorstep. http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Silly-Eaters-Mary-Hoberman/dp/0152000968

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cg 27 November 2010 at 11:59 pm

haha, that book looks like the story of my life. i’m either training monsters or future food professionals. sometimes the particulars drive me crazy, and other times i’m really proud when they eat some junky version and realize it’s not very good. thanks for the rec!!

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HapaMama 7 August 2011 at 11:00 am

Oh yes, you’ve articulated the general feeling of the past nine years of my life. It was wonderful to meet you at BlogHer and have a some great grown-up conversations. Let’s keep in touch.

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Brooke 17 May 2016 at 10:54 am

Thank you for this. Still working on letting go so that I can “embrace what is real” in this life. Your thoughtfulness is a much needed reminder for me. Xoxo

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