Waking the Walker

A mother's quest to survive her son's "zombie" years – aka his teens.

Tag: parenting

SEASON OF TRANSITION


With high school graduation now behind us, my Son and I took some time to relax and reflect on “Days Gone Bye” and roads yet to travel.

The best place for that in my book is the beach. Breathing in the sea air with sand between my toes is the best decompression therapy out there.

Our beach of choice for this trip was Ocean City, Maryland. The town where I met my Son’s Father and the place of my Son’s birth.

When my Son was little we would come back every year, but over time we migrated further north to Bethany Beach. And some years we didn’t even make it to the beach, choosing other locations for a Summer vacation, like Georgia for our TWD Roadtrips.

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This year, considering where we have come from and where we are headed, I felt it was extremely fitting we go back to OCMD. Having lived and work there for three years, I have many fond memories beyond the obvious romance with my Son’s father and subsequent birth of our amazing Son.

This place will always hold a special place in my heart. How could it not?

When I moved to OCMD, I was single and starting over after a divorce. I knew no one, but I knew OCMD was where I was meant to be. My move was most definitely divinely guided.

Of course at the time I had no idea why. Now it’s quite obvious.

When my Son was born, he became the center of my universe, especially after we lost his Father when my Son was only 3 years old. My wants and needs became secondary. All that mattered was my Son’s health, welfare and happiness.

Over the years we’ve certainly seen our share of ups and downs, as documented in this blog, but it’s those challenges and rewards that made our bond stronger.

As with all children, as they grow into their own, and make friends, their parents start to take a backseat, so having a week with my Son all to myself was something I was very much looking forward to.

As they say in the Visa commercial, it was priceless.

By August he will be headed off to college and I will be flying solo, again.

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In between now and then, he will be working his Summer job at an amusement park, and based on the shifts he’s been getting thus far, will more than likely be working a lot of nights, which means we won’t see much of each other. So it just makes the week at the beach, just the two of us, even more special.

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Tying Up Loose Ends


By the time I post this my Son and I will have completed the gauntlet that was hell week. The week leading up to the band trip to Orlando. 

The reason I’m calling this hell week is because there is something every night leading up to our Friday flight to Florida.

Monday night is parade rehearsal along with an after school orchestra rehearsal, Tuesday is a mandatory meeting about the trip, Wednesday is Spring concert rehearsal and Thursday is the Spring concert, after which uniforms and instruments will be collected so they can be transported to Florida via truck.

Full Calendar

Thank goodness they are not squeezing in luggage collection prior to our departure. I was worried about that. Two years ago luggage collection was the day before, but we left on a Sunday. The process has been simplified, with the students bringing their luggage with them the morning they leave. Of course they have to be at the school at the ungodly hour of 3:30AM, but at least they can sleep on the bus to the airport and plane.

My Son and I could have bowed out of this trip, and we did come close, but being his Senior year, we both figured it would be a great way to end his high school marching band experience. 

Knowing now that my Son won’t be attending a college that has a marching band I am grateful we did. (His college of choice offers pep band, jazz ensemble and symphonic band, so he will continue to play, he just won’t be marching.)

Looking Back

This trip truly plays into the “year of lasts” which I wrote about at the beginning of band camp in August. At this point, we have checked off quite a few “lasts” already (last band camp, last football season, last winter concert, etc.. ) and in all honesty as we draw closer to my Son’s graduation we most certainly feel like we are tying up loose ends.

Kind of funny “The Walking Dead” has done the same thing. Capping off Season 8 with the final battle between Negan and the Saviors, and Rick and company, with Rick’s gang winning, thus opening the door for a new beginning at the start of Season 9. Just as my Son and I will face a new beginning when he heads off to college in August.

Quite the nice parallel for the final months of this blog. Thank you TWD.

TWD Finale

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What Would Carl Do?


It was these very words that sparked a new way of parenting for me fours years ago, and became the catalyst for this blog.

