This year I celebrated my 48th birthday, and my son turned 19. As I experience the physical, emotional, and psychic changes that occur in menopause, and as my sense of personal mortality deepens, there has been a shift in how I value time. It has become important to take time alone and listen inside every day.
As my son becomes more independent, I have noticed waves of relief within. Parenting has such an unrelenting time requirement. I’m tired, deep down in my bones. I need to nurture myself for a long while, not taking care of others, nor meeting other people’s schedules and demands. Last month my son moved in with his father; they have not lived together full-time since he was three years old. I encouraged this transition; I miss him, and it feels very appropriate.
As a woman raised in the United States in the 1950s, I was taught to be a cooperative caregiver without much consideration of my own needs. Yet there is an insistent inner need for quiet time and it won’t be quelled. So the task at hand is to set boundaries and invite others to honor them. There is a very firm "NO!" inside of me that I am learning to voice in the face of community, business, marriage, and son all wanting more than I have to give today.
"No," I say to friends and community, I will not answer the phone between 8 am and noon, 1 pm and 5 pm. I will return personal calls later in the day. And please, do not call after 8 pm. That is private, family time. "Yes," I respond to clients, I will monitor the phone and return business calls promptly.
I am aware of an energy exchange with my partner even while asleep. Some nights I now choose to sleep alone, to claim more discrete space. I awaken refreshed, aware that my dream patterns have taken different paths. Luckily my husband understands and supports my taking this time. To paraphrase Rainer Maria Rilke, as partners we guard the gate of the other’s aloneness.
I tell a visitor at our center that she may pick up a book at my house, but I am not open to conversation this afternoon. This is my writing time. She wants to visit with me. I let her know I am available during the communal dinner, not now. My boundaries are tested five, 10, 20 times a day. If I make an exception one day, people assume I am openly available again. How long do I feel I need? Until I am filled enough to give again. There are no predictions, no bargains, no promises. This is my time.
Amrita Boom-Blaine lives at the Lost Valley Center, in Dexter, Oregon.