by Erin Skillen
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Originally Published: August 2017
You let go and suddenly you’re flying through the air, uncertain how or where you’ll land. And apparently this is normal, and you’ll be okay, and it will all be better than you ever could have imagined before you know it.
But then you look down and remember that your Rock is gone. Your capital “R” Rock that prioritized you above all others and was there the other times you took a risk. And now it’s gone. And while you pretend to be an independent woman who doesn’t need a Rock in her life, and who can do anything without a Rock by her side, you know it’s all B.S. and without a Rock you are terrified.
Any break-up can mess with your self-esteem, but a separation has a particularly deep wounding ability. Someone agreed to spend their life with you. And you agreed to spend yours with them. And now that’s not happening anymore. But that chapter is done, your Rock is not yours any longer and you are technically alone. But you’re not truly alone because now you share little people that you brought along on the journey. And because of these little people you have to be a good caregiver and role model, no matter how crappy you feel. You want to show them that you don’t need a Rock to be happy and fulfilled. And you continue to pretend that’s the case even when you don’t believe it yourself.
I have actually taken up the flying trapeze on multiple amazing occasions in my life. And I loved it. But in those circumstances I was wearing a safety belt, attached to an experienced instructor, swinging above a scratchy but otherwise safe net. I was thrilled to soar, partly because of the adrenaline, but mostly because I could clearly see the objective, the process and the ending—bouncing happily on a net, safe and sound.
That isn’t what letting go is like in life. Letting go of solid ground and choosing to fly solo is terrifying. The process and the ending (other than the eventual death part) are totally unknown. My friends and family are my safety rope, keeping me from flying too high or too low, but when it comes right down to it, I am soaring through my life as no one’s number one. I gave up my priority status when I gave up my Rock. And while I know that was the decision that had to be made, my knees are most definitely shaking and my stomach is in knots. Just about everyone around me has a Rock. And without one I’m worried I’ll drift and never land.
I am fortunate to have many people in my life that I love, and who love me back. They encourage me as I fly. They remind me that I should embrace my freedom, including:
• Making spontaneous plans without having to notify anyone
• Binge watching anything I want on Netflix without having to negotiate with, or wait on, anyone else
• Decorating my place any way I like with no compromises
• Buying shoes without anyone counting how many pairs I already have
• Reading a book as late as I want without disrupting anyone else’s sleep
• Traveling anywhere I want
I try to listen to these loved ones, try to allow their voices to overcome the anxiety radiating throughout my body. Sometimes my loved ones win.
And sometimes the fear wins when:
• The only way coffee gets into my system in the morning is if I make it or buy it
• It’s mid-afternoon and I realize I haven’t actually spoken out loud all day
• I walk into my home after something really great or really bad has happened and no one is there to hear about it
• I remember just how terrible a cook I am, usually while eating something burnt
And then there is the fear that creeps in when I go out into the world without a Rock. There is a stigma—some of it is just in my head, but some of it is very real. The friends I’m close with don’t judge, but it’s when I’m introducing myself to new colleagues, friends of friends, parents at school and beyond that causes my stomach to flip every time I attend Rock-less. When you have a Rock people don’t question “Why are you married?” But when you don’t have a Rock, you can see the natural curiousity on people’s faces, wondering why I don’t have one, how I got to this point and what is it about me that caused the marriage to fail. And yes, I know, people are generally more fixated on themselves than others and I’m exaggerating how much any new acquaintance actually cares, but there is still a wave of questions and gossip that I do my best to manage or ignore. It infuriates me knowing that conversations have been had about my Rock-lessness. Fury and a bit of embarrassment.
But still I fly. It’s the best option for me and for our family. And somehow, through all of the fear and anxiety and anger I know that even if no one ever catches me, and I continue life without a Rock, I will be still be loved and safe and a brave mom to my kids.
Erin Skillen is a coffee-addicted mom and media producer in Victoria. To ditch stress she shakes her booty to Beyonce, spins around in a giant metal hoop and writes romantic comedies with another mom.
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