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As any parent knows, dealing with a teenager creates a whole new level of challenges. As the hormones kick in, that once sweet, little, abiding child becomes a disconnected, zoned out, somewhat disrespectful foot-dragging walker. Testing you at every turn.

One has to get creative when approaching such a creature.

Zombie Teen

Just as I was at my wits end, it entered my mind that maybe, just maybe, by using “The Walking Dead” (our new found bonding agent) as a tuning fork, I could break through the teen brain fog and make a connection that my son would understand.

My Son had already connected to the character of Carl Grimes, the teenager on the show, so that was where I turned first.

With that in mind, I thought what better a way than then to ask, “What would Carl do?” at the times my Son was slacking and not carrying his share of the load. Or just plain not making wise choices about how he uses his time, particularly with schoolwork due.

The first time I said it, my Son heard me, immediately, and gave me a strange look, like “what are you up to?” I just smiled, said think about it and walked away.

Over time these words have evolved based on what Carl was up to on “The Walking Dead.” Some seasons Carl has been a beaming example for my Son, other seasons he proved to be “What Not To Do” and I used both to my advantage.

Yes, at times my Son got annoyed, but because he was annoyed, I knew he knew what I was getting at.

Of course Carl wasn’t the only character that made for great examples. There is a huge cast on TWD, with characters behaving badly and saintly, all of which make for examples. The subject matter of the show, surviving a zombie apocalypse, sets up for a plethora of behaviors ripe for the picking.

Some may think I’m crazy for even considering such a notion as to use fictitious characters as examples of what to do or not do in life, but I can honestly say I’ve seen growth with my Son since adopting this tactic.

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My Walker is Waking


As I work my way through the last year of writing this blog, I find deciding on the theme for the month becoming more challenging than when I started the blog four years ago. 

This is actually a good thing because it means my “walker” may actually be “waking” to the real world around him. The teenage brain fog is lifting, allowing my Son to get out of his head and be in-tune to his environment.

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I’m thrilled because this is key to finding success in college, which will be the next leg of his developmental journey.

Not saying we don’t still have challenges and there is some regression here and there, he is a teenager after all.

The good thing is there have been definite signs of growth over the course of the four years I’ve been writing this blog. My Son is discovering whom he is and has gotten comfortable in his own skin.

He is also starting to look to the future with excitement and gets that his actions now have a bearing on how that future plays out.

In addition, he gets that he will no longer have Mom as a buffer and has to get better at being “independent” in all areas, not just some. Just the fact that he acknowledges there are areas he needs to work on is a huge step.

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This all sets up for his success in the future which is all I hope and pray for.

Parenting is a challenging job and all too often over the years I have second guessed myself, so seeing positive results at this point in our journey is very gratifying.

I have no doubt that college will put before us a whole new set of challenges, but for now I will bask in the sunshine of my walker’s awakening.

So, during this the month of “Thanksgiving” when we all pause to count our blessings and ponder all we are grateful for, I most certainly can say I am joyous my “walker” is showing signs of “waking.”

I am also eternally grateful for all who have stood by, and continue to stand by, my side. Offering not only support, but also guidance. As a single parent I have never had a partner as a sounding board or buffer, it has been just me, facing some difficult decisions, so having access to outside council has been my saving grace.

Without it, I’m not sure we would be where we are in this journey. 

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As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and I have most definitely accessed mine and am beholden to all.

With my Son continuing to work on his driving skills in preparation for taking his driver’s test in hopes of getting his license, I am beyond thankful that he is “waking” and feel blessed that he did not rush into this extremely serious and responsible step prematurely.

Just like every other parent though, I can’t help but worry, praying that he does not relapse into “walker” mode while he is driving. 

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This however is a “theme” for another month. I want to hang onto the euphoria of my “walker waking” for as long as I can.

 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2017. All rights reserved.

Meditation – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_lenm’>lenm / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

A Year of Lasts


With band uniform fittings the beginning of this month, I realized my Son and I are officially starting “The Year of Lasts.”

