Feeling Like Loose Change


I feel like loose change. Middle-aged loose change. It’s not great. It’s a really weird time in my life right now. I’m kind of in a holding pattern and I need to stay here for a minute, and it’s unsettling.

I have once again been so errant in posting, because I’ve been in the middle of a bunch of unsettled situations for months and have been really distracted by them. I wasn’t sure what to write since nothing was resolved. I understand that there’s a lot of goodness in the messy middle because so much can be learned there, but it doesn’t necessarily make for good reading. For example, “This may or may not be happening, but we don’t know for sure and I don’t know how I feel about it. The end.” Over and over and over again. It’s not terribly compelling.

Things weren’t bad, just unresolved. It felt like a bunch of seminal moments were all happening at once, but nothing started and quickly finished. Things started and then just lingered in limbo for a while.

There were possibly very big changes with my husband, The Professor’s career, one kid making her way to senior year, the other leaving her school, and perceived (and since confirmed) tensions with a friend. I just didn’t know what to say about any of it.

Since I wasn’t able to easily or quickly resolve anything, I was in a holding pattern. I just needed to sit in the discomfort of the unknown. It was untidy – hence feeling like loose change, kind of all spread out and untethered and a mess.

Slowly but surely, though, we’re figuring things out. The Professor is staying put for now, we think, until retirement. There are equal parts disappointment and relief about this. I’m disappointed for him and a new adventure would’ve been fun, but also, we’ve built a great little life here and I’m happy to stick around.

Sometimes it feels a little bit like giving up, but at the same time, we’re making a conscious decision to go for quality of life. He can retire in a few years when we’ll still be young(ish) and hopefully healthy enough to start the next adventurous chapter. Both girls will be out of the nest by then and talking about what life could look like at that point has been really exciting. What comes next? What does it look like for him? What does it look like for me? We both want to do something, but not something so big that we lose our flexibility and are so busy we won’t have time together.

Neither one of us is so wrapped up in the kids that we’re afraid we’ll feel like life is over when they’re gone – NOT AT ALL! I’m not a mom who has ever felt like I live for my children or without them my life would have no meaning. But at the same time, an extraordinary amount of my time in the last 18 years has been spent mothering and managing the family. So not doing that anymore is kind of hard to imagine. Thankfully, The Professor is still my most favorite person and we like doing a lot of the same things, so as much as I’m dreading them both being gone, I also kind of can’t wait.

Our oldest is a senior in high school…

She’s making real, legitimate plans to get out of the house. That’s what she wants and what we want, but getting ready to send our firstborn out into the world without us? It’s strange and I don’t really like it.

She’s also getting a little nervous about the reality of moving out, so has suggested a couple of times that maybe she just lives at home forever. Which is nothing that she wants, but everything that feels safe. So, I put on a brave and confident face for her and tell her that she’s going to soar when she leaves. And she will. It will be amazing to witness. I can’t wait to watch her flourish. And I want her to cuddle up on my lap forever and never leave me.

A couple months ago she was fretting about will she make the right college decision and what if she doesn’t like it and how will she really know if it’s the right major for her. and all of the other things you worry about before you leave for college. She’s worried she’ll make the wrong decision, which I understand and love that she’s thinking seriously about it. And I reminded her that if it turns out to be the wrong decision, she can change it. She calmed down a little bit, looked at me really intently and then quietly asked, “But what will I do without you every day?”  I’m going to miss her…

Our younger daughter…

…who’s a sophomore, has never liked her school and has wanted to leave for years. About a month before this school year started, we made the decision to let her transfer to a new school. That month was chaos since she hadn’t had the whole summer to get the summer work done and some of those AP classes have a lot of summer work! It’s been a little unsettling – partly just the logistics of it, but also the anxiety I have of her being in a new, unknown-to-me environment.

With the possibility that we’d move, we told her she had to stay this next year. But when that changed, I’d hoped to keep her there for her sister’s senior year. One last year of them swinging by Starbucks together on the way in or grabbing a milkshake on the way home. I promised her she could leave the following year if she could just stick it out one more year. And then that little stinker truth-bombed me one day and said, “I get that you want me to stay for her senior year and I’m fine with it. But it feels to me like you’re doing what’s easiest for you rather than what’s best for me.”

She may as well have dropped a mic and moonwalked away.

It knocked the breath out of me, y’all, because she was right. I’d already told her she could leave the next year, several of her friends were transferring in this year, it’s better and easier to do it sooner rather than later. The reason I wanted her to stay was because it would be easier for me, and I have a lot of sentimentality wrapped up in big sister’s senior year. And change is hard. I’d made it all about me. But on their first day of school, the two of them went out for dinner together for a debrief, which was pretty sweet, too.

This new school is bigger and more chaotic with fewer breaks in the day, so I worry about how it will affect her mental health, but I also know she’s worked really hard to get stronger and has a lot of tools in the proverbial toolbox to manage stressors and anxiety. I’m trying to be cool and not add to any apprehension she may already have. It’s hard for both of us!

In addition to all of that, a friend broke up with me…

I’d felt something shift in our relationship but didn’t want to immediately jump to the middle school question of “Are you mad at me?” because she’s got a lot going on in her life and, at this age, I’ve learned that things are rarely about me.

So, I sat on it for a while, eventually conferred with a couple of friends who know her better, and then finally asked her about it. And she broke up with me.

It hurts and it’s made me really sad and I still don’t understand why. It’s dredged up 43-year-old insecurities and now I have to make sure that just because I feel like I did 43 years ago I’m not reacting like I would’ve back then. Turns out it’s just like any other breakup in your life you didn’t want: it’s sad and it hurts and it’s confusing. It’s made me doubt myself and question my other friendships. Do all my other friends feel this way? Are they just tolerating me? It’s been a lot to work through (it sent me back to therapy!). I thought things were supposed to get easier or better as we get older…

But what I know for sure is that things usually work themselves out. Eventually. Sometimes it’s necessary to pause and give things a minute before moving forward or making a decision. Even that pause will change the information available to you, which could shed some light on the situation.

That uncertainty is hard, though – especially for someone who may be used to making things happen and getting things done. Like a mom, for example. We make so many decisions on the fly every day – some of which are very important, and some aren’t. But we rarely do nothing. So, to sit back and just wait is a whole thing in itself.

As a new school year starts and new challenges arise, don’t forget that waiting a minute is sometimes a really good option. Not always, no. But if something is vexing you, hold still for a second and wait for some clarity. More often than not, you’ll find it. And to those of you in the messy middle of something or sending kids to school for the first time (or the last time) or going through other big changes, hang in there. You’ll figure it out. You may not always love the outcome, but resolution can go a long way in calming you down.

What has life been like for you lately? Can you relate?

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Kathy Ferguson
Wildly in love with her perfectly imperfect life, Kathy’s been married to her most favorite person in the world, “The Professor,” for 14 years. They moved to Columbia from Atlanta seven years ago and are enjoying raising their two girls, Gracie (12½) and Tate (10) here. After undergrad and her MBA, Kathy worked in Corporate America for 10 years before retiring to work full-time for the girls. Most recently, she was a grant writer at a college here in town, but had to leave that job when her family moved to New Zealand for six months for The Professor’s sabbatical. She started her blog, kathygoeskiwi.com, to document that amazing adventure, but now she’s home and trying to figure out what to do with her life. Again. Probably the loudest and most foul-mouthed introvert you’ll ever meet, she can usually be found curled up with a trashy romance novel, on the tennis court, at her awesome gym, or drinking wine with people she loves.


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