Saturday, April 26, 2008

I'm So Confused!!!!

A phone call came late this afternoon from my son.

After our first few sentences, I actually started taking notes during the conversation, I didn't want to forget any of the important parts, because it really shook me up, more than I would have imagined. I have no idea what to think, what to feel. I am hopeful, yet that hope is tinged with disappointment. I had to ask myself so many questions once I hung up the phone and had time to reflect upon our conversation.

* * * * * * *

The conversation...


"Hey, Son! Where are you?"

"At a hiker hostel about 30 miles from Springer."

"How are you?"

"I'm great, better than I have been in years, in fact, I'm elated."

"Mom, I'm coming home next week."

"Why next week?"

"Because, I've found out what's important to me. This isn't. I know it sounds like I am quitting, but I don't think I am. The trail will always be here. I know where I need to be right now, and it isn't here. I need to be spending time with you, with my sister, and with dad, especially dad?"

"Why especially your dad?"

"Because I don't know him."

I couldn't help it, I immediately teared up when I heard that.

"Mom, are you alright?"

"Yes. Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

"I've spent these past 8 days thinking of nothing else, and the last few days talking to a lot of people. Most of them couldn't believe it when they heard I was missing my sister's graduation. They said I was being selfish, I told them I talked to her about it and she didn't care. Several told me I would be sorry if I missed it, it's a once in a lifetime occasion. One guy asked me, what's most important to me right now. I thought about it, and I do feel selfish.

I have been selfish."

"You've been selfish for a really long time now babe."

"I know, I wrote in my journal, selfish hurts."

"How do you feel right now?"

"I'm sunburned and happy, happier than I've been for so long. Although I am worried about my ears, they're pretty badly burned."

"Put some aloe on them. Are you journaling all of this, your thoughts, your feelings?"

"Yes, I still have some things I need to reconcile, but I found out most of what I needed to find out."

"That's what a part of this trip was about."

"It was a really expensive way to find out."

"That depends. It depends on you, and what you do when you come home. It depends on whether these changes you want to make, the way you feel lasts. If it does, then it was a bargain, babe. But, if you slide back into depression, if you end up living like you have for the past year or more, then yes it was expensive. But, I will tell you this. If you come back, and end up sliding backward, I am going to buy one of those long swimming pool noodle things, and I am going to beat you with it."

He laughed, "Do it, and then say Springer Mountain. Because that's part of why I feel so good, I did it! I climbed it, I made it up to Springer, what I couldn't do before. I did it, and it was beautiful, the most beautiful view I have ever seen."

"They say there are even more beautiful spots along the trail."

"Really? They would have to be phenomenal, Springer Mountain is amazing."

"Mom, I feel like talking for awhile, is that okay?"

"Yes, go on, I have all the time in the world."

"Mom, will you make me a list. A list of all the repairs you need done on the house?"

I laughed, "That's a really long list, and anyway, I can't afford them all."

"I can help with that, some things can be done really inexpensively. I've seen some really great decks while I've been down here. I think I could make ours better."

"It could definitely use some sprucing up."

"Son, are you sure?"

"Mom, I have made lists in my journal, so many. There're things I need to make up for. I need to help dad more on the farm. I need to help you. I need to con dad into going fishing with me...if he will. I want to keep hiking, all summer, just I like I would be if I were still here. I want to get the motor cycle license I've been talking about for so long. I have a lot to think about, decisions to make about school, and a lot of other things."

"Okay, I think I understand. What was the trail like? How far did you walk each day? Did you meet many hikers? What are the shelters like, did you use them, or camp outside them? Did you see any bears?"

"Wow, hold on...the trail is great, easier than I thought it would be. I was doing about ten miles a day, I set a pace for myself, one I knew I could keep up all day, it worked, though I was exhausted each night. In fact I walk further than most of the other hikers, not that I walk faster, but they seem to stop a lot more often. I ran into the same guy off and on over the days, we would talk. He had an encounter with a bear at one of the shelters, in fact from his description, it sounded exactly like the behavior of bears that stalk, hunt and kill humans, I think he was really lucky there were other hikers around, or he would have been seriously hurt."

