Got goals?

Dear friends,

I’ve been writing Chapter 20 of The Mountain. It’s a little longer than usual and when I publish it on Monday, my story will be caught up with real time. It’s a difficult chapter to write for many reasons (not the least of which are recent discouraging developments), and I’ve felt a bit worn out by the process. Wait . . . let me rephrase that. I’m not worn out by the writing. I’m worn out by the ordeal that prompted the writing.

I’ve also been getting used to life without Kate in my home. A week makes a big difference and I don’t feel nearly as morose as I did even a few days ago. We’ve either talked or texted every single day since she’s been gone. I haven’t laid eyes on her, of course, but in many ways I feel just as “connected” as I did when she was here. So far, she seems willing to indulge my endless curiosity about what she’s making of college life and to answer my myriad questions about her courses, her professors, her teammates, her coaches. I expect the daily chatter will taper off as we both settle in, but who knows? Maybe not — and that would, obviously, be just fine with me. It still kills me, though, to walk past her empty bedroom every day. (How do mothers who lose a child ever deal with the empty bedroom? It breaks my heart just to contemplate it.)

The combination of pouring myself into the end (for now) of my mountain story and figuring out how to be the mother of a daughter at college has left me more than a little unsettled. I feel unusually rudderless — almost like there’s an urgent need to “redefine” myself but I don’t know how to get started.

I suddenly feel so one-dimensional (I should read more! I should exercise more! I should reinvigorate my social life! I should pursue a new hobby!), and I can’t decide if I’m struggling with a crisis of identity or idle time.

I keep asking myself “Who do I want to be when I grow up?” (as if I’m not). As if I haven’t spent the last 25 years vigorously and sharply defining myself as a successful executive and mother of two.

Every night last week, I came home from work, ate the supper Mr. Mom prepared for me, then collapsed on the sofa in front of the television. And that pretty much sums up my most recent weekend, too. “So that’s it?” I asked myself yesterday. I’m just going to turn into a big, fat couch potato? Where are my aspirations for an empty-nester life, for Pete’s sake?

Please tell me they’ll come later. Tell me I don’t have to chart the entire course this week. Tell me, if you really love me, that lying on the sofa for seven nights straight while eating saltines smeared with butter and watching HBO reruns doesn’t mean my life is over and that I’ll eventually get this whole-new-life thing figured out.

Or . . . you can figure it out for me, dictate it in the comments section, and that’ll be just fine, too. Sometimes a girl just needs the easy answer.

With gratitude {for a robust satellite television package and a pantry stocked with plenty of saltines and butter},

Joan, who resisted the urge to purchase a desk calendar yesterday for the express purpose of charting out “new life” goals because, if there’s anything more demoralizing than lying on the sofa eating buttered crackers, it’s lying on the sofa eating buttered crackers while failing to accomplish a single “new life” goal


  1. Lady lady lady. What’s the rush? Where’s this pressure coming from? If you knew would that change any of the facts?

    If this was Kate in your place and her asking you as The Mom, what would you suggest to her?

    I read somewhere this time of year is universally unsettling. Autumn is so transitional on every level. Seasons are in flux, life patterns are in flux, the light is changing… It gets everybody’s hoodoo up.

    I’d gently suggest you close the door to Kate’s room, breathe in deeply and walk away. Then enjoy you some more crackers and reruns. Some people might consider having time to simply “be” rather than rushing from task to task as, oh, I don’t know, ….relaxing?

    (I for one just discovered the entire season of Bunheads is on demand and am getting caught up in it in large chunks – guilty pleasure style. I highly recommend with or without buttery crackers.)

  2. I sound like a stuck record, but regular meditation helps to reveal the answers…or at least make the questions go away! Good luck. You’re doing great!

  3. I second texasdeb (because she is The Guru): It is good to simply “be” (no lists, no tasks, no direction, no plot). Knowing Joan-Marie, you won’t be inert for long, so allow a little stasis to settle in.

  4. I think whenever life throws us a big transition, we go through this kind of phase. I know that with my diagnosis I spent a great deal of time staring at the tv and eating donut holes. We do what we can to cope until the next wave of energy or inspiration comes. And it will come! As hard as this is, I think you’ll find new ways to fill up your life. Just listen to yourself like you always do.

  5. Find a really good book. Get lost in it. I’m sorry I don’t have any titles to suggest, but I do know I feel better about life when I have a good book to look forward to. Especially one that will chase all those nasty self recriminating thoughts away because I’m too busy thinking about the characters and what will happen next. OK I have one. Eldest and I both read it. It’s called Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. And if you’re going to continue with the crackers at least buy some Nutella and really have a party : )


  1. […] in my wedding dress, only to get pregnant and gain 50 pounds six months later.) I think about the weeks I spent lying on the sofa eating buttered crackers in a depressed state because Kate had left for college. I even think about recent weeks when I’ve become a crazed […]

  2. […] Joan, who’s contemplating founding a chapter of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in her dining room because maybe she needs a couple of weeks of lazing around eating buttered crackers on the sofa […]

  3. […] angst and the sudden onset of unspecified but likely seasonal melancholy. And I responded by taking to the sofa to wallow in a sea of fattening snacks and mindless television programs for days and weeks on […]

  4. […] home improvement. You may recall that two years ago when I struggled with Kate leaving for college, I had no plan. The combination of idle time and her unoccupied bedroom haunted me for weeks and I vowed to avoid […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: