"Am I about to faint?" is what I was wondering at about 2:00 pm exactly eight years ago today. Like today, it was the first day of school, and the first time both of my daughters were in school all day. I had gotten them up and ready, prepared breakfast, made lunches, took the obligatory first-day-of-school photos (obligatory photos because they make me smile every time I look back on them, marveling at how much things change over the years), and sent my girls off to school. I had a good cry, as I do each year, and then busied myself with the many projects that were awaiting my free time.
Around 2:00 pm, I began to feel faint. I sat down to rest a minute, and then it hit me - I hadn't eaten anything. And then it occurred to me - no one came home at lunch time that day, so I never bothered to sit down and eat. And then it dawned on me that all of my days going forward would be like this - no one would be coming home to have lunch with me.
And so it will be today, again. No one will come home to have lunch with me. While I've gotten used to this pattern, something new is occurring in my household this year. My oldest daughter is beginning to look at colleges. It's early, and we still have two years of her living in our home; however, given that the half life of time seems shorter than that of carbon, the day she doesn't come home for lunch, dinner or bedtime will be here in the blink of an eye. That thought makes my head feel faint. It also makes my heart feel faint.
Over the years I have worked to fill my time with endeavors that bring purpose to my own life, and hopefully, to the lives of others. It has been a gradual process, as extra time and mind space creep into my life as the years go by, which is good, because it allows me to grow into my new role, and because my primary role as parent continues to evolve. It has also helped me to nurture my heart and to allow for my inner joy to grow, even as some of it is let out, as those who bring me the most joy walk out the door every day.
As I look toward my daughters' walking out the door for what will be days, weeks, months, and eventually years at a time, it will be my inner joy that sustains my heart and allows my head to take me toward new purpose - for myself, for them, and for the world.
author of "JOY"