2015 was a big year in our family. My mom celebrated her seventieth birthday, and my son celebrated his seventh birthday. On the same day.
Ryan and Grandma are “birthday buddies.” And the older they get, and the older I get, the more they are becoming my role models in terms of how I want to live my life.
I have a necklace with small black beads and a small circular pendant that says, “Live with passion.” It’s a reminder to myself, because while I love my family passionately, I don’t know if I live my life with passion. Not the way my mom and son do, anyway.
For the first time in her life, my mom is taking time for herself, and making this time a priority in her days. She has joined a gym, and attends daily. Any other activities for that day must take place after my mom has done her workout at Curves. It’s a radically different approach for a woman who was largely a stay-at-home mom and made sure her schedule fit around her children’s schedules.
Since joining Curves, my mom has lost weight (pounds and inches). I think she’s surprised herself with her stamina and endurance. She’s seventy years old, and I never stop reminding her that she is in better shape than I am and that her jeans are a smaller size than mine.
My son goes through his days with a strong sense of confidence. He looks at himself in the mirror after he’s dressed and tells me he looks cute. He brings home his schoolwork, notices his high scores, and comments on how smart he is. He performs “shows” for us in our living room, and compliments himself on his good singing and dancing. My son is not arrogant; he does acknowledge others’ special skills and talents and that there are certain things he still can’t do (including tie his own shoes, execute a handstand, and ride a two-wheeler without training wheels).
Both my mom and my son live with passion. My mom is happily married to my dad for forty years now. They still hold hands and are firm believers in public displays of affection. My son is a virtual sponge, interested in learning about everything. Trips to the library are an opportunity for him to select books about basketball, Thurgood Marshall, turning wax into crayons, and the art of Frida Kahlo. It’s all up for grabs because it’s all a part of this world, and my son dives in and savors it all.
And while I’m observing my mom and my son navigating their lives with passion and spirit, I fear I am not. I find myself weighted down by the autoimmune disease that has turned my life upside down and taken me from my twelve-year teaching career. That’s when I knew I lived with passion, because I taught with passion. Now, I try to navigate my days as best I can, but instead of passion I feel a mix of fear, uncertainty, anger, guilt, and pain.
Far too often, I find myself bemoaning my changed life. I find myself caught without a firm sense of direction. I’m off script, and at times, floundering. I love my family passionately. But I recognize the need to love myself with passion, to dive in and find my way in this new stage of my life.
My mom is seventy. My son is seven. And I’m somewhere in the middle at age thirty-nine. It’s my turn to be the student and learn the lessons they have to teach me simply by the way they are living their lives.