In September my Son starts his Senior Year in high school, so all the things that are once a year in high school, will never be done again. They will be the last time he and/or I do them.

Just as this was my Son’s last high school uniform fitting, it will also be his last high school marching band camp at the end of the month, which ushers in his last high school marching band season.

First Game Senior Year

I stress high school, because there is a possibility my Son will be marching in college. One school he is applying to has a marching band. This would mean Saturday road trips for Mom, but I’m OK with that because I would get to see my Son.

To be honest, I’m not sure either one of us is totally ready for this, but the reality of it is sinking in fast, especially with college applications being submitted this month and his Senior pictures behind us.

I actually got teary eyed the day of his Senior pictures just thinking about it. School photos are a rite of passage and when the final one comes you are met with an avalanche of emotions.

Excited for the future, but sad because it means everything will change. Change in a good way, but all change is met with some apprehension.

Next year at this time it will be about packing my Son up for college.

How did we get here? Where have all the years gone?

Last school year we were so consumed about making it through Junior Year and starting the college preparatory process that the notion of Senior Year was just a fleeting thought.

That thought is no longer fleeting. It is staring us down and forcing us to “wake up” and realize that we need to truly appreciate this “year of lasts” because we will never experience them again and can never get them back.

Junior Year was about surviving; Senior Year will be about appreciating and savoring every little detail that comes into play with the “lasts.”

It’s about living in the moment, which is not always that easy with the pace and pressures of today. This is something I know I need to learn to do better, not just for this year, but in general.

August Calendar

As I sat in the mandatory parent band meeting the first day of band camp, I didn’t drift off because I was a veteran parent, I listened and remembered what it felt like my Son’s Freshman year.

There were so many questions, so many fears. Would my Son actually survive band camp and stick with it? What is expected of me as a band Mom?

We found out the answers to these questions quickly and slowly fell into place with the rest of the veterans.

Now I’m a member of the music booster executive board and knee deep into everything band. Some days I ask myself why, but to be honest, just as the band has given my Son a safe-haven in high school and second family, so have the boosters for me.

I know I have made friends who have been and will be there for me even when our kids have graduated and are grown.

So, although this will be a “year of lasts,” I will cherish every moment, even the challenging ones, and store them for when my Son is away at college and I’m missing him.

The “lasts” won’t just apply to high school events though. They will also apply to this blog.

I started “Waking the Walker” in 2014 when my Son was finishing up middle school and transitioning into high school. It was a means to work through the trials and tribulations of raising a “zombie,” I mean teen.

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Granted, there will most definitely be trials and tribulations when my Son goes off to college. They will however, be on a different level than those experienced through high school.

Will there be a new blog reflecting how I deal with these new issues? And how it feels to be in an empty nest? I have no idea yet. Only time will tell.

I do know though, that with each passing month, I found writing this blog quickly became therapy, even during the months when my time was stretched thin. The process of writing became my place of refuge and a means to work through my ever-evolving emotions.

Those ever-evolving emotions will be all over the place this year of “lasts.” Particularly the closer we get to my Son’s high school graduation.

Lord knows what I’ll be like when we get to the end of next Summer and it’s time for my Son to head to college. Mentally I won’t go there yet. I want to enjoy what this year has to bring.

I can guarantee though, this last year of “Waking the Walker” will not so much be about how I’m dealing with my Son’s behavior, but more about how my Son and I are dealing with the emotional roller coaster we will both be experiencing.

It has pretty much been just my Son and I from the very beginning. We have become a team. So, as we experience each “last” through this upcoming school year, the reality that the team will eventually be disbanding, will become ever present.

The good thing though, we have the school year to work through the challenges this reality brings, together. In so doing, we will make the team even stronger, so when we are apart, it won’t feel like it.

So, with “The Year of Lasts” already in motion, and quite a few “lasts” already behind us, the pausing and savoring every detail has begun.