"Oh no! I guess he was lucky. I wonder what they do, do they report the location of the bear, its unusual behavior?"

"I think so, don't know though."

"The shelters are full of mice, last night, I left my socks on top of my hiking shoes, and the mice chewed a hole in each of my socks...just my socks, they didn't get into my pack or anything else, really weird."

"They must like the taste of your feet."

"Anyway, Mom, I will tell you all about it when I get home, which should be around Thursday, I have to hitch a ride back to Gainesville, it's the closest bus station."

"Alright, but Son, if you change your mind, decide to stay on the trail, or go somewhere else for awhile, just let me know...okay?"

"I will, I love you mom."

"I love you too, and hey, get some aloe vera gel for your ears."

* * * * * * *

I sat in the chair thinking over our conversation for well over an hour...trying to understand. My emotions are mixed. I am happy for him, surprised this epiphany of his occurred so quickly, but I also understand that sometimes it really can happen that way.

But, I also wondered, is he just home sick, and isn't willing to admit it? But, then I think of when he went to Japan in 2004, granted he was only gone for 16 days, but he didn't want to come home, he loved it there, he wasn't homesick at all. All of these wonderful feelings, plans, goals, that are filling his mind, they are very real to him now, he is full of new found self-confidence, and self-belief, but, will it last once he returns home?

I also had to determine why I was so disappointed he wasn't staying on the trail longer. I had to question, how much of this adventure of his was really my way of vicariously fulfilling my own dreams? Is that why I feel so much disappointment? I have to be honest with is.

But, I also wish he would give it some more time. He's there already, why not go for it? He could stay out for another two weeks and still not miss his sister's graduation. I know it would cost him more money. But, I don't know, I just don't think he gave it enough time. But that is me. I am so unsure of what do or say. Do I tell him I think he should continue for a few more days? Do I track down the hostel he is staying at and voice my opinion? Or, do I stay out of it? Is it detrimental to tell him, or more detrimental to not tell him? This is his decision after all, his life.

When I told my mother, and sister, they were thrilled he is returning home already. Why aren't I? His dad feels the same way I do, why not stay another week or two? I think we are both fearful this is just another way of taking the easiest path. GRrrrrrrrrrr! I JUST DON'T KNOW!

This child, actually both of my children, have me literally pulling my hair out at times.


Sixdegrees said...

Here's a thought - give him one of those swimming pool noodles as a welcome home present. Probably not a a good idea in real life, but the notion is to remind him of the insights he had into his life during his trail hike when he gets overwhelmed by all the confusing details of living his life.

As we grow up, there are many external voices (parents, teachers, coaches, etc) telling us what to do and why it is important. At some point in our lives, we all need to develop an internal compass of what is really important to us. And start building our own life. This process, of shifting from being driven by external voices to our internal voice, is repeated in different domains throughout life's course. I see this happening in my son - in the way he is slowly acquiring a love for reading. Reading a book is becoming less of a requirement imposed by teachers and parents and more of something he enjoys. I also see this happening in graduate students, who first do a particular experiment because their advisor tells them that this experiment will answer an important question. They have earned their PhD and are ready to become independent scientists when they, not their advisor, are defining the new questions and how to answer these questions. In much the same way, we want our children to develop into independent adults.

So, I think that your son is going through an important transition - from externally-imposed goals toward developing his own internally-driven goals. A very hard thing to do is to watch the "two steps forward, one step backward" mechanism by which these transitions proceed. The best thing we can do is help them find their compass when it appears as if their sense of direction is lost.

Sunny Delight said...

Thank you, I knew there was a reason I have tried to put all that I feel and think into my entries...I receive insights from someone like you. Other's opinions even when they don't know the whole "story" are more objective...oftentimes when it comes to ourselves, or our loved ones, we are just too close to truly see everything that is going on.

