I recently visited the Huntington Library, a collection of estate buildings housing an extensive art collection and acres of beautifully maintained gardens, with my friend for a girls’ outing. We entered the park with our eager daughters taking in all of the vibrant colors, sounds and fragrance of the season. My friend turned to me and said, “I know you like to have a game plan. How do you want to proceed with touring the gardens?” I replied, “We should simply follow the path to where it takes us. Then there will surely be a surprise around every corner.” The look she gave me seemed to say, “Who are you and what have you done with my friend, Rory?” Seeing her confusion I explained, “I am working on being my own balance these days.”
Opposites do attract. I met my late husband Kory when I was 16 and he was 18. We were from rival high schools in Northern California but attended the same church youth group. One would have thought that it was our names that attracted us to one another. In reality our love grew from our differences.
Kory was the towheaded Southern California born boy, while I was a dark hair, dark eyed Northern California girl.
He was a conservative Republican and I a liberal Democrat.
He had relatives on the May Flower; mine were here before our country was “discovered”.
While his parents were rushing sororities and fraternities in Tuscan, Arizona, my parents were exploring peace, love, and freedom in Berkeley, California.
He thrived on spontaneous adventures, and I was the planner and map-reader.
The extrovert and the introvert.
Our opposite or contrary forces were interconnected and actually complimentary to one another. I was the yin to his yang. When you loose half of a “mutual whole” your life feels off-kilter, and the act of regaining some sort of balance can be a daunting task. The loss of Kory was not simply the loss of a loved one, a husband, the father of my three children, but it was a loss of my sounding board, my balance, my other half. We were a team. When one of us was having a hard day or we needed a timeout from the business of parenting, we could tap out knowing that the other always had our back and would pick up where we left off.
I have mentioned once or twice that I am a planner. I kept our family schedules running, calendar updated and vacations arranged. That is just how my brain works, implementing the systems that kept our family organized. Kory added the spontaneity, which often drove me crazy and threw off my carefully laid plans. However, it helped reduce my desire to control everything and added a depth of experience and authenticity to life that could never have been predicted.
He loved driving, WITHOUT A MAP, to find new places to explore.
He would start up conversations, WITH STRANGERS, because he was curious about all people.
He would always say “YES” if anyone asked for his help.
These are the attributes that drove me crazy but that I value the most in preserving for my children. My natural tendency would be to tell my children, “Always know where you are going and carry a map. Have a plan and a backup plan. Never talk to strangers. Keep your obligations realistic and don’t let others take advantage of you.” Alas, I have to bite my tongue. Kory is no longer here to temper my fear of the unknown and desire to control. I have to be both the yin and the yang. The mother and the father. I have to plan and also be spontaneous.
I never dreamed I would be a single parent to my three children. Yet here I am. The day to day parenting is rough without my sounding board and partner, and I wish I could tap out some days. I have my schedules and daily routines that keep us moving forward. Plus, it takes a village to raise kids these days. Teachers, grandparents, other family members, coaches, friends and caregivers are all aiding and enriching the lives of our children. I am beyond grateful to everyone who intersects with my children daily in such loving and nurturing ways.
The singleness of parenting is never more glaring than when the four of us are alone together for extended lengths of time, such as vacations. I am not talking about the trips we take to visit relatives and friends. I mean the adventures we seek out on our own as a family unit. Road trips when I am the sole driver, navigation expert, referee, judge and DJ music master. Airplane flights when I am head luggage counter, kid counter, electronic equipment monitor, and TSA bottle necker. Restaurant meals where I am nutrition negotiator, complaint department, and manners police.
My sensible side would say it would be easier to just stay home. Home is safe. Home is predictable. Kory knew my proclivity for being a homebody, and made me promise to continue to travel with the kids. “Expose them to the world! Have adventures!”
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
I have been stretched, pulled and pushed out of my comfort zone these past three years as a single parent. My fear, anxiety and false sense of control had such a strong hold on me in my marriage. Kory provided the balance for 25 years, now I have to find the strength and self awareness to let go of that part of me or at least make it less of a road block. By becoming less fearful, less anxious, less obsessed with planning every detail, I can leave room for exploration, wonder, adventure, connection, and the spirit of Kory to live on for my children.
Last year my school announced that they would be leading a Study Abroad program for families in the summer. The chosen destination…CHINA. Every cell in my brain wanted to vigorously shake my head “NO WAY”, but my heart said “PACK YOUR BAGS!” China was not on my bucket list, but it was at the very top of Kory’s. Similar to the decision I made to travel to China with the kids last summer, each day I am learning to quiet my own fears and apprehensions and listen to that voice that says… Trust me… Have faith…
LET’S HAVE AN ADVENTURE!