Typically, I see myself as someone who is (mostly) calm, competent, intelligent, level-headed, with a sense of humor and a decent dose of sarcasm. My husband often tells me that my strengths – or my weaknesses, depending on the day and our conversation, and how much I have annoyed him at the time – are my ability to listen, and my optimism (these can be weaknesses because, he says – with a good amount of truth to it – that I am so good at listening, I often forget to talk myself, and so do not share my opinions/news/etc as much as I really should, and when he is being especially pessimistic, he sees my optimism as not being willing to perceive reality, a take that is colored by his own views, and that I still do not believe to be true. Hey, you gotta agree to disagree sometimes!)

 

But this is me, now. Me, adult. Me, away from the stresses and strains of my youth. In brief – this is me, when I am not with my mother.

 

Of course, this past week? I was with my mother. So – while I may have outwardly remained calm, there may have been some carefully concealed seething held back by clenched teeth. Competent? Sure, as much as I was allowed to be. And yes, this may have resulted in some of the seething – that automatic assumption of authority and control she came with, despite coming to stay with me, in my home, as my guest. Intelligent? Well, sure. I guess. As much as pregnancy brain would allow. (Can’t blame all my faults on my mother, much as I might sometimes want to). Level-headed? Nope. Of course not. This is the woman who raised me, who nurtured me, who inevitably helped me develop my various neuroses and quirks and bad habits. She is the one who can immediately push my buttons and turn me from happy to incandescently angry in moments, with just a few words, or a twist of her lips, or a meaningful glance. Sense of humor? Ha. Ha ha ha. Sarcasm? OK, that remained. It was just internal, never let out, not where my mother could actually hear and judge.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother. Adore her. She did a fabulous job raising all of her children (all three – THREE! – of us. I don’t even have one yet, and can’t imagine the challenge of that) so that they became normal, functional, competent, achieving, and happy adults. She somehow managed to keep us healthy, happy – and above and beyond that, saw the three of us through college and further (Graduate school for my sister and me, a post-baccalaureate program for my brother), on our ways to productive careers (or, in my case, a career path… as I am still training), married and starting families of our own. She was – and is – a wonderful mother.

 

And she still drives me crazy.

 

She comes, and I fall back into the habit of being her daughter. Which, no, is not at all a bad thing (I can only hope to emulate her in many ways). But it means I fall back into the habits and patterns of the last time we lived together for a long period of time – which, um, was when I was eighteen. In high school. Young, and stupid. Headstrong. No real ability to take care of myself yet. No real desire to, either. (That came about a week into college, when I realized that I really, truly liked clean clothes, I did in fact feel better when I ate a balanced meal rather than only waffles and ice cream, and WOW, books and other “necessities” were expensive, now weren’t they?)

 

I was a pretty good teenager, and I don’t regret who I was back then. I just don’t want to be that person, now. But when my mom shows up? Suddenly she rears her head again, and I find myself falling back into those habits I thought I’d long since left behind. Resentments for small injustices, petty angers over different ways to do things, and, oh yes, the incredible urge to roll my eyes because she just doesn’t understand.

 

My mom is the first person I usually call when I want to talk something over; when I have big news to share or a decision to make, she’s the voice on the other end of the line. While we have gone weeks without talking before – when one or the other of us are busy – more typically, we talk nearly every afternoon. (She is a great dog-walking companion… When I’m walking the Upper East Side and she’s hiking the trails in New Hampshire) While I can’t say I agree with her every opinion – and while I know I would make many different choices that she does, and has – she’s the one I like to talk to, confide in, and bounce my ideas off of. I won’t necessarily follow her advice, but I will always ask for it.

 

But that’s when she’s THERE, and I am HERE. When we are both here? Not so much. I become whiny, self-indulgent, and just want to be left alone. (At least, the “me” in my head does. The actual, physical me? Is better controlled. No whining or self-indulgence allowed. At least, allowed to be expressed)

 

I wish there were some conclusion to this; some resolution, some miracle way to put the past – and those habits developed over a lifetime together – behind. But I don’t have one. Instead, I am just savoring my night alone tonight – she’s gone to stay with my brother and his wife and baby – and taking the time to recompose myself. Because tomorrow, it starts all over again. (Except worse – because we’ll be returning to my childhood home, where I get to fall into these habits with both my mother and father, all in the familiar setting in which I grew up) And hoping that perhaps I’ll figure out how to stop doing this – and soon – before the baby is born, and she comes to stay with us to help out for the summer. Because? I don’t want to regress to a baby myself, all while learning to take care on another.