I believe in him, he is a bright, compassionate, passionate young man, who has been lost...and you are so right...there have been so many external voices telling him what he should do, how he should be. I left home early, yet there were still so many very strong external voices telling me who I should be, how I should live, that I became lost in them. It took me so long to listen to my own voice. I do not wish the same to happen to my own children.

The example of your son and reading rang so many bells...I remember observing the exact same situation with my daughter...I was so happy when she developed a love for reading. In fact each time one of my children has found something they love, or hold a passion for, has thrilled me.

I am often flummoxed as a parent, wanting to lend support, give advise, yet also wanting them to reach their own decisions,trying not judge those decisions by my own internal standards, I know they have to make their own triumphs and mistakes to grow...'tis so hard to not voice my opinion sometimes though.

The noodle idea is wonderful...I think I will buy one...and write the words Springer Mountain on it, maybe hang it on his bedroom wall ~smile~

Don't go away as so many bloggers do, I place value on your ideas and opinions.

As an aside, I thought I had a good idea of what your academic area of study is, now I not so sure...I have to admit, I am very curious as to what it is, but since not telling is a part of your online anonymity, I'm probably never going to know for sure, but that isn't going to keep me from wondering.

Mary said...

I know it may be little disappointing but... I think that's part of the point. Like six said, it's part of your son identifying what his own compass is. I know I'm still in the process of figuring that out. And every time I get some kind of revelation of which way the needle's really pointing, I always have mixed feelings. Because once you realize what it is you really need to be doing, you have to consciously accept the giving up of what you thought was important. And that's really hard. It takes a subtle do it yourself rewiring.

For many years I was set in stone that I was going to marry a Norwegian, move to Norway, learn the language, have lots of pretty Norwegian babies, learn how to ski, and be pretty much the most amazing person ever. It was both very hard and very relieving at the same time when I realized that wasn't going to work for me. It was hard in that I had to admit that all the years I had spent convinced it was right were actually wrong. That's a very difficult step to make.

Yet I found that once I freed myself of that responsibility that I had imposed upon myself for a number of reasons, it wasn't just the disappointing let down of realizing I had spent 7 years of my life that would pan out into nothing. It was also exciting. Because now I had the ability to see a little more clearly, and with alot more perspective what exactly in my life WASN'T wrong.

I became extremely close to my father, my mother and I healed alot of old wounds (because those were definitely there). I tried to understand my siblings a bit better. Brothers and sisters that I had more or less cut off from myself in pursuit of my ultimate goal, I now found myself connecting to. And Boyfriend and I actually live with Brother. He's one of my siblings who I never really knew until very recently. And that discovery makes me sad, because he's one of the most amazing people I know.

For years I had convinced myself that as much as I love my family, my place in the world wasn't near them. It was somewhere far far away doing something amazing. I had to take a step back and realize that while it would've been amazing, it would have cost me far too much and I wouldn't have realized it. It took a very painful 180 to be able to look back home, and in the neighborhood and at your job, and in line at the supermarket, and realize there are amazing people and amazing things right here, right next to you all the time. It just seems... a waste to leave it all behind in search of some other kind of amazing.

Sunny Delight said...

You are amazing! You truly are.

So much of what you've written resonates within me on so many levels. As a mother learning to let her children choose their own paths, and as a woman choosing a new path.

People appear in our lives just when we need them it seems. Having your viewpoint at this point in my life, when I know I must let my children read their own compasses is so helpful. Thank you.

Norway eh? Oh, I would love to hear this story someday.

Anonymous said...

"Realize there are amazing people and amazing things right here, right next to you all the time. It just seems... a waste to leave it all behind in search of some other kind of amazing."

I came back to leave a comment and then read Mary's comment. She's right and it feels like I just found something out that I didn't know. Man, I am one immature, middle aged woman. When will I grow up?