Not just for me, but for my Son. He and his Senior buddies are determined to make this their best year yet. And I will cherish hearing all about it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2017. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Surviving the IN-BETWEEN Time


As of late I am feeling more and more as if I’m living in a state of limbo. A limbo caused by what I refer to as my Son’s “IN-BETWEEN” stage, the time between preparing for college and actually going to college. It’s kind of an amplified level of the tweens and in all honesty worse than the tweens.

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My Son wants to be independent, but at the same time, in some instances, continues to hang on to Mommies’ apron strings. He keeps me at arms length. Doesn’t want Mom involved, but needs to know she’s close by, just in case.

He’s OK with me being his alarm clock in the morning, but can’t handle when I get on him to speed things up so he doesn’t miss the bus.

He’s OK with me reminding him he needs gym clothes on gym days, but can’t stand when I remind him about college prep stuff that is due.

He’s willing to share the loft space with me, which is my office, to do his homework, but doesn’t want to hear my suggestions on how to work more efficiently.

Plus, he can get ornery when I’m at my computer for an extended period of time while he’s doing his homework. He thinks I’m spying on him, not actually working. Trust me I’m not, but it doesn’t help that he acts very suspicious more often than not.

Note, it was his decision to move his laptop from his room to the loft in an effort to combat his Internet wandering while doing homework. He felt if he were out in the open he’d be less tempted to roam.  SO, he wants me to be able to see what he’s doing, but he doesn’t want me to say anything when I catch him wandering.

Can I bang my head against a wall now?

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Staying Sane in a World Gone Mad


I’m quite sure I’m not the only one that has experienced the feeling that some days just one more stressful situation could be the tipping point that puts us over the edge. It is most certainly a test of our metal and those with a sensitive constitution may crack at the first sign of trouble. To be honest it may not even take that much for some, especially those suffering with mental health issues.

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So, if the normal day-to-day is all it takes to crack the mentally unstable, what happens in an apocalypse?  Would their illness actually help them because now the world is as mad as they are? Or, would they be the first to fall?

What about those who are strong, and grounded in reality? Would they be the survivors and leaders? Or, could this be the very thing that pushes them to join the ranks of the unstable?

Please understand I don’t stay awake thinking about these things, but when it seems some days the world we live in is on the brink of going over the edge it’s hard to not wonder.

Plus, as a fan of “The Walking Dead” the subject of “how would you react should a zombie apocalypse strike?” has come up in conversation, and although I would hope that I would stand strong, using my wits and common sense, especially to protect my son, I could just as easily crumble under the weight of the challenge.

You really don’t know until you are faced with a challenge how you will react.

With that said, not having any re-life examples of a zombie apocalypse to call upon, thank goodness, one can turn to the characters in “The Walking Dead.” Comparing those of “sound mind,” with those on “the fringes of reality,” to see how they react when confronted with the fall of the World as we know it.

The obvious character to zero in on is Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), not only is this his story, but he was not awake to see the World fall. In a coma at the start of the apocalypse, he awakens to find the dead roaming the streets and none of his loved ones anywhere to be found.

As a Sheriff, his observation skills are a huge asset. He sees things others wouldn’t and is convinced his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs), are alive, it’s just a matter of where.

His quest to find his family leads him deep into the rabbit hole that is the world of “The Walking Dead.”

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Will The Golden Rule Help You Survive a Zombie Apocalypse?


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I recently came back from the “Magic Kingdom” and I can say, compared to my visit when my Son was 7, my experience was far from magical. This was not at the fault of the staff in the Magic Kingdom. To be honest, I feel for these poor people who try daily to create the “magical experience” Walt Disney wanted for all his guests, but our met with rude, inconsiderate and disrespectful guests, who are only concerned with their own gratification.

