Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Polaris & Pan

I think grad school was my mooring for the last three years; amongst all the life-altering events (divorce, for one), grad school was a constant, like the Northern Star, keeping me oriented.

And then, a little over a month ago, I graduated.

I should poll my colleagues and see if anyone else feels as thoroughly disoriented as I do now that it's all over.

There was such a flurry of activity leading up to graduation that it was all I could do to hang on tight, work as hard as I could and try not to overlook any details.

The Flurry
There was the finishing of the thesis, a copy of which had to be mailed off to my second reader who had retired to Southern California; then I had to get approvals, track down lots of signatures, write a dedication page, get a copy to the department for binding, etc.
There was an awards ceremony, at which I found out I did not win the Patricia O. McConkey Award for Outstanding Thesis of the Year. Even though I knew the nomination was a huge honor, I was still a bit sad and disappointed after the ceremony.
Then there was a totally fun barbecue at my place to congratulate and thank my colleagues and celebrate ahead of time with friends and family.
Major highlight of that day was that my son, his girlfriend and my precious granddaughter spent the whole day.
And then, graduation itself: exciting, heady, a little overwhelming.
I was very much aware that this was the last time I would get to experience this particular company, my fellow grad students. Never before has my life contained such a bounty of intelligent company and trusted colleagues. I wonder if it ever will again...
So I tried to savor the moments, there at the ceremony, the laughter, the shared excitement, the sense of belonging.
And then, a dozen friends scattered to the four winds, to teaching jobs in New Mexico, Virginia, the Bay Area, to PhD programs in Texas, to summer vacations in Gold Country, Oregon, Monterrey.

And here I still am.

The Floundering
And then came the job hunt, not to mention dozens of existential questions about what I even really want to do. Teach? After completely surrendering my life, heart and soul to grad school for three years, I am hesitant about surrendering those things again--a surrender that teaching as a career seems to demand.

But after flailing around for awhile, alternating bouts of extreme lazy self-indulgence with bouts of existential angst, I finally started a new job last week--- in marketing.

I was trying to think outside the box, trying to find a job for which my particular skill set would be of value (former journalist with an advanced degree in persuasive writing). But also something that would allow me to work just while at work, then be able to claim my off hours for my own.

Once I figure out the business and the market, that is . . .

It's a telecommunications company, so there is a steep learning curve for me. After a training Friday, I had to go home and take a nap because my brain hurt. A textbook my boss put on my desk Monday morning is called Wireless LANs: Implementing Interoperable Networks. Yikes!

Finding my Footing
Anyway, I've spent the last month feeling a little disoriented--in life, at home, at work, spiritually, emotionally, materially.

Who was I before life became so complicated? Before I got married, before my kids grew into teenagers, before I became a grandmother, before my son's accident, before I got a divorce, and before college and especially graduate school made me set aside all my personal interests in order just to survive?

So for a month now, I've been going on dates and having romantic adventures. I've been yard sale-ing, cooking, playing guitar, painting, flying kites, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, drinking cocktails and sunbathing. I've even begun to read for pleasure.

I think of a quote from my little niece's website:
"On my good days, I believe in love, laughter, and the goodness of people. On my cynical days, hedonism is always a nice alternative." --Emily
I like that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Love Grows

My eldest son became a young father last fall, a challenge that he has risen to with beautiful grace that absolutely humbles me.

In a matter of months, this wild, reckless boy transformed into is a strong, fine man; an able, willing provider; a patient, loving partner; and a kind, gentle father.

As for me, I really didn't know what grandmotherhood was going to be about, but I guessed it would just mean that there would be a new child in our family to love.

I didn't predict that my love for my son was going to take on new dimensions. I didn't know it was possible to love him more or more deeply.

Nor did I predict that my love for my granddaughter would be filtered through-- inextricable from-- my love for my son and his love for his daughter. It's hard to describe.

I began to understand it the day my granddaughter was born. Of course, I was deeply moved by the arrival of this precious new being. But I was absolutely floored by the curve of my son's shoulder as he held the warm bundle of his daughter for the first time. And by the softness of his face as her tiny hand curled around his finger.
My son and his family visit me sometimes, and my dear little granddaughter, now eight months old, has just learned to crawl. It seems I need to vacuum more. And I need to do some rearranging to accommodate a little explorer in Grandma's house.

I love way my son and his girlfriend look at their baby girl, the way they hold her and the way they talk to her.

I love how my son won't let his daughter put a metal spoon in her mouth in case she might chip her two brand-new teeth.

I love the way he put leggings on her when her newfound crawling ability made her bare knees turn red from the carpet.

I love the way he tells her she's the prettiest girl in the world, second only to her mother, and her mother responds, "No, she's way prettier," and my son and his girlfriend give each other a little smile.