I stretched my wings at the incredibly young age of 16. I didn't leave home to attend college, so much as my entire home left the state and followed me. My dad retired from the Navy the year that I graduated from high school in California. Mom and Dad moved to a suburb of Houston to be near their one remaining parent, my Pappaw. I helped drive the household out, then I spent a carefree summer at the beach house (still standing, I hear, after Ike -- Pappaw built to last). At the end of the summer I was eager to start at Rice. I didn't think much of how difficult the courses would be, or that I was free-falling into a community of strangers. I was a good student, I'd be surrounded by good students, and there would be challenging new material. I had no idea that I would meet my future husband in my first week of classes (as did my Mother, in her first week).
Mostly, I had no thought that I was saying good-bye to my parents, as we transitioned smoothly into a new relationship of mentors and fledgling adult.
Launching Baby Bird
My own baby boy treated me to a more gradual season of change. He turned 16 in his Sophomore year, and took on an increasingly adult role in our family as he shared my central task as a Mom: driving my kids around. Two years was long enough to get into the habit of relying on Critter as my back-up. He could retrieve his brother from school. He could drive him to extra-curricular activities or social engagements that conflicted with my other responsibilities as wife or member of my church.
I expected to miss that convenience. I joined Critter in the excitement of evaluating and choosing and applying to colleges. I traveled with him on some of his college tours, and stayed home while he spread his own wings on other visits. I believe he was the only student to come with parents, the weekend that he checked out CalTech.
I didn't anticipate the wrenching feeling of loss that began to bubble up, the closer the time came for him to leave. He must have felt it more than I had in his place; he made more time to spend with me even as he got involved with his first great love. I was so grateful for that first trip home -- even though it was mostly for the homecoming dance, even though most of his attention was on her.
My birthday present this year is a trip to Houston for the conveniently timed family week. I'm writing this essay while the comforting, familiar sounds of Kepler's formulae and epsilons and force vectors drift past my head in a Physics lecture. I won't have to say goodbye until Sunday evening, and I understand that the baby boy I hugged goodbye in August is already becoming his own man.
We say goodbye to our own youth, we tear up as we nudge our children onto their own path. But there is more growth that follows this simple beginning, and I am finally started my own path to growing up. For years and years, I've led a very selfish existence. Yes, I surrounded myself with friends and lovers, but it was always an effort to think of them before myself, and it was always an explicit sacrifice. In my youth, I nodded allegiance to a loving God, but I had faint understanding in my heart. As soon as I was free to choose how I spent my time, I choose not to include God in my everyday life.
Four years ago, from a place of desperation and depression, I turned back to God. He was waiting for me with open arms, and He had put into my life a community of people who could show me His love in this world. It led to me offering up my own life to Him, and I am finally beginning to understand what it is to say Goodbye to myself.
I loved my husband without trust. I didn't so much turn over to him freedom when we chose the pursue polyamory, as I choose freedom for myself. I easily turned over decisions to him, until I felt it could impact my comfortable existence, when I unsheathed my claws to reseat my hooks in him. We used to fight fiercely over money -- anytime he was choosing risk for potential gain, I had to be dragged away from whatever I perceived as my safety net.
Now I am saying goodbye to self. My trust lies in God. I know that He has a plan for me -- a plan for good and not disaster. And, He has great works for me to accomplish for Him. I love my husband, and learning to trust in God means no longer having to fight my husband to self-protect. Over many years, we have developed a habit of relying on Flar for our income; now I'm learning to be supportive and not cast worry on a future planned out by God for us. Over a long run of polyamory, I ignored what we were doing to our relationship with each other. I can trust God's plan for us and no longer fight over what I think Flar should be doing. I can spend my prayers and my energy on learning how to best love him.
Love is an emotion, but love is a verb. I'm saying goodbye to selfishness and finding yet another case where the farewell is merely leading to an exciting and fulfilling future.