When I was a little girl I went to the zoo with my family and another family. It was a lovely day except for one little hiccup that has stayed with me for my life…I got lost. Well, technically, I didn’t get lost, my family lost me. You see, we had sat down for lunch after spending the morning wandering through the zoo and looking at all the animals. It was a delight for a child like me who saw wonder in everything. It was a nice day, sunny but not too hot. We had a picnic in a little park inside the zoo just near the elephant enclosure. I had finished my lunch and while I was waiting for everyone else to finish, I decided to go and take one more look at the elephants. The enclosure was not very far away, in fact you could see it from where we were sitting in the park. I can’t remember if I told anyone I was going or not (in my mind I think I did, but I cannot be sure), but off I went, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t leave without me. I was wrong. We I returned to the park, my family had gone. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t panic, I don’t think I even cried, I just remember walking to the bench where they had been sitting only moments before and sitting down to wait. I think a couple of old ladies came over to ask me if I was ok, but by then my mum had realised I wasn’t with the group and had come back for me. I wasn’t lost for very long and I don’t think I have been scarred by the experience, but I do remember feeling very, very alone. A feeling that has been plaguing me for the last couple of months.
There has been a lot of upheaval in my life and the life of my family recently. My eldest son got married and moved out and then only four months later, my youngest son moved to the UK. I found myself alone in my house. Yes, I have my husband and I have my dog and my cat, but my children are gone and it has left a hole in my life. The same feeling I felt when I returned to the park to find my family gone.
For the past five years, my husband and I have owned businesses (plural) and we have had to work very hard and very long hours. When I am not at work working, I am working at home. Consequently I have had no social life. Having to get up at 4am puts a bit of a damper of any evening activities and I work every weekend. Getting together with friends has been very few and far between. The inevitable has happened, I have become a hermit with barely any outside world contact. As I look around at my life, I discover that the world has passed me by. I am once again a lonely little girl sitting on a park bench all alone.
Is this what my life has become? I have only just turn forty-one years of age and my children have grown and gone. My dedication to work has meant that I have no social life and I am left wondering “who am I?” I don’t even know myself anymore, I don’t know where I fit, where I belong or what my role is. I have had a quote going through my brain constantly
What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul
While I have not gained the whole world, I have pursued it, and while I don’t believe I have lost my soul, I do believe I have lost something; I have lost myself.
When I was in high school my English teacher made us read a science fiction book called “The Ship Who Sang”. It was set in a futuristic earth where babies that were born severely physically disabled, but with fully functioning brains, could be turned into cyborgs rather than be euthanized. This meant that they were encapsulated within a machine from a very young age and grew up to become a living robot of sorts. Their brain functioned as the brain of whatever machine they are put into. I hated the book (probably one of the very few books that I have ever hated, Flowers for Algernon was another one, also from the same English teacher) but I am reminded of it these days as I am increasingly feeling like the only presence I have in this world is via technology.
I know that this is a season in my life. I am, in a way, grieving for my empty nest, which I assume is something most mothers of adult children go through. I also know that I won’t always have to work this hard, but my question is, what will be left when this season ends?
Disclaimer: While I didn’t enjoy these books as a teenager, there may be a chance that I would quite enjoy them today. I haven’t read them since highschool and the opinion within this blog post is my teenage opinion.