This week was supposed to be one of the most exciting – and nerve-wracking – for someone in my shoes.

It is the week where those training for my profession find out where they will go (and sometimes, what they will do) in the next step of training for their career. We’ve been furiously studying, testing, applying, and interviewing (the first for the past few years, the last for the past few months) … And then one day a month ago, we had to make a final choice, commit to it, and be done. So did “they” – the big guys, the unknowns, the programs we wanted to accept us. And then we all waited…

Until Thursday. Until noon. Until one little envelope was opened to tell you the future.

Tensions were high this past week, and rose to a fever pitch in that room. Faces showed the varying emotions that come with such an event – excitement, fear, nervousness… nausea… Some grinned uncontrollably, their face a rictus of uncontrolled emotions; some clutched hands, their mouths turned down in frowns of concentrations as they sought to contain what they did not want to show the world; some talked incessantly, unable to stop, hoping to rush the moment forward with their breath; while others still were silent, quiet in the background, sunk in their waiting.

And then the moment came, with the surge forward, the rising chatter, the pause as each took the moment of receiving their envelope to decide when and where to open it – here, now? there, later?

And with a rip, most went on, to learn of their new life that they were now committed to.

It is a scene I have seen so many times before – eight, to be precise. I took a varying path to get here – not wandering, oh no, but with one detour through another degree, another four years – and so I came to this day with slightly different eyes than the rest of those around me. Their excitement could not be contained; mine, to tell the truth, barely existed.

I suppose there are many factors contributing to this – my age, relative experience, and such might play a slight role. My temperment probably playing a larger one. My relative confidence in the result I held in my hand still another. And finally, all summing together, my situation.

For those around me, this might very well have been the pinnacle of their existence – and certainly their nascent career – thus far.

For me, it was neither. Truth to tell, I was more excited about the burgeoning kicks coming from my belly; the fear and anticipation of the new journey I will be undertaking just before the start of the life held in that little envelope. I had also surpassed the fear and frustrations of this day two years before, when I stood in a room and had to defend the work I had done for the four years prior, when I had to state unequivicably that I was done, I was ready – and hope the people staring back at me agreed.

And so, I opened my envelope to get the news I expected – I will be starting the next phase of my training exactly where I wanted. I smiled, I hugged some of those around me, I called my family and friends to let them know the news.

But it was not the day that it was for most of those around me – no tears of joy or frustration, no exuberant parties after to help me celebrate or forget. If I had taken the path most of those surrounding me had chosen – had been in this position four years before, younger, more uncertain, and not pregnant – I do not know if I would have had a day more like theirs.

But in some ways, I wish I could. I wish I could take the day to celebrate, truly celebrate and revel in, this one little piece of paper. To hold it in my hand for all to see, glory in my future, and then take the city by storm to share my excitement with the world.

In other ways, I am glad I have moved past this; for in truth, what seems a pinnacle now will be shown to be a small step in the future. It is the fact that my eyes can clearly see this now, as it happens, that contains me; it is a realization others will come to slowly. I am no longer young and carefree, and while some days I do miss that life, I would never trade the one I have made and grown into to return to it. I may no longer go dancing on bars, but the quiet contentment of a night snuggled with my husband, an afternoon watching my daughter kick and bounce my belly, a morning spent walking peacefully through the park with my dog – these are the pleasures I would never want to give up, the pleasures of now, the pleasures I have worked my life into yielding to me. They are less exciting – no screaming, no tears of uncontained emotions – but they are no less joyful.

Yet, I do not wish for events to pass me by with no acknowledgment. My joy may be less enthusiastic, my vision seeing a slightly different milestone, but this moment should not go unremarked. I need to remember to stop, savor the accomplishment, succor my moment of happiness. I need to remember to celebrate me, now, this moment. To not just look ahead and see what needs to be done, or behind and what has been accomplished this far. I need to remember to live in the now, as those around me were.

This is the constant struggle within me – remember the now, don’t just plan for the future. Take the time to savor, don’t rush by on your hurry to get to where you are going. Be excited. Be happy. Be thrilled.

I am writing this, now, to remember. I was not the girl who screamed or cried, I was not the one who celebrated like there was no tomorrow. But I was no less happy. I was no less excited. This was my moment, as well. A moment in which I succeeded. A moment of accomplishment. A moment to cherish.