On any given day, we all experience the slow decay of common decency and respect for our fellow man, which in itself is a sad reflection of society overall. I had not however anticipated being confronted by this in a place that’s sole purpose is to bring joy and light heartedness to all who walk through the gates. If only Tinkerbell sprinkled “Remember the Golden Rule Fairy Dust” over everyone as they entered the Magic Kingdom’s gates. People were more courteous to each other going through security at the airport than in the Magic Kingdom.

It is this experience that made me start to wonder what type of personality would fair best in an apocalypse. The “it’s all about me” mentality that the bulk of society has become or, the one who is considerate of his fellow man and is conscious of the other persons needs as well as their own.

Needless to say I started to compare the characters of “The Walking Dead.” The first ones that came to mind were Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Meryl Dixon (Michael Rooker).

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Rick Grimes, Sheriff, Father and Friend, has tried hard to always consider the groups needs in addition to his families. He has had moments when he has made some bad decisions, especially this last season, but at the core of his decisions he is always looking at what’s best for the group. He is not of the “it’s all about me” mentality, which is why he has become the leader. He believes by working together they can find a way to survive the hellish world of the zombie apocalypse that has become their new reality.

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Meryl Dixon, on the other hand, (no pun intended) was the complete opposite of Rick. He was definitely an “all about me” kind of guy. Helping his fellow man was the furthest thing from his mind, unless it would benefit him in some way. In the apocalyptic world of “The Walking Dead” this behavior became amplified and he made more enemies than friends. He often toyed with his brother Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) emotions, playing the “we’re family” card, but his sole purpose was to try to gain an ally in whatever scheme he was running at the time. He was not actually looking out for his brother. He was the walking, talking epitome of the classic self-absorbed; I only care about my needs, the hell with everyone else mentality.

Although, in the end, he did have a bit of an epiphany and made an effort to reconcile his actions by letting Michonne (Danai Gurira) go and going after the Governor (David Morrissey), guns a blazing. Had he not burnt every bridge he crossed and joined forces with his brother and the rest of Rick’s group, they may have been able to put an end to the Governor’s merciless reign, but by going it alone, he had no chance of winning this battle. In the end, he was not a hero, just a sad pathetic loner abandoned by everyone.

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Another great comparison would be Gleen Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Nicholas (Michael Traynor). Glenn has always looked out for his fellow man, even risking his life for the benefit of the group. He is the supreme example of living your life by the Golden Rule, which certainly isn’t easy in a world gone mad, with not only walking dead out to get you, but many of the living. Now that he has a wife and a baby on the way, he will do whatever it takes to keep them safe, to include putting himself very much in harms way.

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Nicholas, much like Meryl, was an “it’s all about me” kind of guy, but he hid it well. To the people of Alexandria, he came off as a strong, courageous young man who risked his life going out into the world of walkers on runs for supplies. The truth was revealed when Glenn accompanied Nicholas, Aiden (Daniel Bonjour), Noah (Tyler James Williams), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) on a run in search of solar panel components. Glenn had already seen how unprepared he and Aiden were for the world outside the walls, but this run proved that at Nicholas’ core he was a coward, who only thought of his own safety.

In the end, his actions not only got Noah killed, but the lack of skill on he and Aiden’s part got Aiden killed and Tara seriously injured. Eugene, who admitted to be a coward, was more effective on this run than Nicholas. Add to it, Nicholas tried to cover it up by blaming Glenn for Aiden’s death.

The friction between Glenn and Nicholas escalated to a knock down drag out brawl, in which Glenn could have taken Nicholas’ life, but that is not who Glenn is. By saving Nicholas, he gave him a chance to redeem himself and it appeared he was on the road to redemption when he his true color came shining through.

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After a mission to lure a hoard of walkers away from Alexandria went awry, Glenn and Nicholas found themselves trapped in an alley on a dumpster. Instead of working with Glenn to seek a way out, Nichols took his own life and in doing so Glenn went toppling down off the dumpster with Nicholas.

Fortunately Nicholas fell on top of Glenn which shielded Glenn from the hungry walkers long enough for Glenn to shimmy his way under the dumpster until the walkers dispersed wondering after whatever noise caught there attention.

