I was embracing this wonderful weather and free weekend with a long walk this morning -- up around the University (because it's got a pretty great, steep hill) and back home again -- and I found myself thinking about the things that tether me... the psychological places I return to again and again.
My life certainly has consistent themes.
I was thinking of those themes as tethers, the things that ground a person, for better or worse, the recurring thoughts a person uses to identify a state of mind. Sometimes I think of this as having roots, but today I was envisioning ribbons that might unfurl and sometimes allow me float high enough I can envision myself entirely free from them. In the end, they are still there. They are tied to me, however loosely, and therefore I find myself returning to one spot or mental state of being again and again, no matter what strategy I've taken to release any tethers I do not like.
Of course, tethers can be good and tethers can be bad. And I think it's possible to take the tough ones and learn to use them to better yourself.
Losing my mother to cancer is one of those. There are so many related countdowns that I've found difficult to turn off: years since she has been gone = 14; years I have to go before I am the age she was when she had her mastectomy = 1; years I have to go before I am the age she was when she died = 19.
My mother's life -- her living and her dying -- is a base from which my perspective arises. My mother's cancer is not the same tether it was for me twenty years ago. It's not the same as it was fifteen or ten years ago either. It's looser these days and I tend to manage it more than allow it to manage me, but it's still there. My reaction to the news that someone I know has cancer or the actions I choose to take in my life believing I can avoid cancer are all tightly wound up in the way I define and identify myself.
I actually wasn't intending to talk about cancer here. This morning the tether I was dwelling on had more to do with relationships and community and where my family and I fit in the bigger scheme of things. I was thinking about our first year in Emporia and how the people I met or became acquainted with then fit into my current schema.
I was thinking about the way I have always struggled to find a balance between a public persona who is involved and helpful and makes a difference in my immediate environment and the private person who would rather be alone and doing my own thing with little interaction.
I was thinking about high school and that exhaustive, years-long effort to gain acceptance and coming to peace, at the same time, with the fact that acceptance of myself was all that really matters. I was thinking about shared experiences in terms of my children and how often I am surprised by just how much their experiences are diverging from my own even though I am the one who was consciously making choices in the beginning that would send them down this path that differed from my own.
Sometimes now I have to look to them for guidance, to gauge just how much my personal tethers are affecting my decisions and my choices. How far do we go to gain acceptance? How much energy to we expend to be part of the community and how much do we reserve for indulging ourselves? How much do we compromise? When is the time to simply walk away?
The answer seems simple when viewed from their eyes, yet I find myself returning from that floating free place, tethered by ideas of responsibility and commitment and follow-through.