Life’s Illusions

I have written briefly about apron strings recently, and I am still tangled up in the idea. Now that my son is six, and he’s roaming the neighborhood with other boys, this metaphor takes on new meaning – as it will continue to do so without a doubt.

It has become two opposing forces as walls both collapse and expand. A fun house of mirrors comes to mind wherein we turn from one wall to another, not being sure which mirror to trust. We thought life looked a little smaller and easier to contain, only to see our eyes were playing tricks on us. In fact, life is (and always has been) ever-expanding, wavy, and strange, throwing up mirages in the distance. Motherhood sure is like this, isn’t it? Just as we have the current stage of our child’s life in perspective, they’ve blown that pop stand for something new.

As my little boy grows in giant leaps and bounds, the apron strings become a little more taut and tattered. Threatening to tear at the seams, these “strings” trail behind him along the drying grass. I am getting used to seeing the back of his head. If he’s not staring out the window waiting for friends to arrive at our door, he’s following them down the porch steps and across the driveway.

There’s no looking back for him in these moments of freedom and ecstatic departure. And I both envy and admire him for this.

The looking back is what holds me down so often in my early mid-life years. The could haves and would haves that linger. The feeling of being stuck with who I am and what I have built with my own personal Lego set surround me in a fun house mirrors kind of way. I thought that certain pieces would have been sturdier by now or that others would not have gotten lost inside the vents. I wonder if an expansion set is still possible for the unfinished log cabin or the unfinished education. (And here is where the current metaphor becomes hard to carry, so I will put it down. I know when they have overstayed their welcome.)

Looking around at current society, I feel something similar. I am looking back at the mirage of the past eight years, trying to figure out why our mirrors were distorting so much reality. And I am wondering where to go next. I think many of us are.

Maybe it goes back to those apron strings. Maybe it’s about choosing what’s worth holding onto and what needs letting go. Maybe it’s about learning to release what we cannot control. About letting walls collapse and others expand.

And about remembering that mirrors sometimes get it wrong.

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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