There is one character however that unlike Nicholas has shown that the horrific world of the zombie apocalypse can actually turn the corner and become a productive and positive contribution to the community. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) was a coward to the nth degree when Rick and company came upon him. Hiding in his chapel, where he locked himself in and his parishioners out. Listening to their cries as the walkers tore them apart.

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Yes, a man of the cloth who was more concerned about himself than to come to aid of his followers.

Rick suspected something was up with him, but, he did help Michonne, Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Judith escape the chapel when a small hoard of walkers descended upon the chapel because of his stupidity, so, it was hard to leave him behind when the gang set off for Atlanta after Beth.

Fast forward to the present Season and we find Father Gabriel learning to fight and defending the community and it’s inhabitants. The crumbling world around him has converted him into a man who not only preaches about the Golden Rule, but also lives it.

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So, in the end it’s pretty obvious, that no matter what the circumstances, the person who takes into consideration the needs of those around them, in addition to their own, will fair much better than the “it’s all about me” type.

As the Golden Rule states, do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. These are some serious life-saving words to live by, now and in an apocalypse.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2016. All rights reserved.

TWD Photos Courtesy of AMC

PERSEVERANCE


When the student becomes the teacher, it is time to pause and take note as to how far one has come. On a recent Sunday night, this is precisely what happened in my household.

Chris Hardwick - Talking Dead _ Season 5 - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

Chris Hardwick – Talking Dead _ Season 5 – Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

On the evening in question, the “Talking Dead” revealed the winner of their Ultimate Walking Dead Fan Competition. The coveted price for this contest was a seat on the couch next to the TWD guests of the week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Talking Dead, this is a TWD after-show, where host Chris Hardwick and guests discuss that week’s episode of “The Walking Dead.” The guests generally include 2 actors and/or producers from the show and a non-show related celebrity that is a TWD follower.

I’m sure by now you can guess that I entered this contest, why else would the announcement of the winner have any impact on me. The main requirement for the contest was that you had to have a passion for The Walking Dead, know the show inside and out, and have an energetic personality.

To enter the contest you had to submit a 30 second video stating why you are the ultimate fan. Using this blog as my grounds to be the ultimate TWD fan, I created a video, ending with a poster size image of the t-shirt that was created to promote the blog.

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I sent the video off with hope in my heart that maybe just maybe this could be the break I needed to help get more traffic to my blog, which in turn would help when pitching the blog to agents and publishers. The next day, much to my surprise, I received a request to complete release forms allowing the producers the right to air the video on national TV and post on their website, where viewers could vote for their favorite.

The e-mail stated “Based on your video, we might be interested in potentially featuring you on our show.” Plus “If you’re interested, please send us your phone number, address, and any of your social media handles (i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook…)” Why they needed social media handles I wasn’t sure, but I felt that it was a positive sign, and regardless as to what happened with the competition, meant the producers may actually check out my blog and writer’ Facebook page.

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Finding Peace in Being Alone


Kind of ironic that in the month we celebrate “love” I’ve been pondering the ever-present fact that in the not-so-distant future I will be alone. I mean really alone, just me at home. These thoughts were triggered while writing last month’s post when I touched on the subject of the inevitable day when my son will leave home for college.

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I have been single the whole time I’ve been raising my son, but I always had the company of my son. Plus my Mother on weekends, and one of my sisters, who helped care for my Mom the last two years before she ended up in a nursing home in December of 2015. So, being single never really bothered me.

Add to that, between home and work I didn’t have the time for much of a social life or to dedicate to nurturing a romantic relationship. My life was full and I was content.

In reality, the idea of being alone began to wander through my mind after my Mother’s passing last April, but it really only hit home with my son turning 16 and the serious discussion of college.

To be honest, I’m actually OK with it. There’s a certain sense of peace I get with this solitude. Which is probably a good thing, considering I’m pursuing the profession of writer. A lot of alone time required when writing.

Vacation

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