I am responding to the daily prompt question: when was the first time you really felt like a “grown-up” (if ever)? Good question. It didn’t happen during all of the terrifying years I was left in charge of my younger sisters when my mom’s illness left her incapacitated. It certainly wasn’t at the legal age of 18, or the drinking age of 21. It wasn’t when I got my first job at 15, got my driver’s license, went away to college, had sex, drank, dropped out of college (first attempt), got married, bought my first house, or had my first child. Having adult responsibilities didn’t make me an adult any more than swimming makes me a gold-fish.
I would say that the first time I really felt like an adult was the day my grandmother died, because it was the first time I ever really listened to my inner voice. I will never forget the way it all clicked for me on that September day in 1984, when I was 26 years old. As lame as this story seems, it was a turning point for me….
I got the phone call from my dad telling me that my grandmother (we called her Ma mère) was in the ICU, with not many hours left to live. My dad advised me not to go see her because he thought it might upset me. I wasn’t especially close to her (we didn’t go around her much because of my mom’s paranoia) but something made me want to see her. I hung up the phone and told my co-worker, Mel, that I wasn’t going because my dad said I shouldn’t. Mel’s simple response, “what do you want to do?”, was like a giant spotlight highlighting everything inside of me that had been preventing me from moving towards recovery and growing up. I could make up my own mind about how I wanted to handle myself and my life.
Ma mère died shortly after I saw her that day. I was only there for a couple of minutes but I remember clearly the walk back to my car afterwards and how different I felt. I was fully aware of my feelings and I felt a deep level of acceptance and serenity. I didn’t try to resist , numb, or deny my emotions, I simply let them be… That was the first day of my recovery and the first time I truly felt like an adult who was capable of thinking for herself.
I figured out that I didn’t need to engage in behaviors to numb myself any longer, because I could work through my feelings, no matter how overwhelming they seemed at the time. I still think about that moment sometimes, when I am faced with a tough choice or am dealing with life’s adversities. I do have a choice in any situation, about how I am going to react, and the first step in that process is to acknowledge and accept the wave of feelings that can some times wash over the shores of my soul.