. . . that wicked restlessness.
I have to tell you, I’ve always been pretty content—a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer . . . my life’s been stable with very little drama. And that’s been deliberate. Growing up, my family was all drama and chaos, so when I met this lovely man who was rock steady and low-key, I was immediately attracted. Our almost-40 years together have been a peaceful, easy journey with only a few bumps along the way. Perky has always been my job; tending to everyone else’s needs is what I do best. My Nana told me that the woman sets the mood for the household, so I knew from the start that my natural good nature was the mood-setter in my home. I am the one who always sees the sunshine and husband is the serious one, dependable and secure. I always loved my role, I still do.
But when I reached my mid-fifties, something changed. Inside me changed. I fought it for a while, an inner struggle that left me bewildered and exhausted. Intellectually, I knew exactly what was happening to me—menopause—what my Nana called “the change,” and she was absolutely right. One moment I was the old Nan, peaceful, bright, and sunny. The next, I was angry, bored, and something new—a feeling I’d never, ever felt before. I was restless. I wanted to go—just get in my car and start driving. Or hit the airport and get on a plane to . . . anywhere at all.
Problem was, husband’s not a traveler—serious diet restrictions and a penchant for being a homebody keeps him pretty close to the nest. I figured out fast that if I wanted to travel, I’d mostly be doing it with friends or alone. My first “Nan trip” was to Michigan. I drove to Battle Creek for a friend’s daughter’s wedding and then planned to drive to Lake Michigan for a few days at a B&B. It was the first time I’d driven more than 90 miles all by myself. It was scary, but exhilarating. I opened the sunroof, cranked up the CD player, and Norah Jones and I sang our way to Battle Creek.
After the wedding festivities, I drove across western Michigan to Saugatuck by the Lake Michigan shore and spent three days completely alone. I walked the beach, wandered around the little artsy community of Saugatuck, ate by myself in some charming restaurants, read, drank wine, and wrote endlessly in my journal. To my amazement, that time alone eased the restlessness.
The next fall, I went to Washington, DC for a copyeditor workshop and four days of doing the museums in the nation’s capitol. It was amazing to be able to wander at will in the Archives, knowing that I didn’t have to worry about anyone sitting on a bench, tapping their foot, waiting for me to stop weeping at the sight of the Declaration of Independence. I mastered the Metro, found restaurants, and enjoyed meeting some new people. I loved Washington so much, I did it again the next year, all by myself—this time, it was the Smithsonian and Mt. Vernon. I steeped myself in history to my heart’s content and then returned to the hotel for hours of writing and reading (and wine). What heaven!
Since we bought our lake cottage, my Nan time has been spent there—the weeks that I stayed at the lake by myself this past summer were wonderful opportunities for writing, reading, swimming . . . for easing the restlessness. Winter is usually my time to nest, to settle in, work, write, and enjoy the comfort of home. But today, well for the past couple of weeks really, I’ve been restless. I keep thinking this feeling is going to go away one day, that I can go back to being peaceful Nan forever, but here it is again.
Shouldn’t it be gone since surely I’m through the dreaded M-word. Should a grandmother feel this urge to fly away? Aren’t I supposed to be baking cookies, knitting and making quilts, and meeting friends for lunch? What if this is a permanent part of who I am now? How do I make that work? When I’m in this mode, my focus sucks, I start a task and drop it, I drift from room to room in the house, searching for . . . who knows what? I surely don’t. I try meditating, listening to music, sitting my butt in my chair to write, reading, watching a movie, even scrubbing bathrooms, but the restlessness doesn’t subside.
Pretty soon, it’ll be time to go spend the holidays with Son, DIL, and little Grandboy. I’m anxious, excited, and so ready to go. I pray this trip will ease the restless feelings, then maybe I can make it through winter without longing for Paris or wishing I was walking on the beach at Lake Michigan or searching the Web, planning trips I can’t take right now. I truly want to be in the here and now—I don’t want to miss my life because my stupid hormones think I need to be somewhere else.
So . . . here’s the plan: I’m going to work. I’m going to write. I’m going to bake rolls for my friends and neighbors for Christmas. I’m going to make gifts for my clients. I’m going to decorate my house for the holidays. I’m going to attend holiday events and spend time with my friends. I’m going to do my yoga every morning, walk on my treadmill, and enjoy time with Husband. And every time it feels like I can’t breathe, like I want to scream or just sit down and cry my heart out, I’ll simply take a big deep breath, close my eyes, and be grateful for my life . . .