In this moment... Connor
Late Sunday afternoon, I sat on Maddie’s bed as she cleaned her room. We both felt tender. Kep and Connor had just left for the airport, heading back to Vegas. Connor had his Portland life packed up and was eager to step into his next soccer adventure.
But Maddie was in a different place entirely.
“I don’t even know when I’m going to see you again,” she cried, covering her contorted face with her hands.
Connor was surprised by her tears and emotion. We all were. Maddie cries on the rarest of occasions.
I think the three of us were touched that she allowed herself to fully feel her grief -- and allowed us to witness the pain of seeing her twin brother leave Portland.
I can still see Connor’s sweet and reassuring smile as he wrapped his arms around Maddie and said, “Maddie, it’s fine. You’re still my best friend.”
I feel the tug of tears as I type.
I’m sad to see Connor leave, too. My tears flowed two weeks ago, when I learned the finality of his decision.
I’m going to miss him being 20 minutes away in Beaverton. I’m going to miss him hopping in an Uber to spend Saturday night and Sunday with us. I’ll miss his trips around the corner to Safeway to buy ingredients for a meal he set out to cook, and the way he looks in Kep’s apron as he carefully chops, dices, sautés… I’ll miss pulling out the couch and making his bed (even though we’d play argue about whose job that should be). He likes to rib me that I’m the mom, it’s my job. I like to lecture him that he’s 16 – stop acting like an entitled brat and do it yourself. We settled on I make his bed; he dismantles the bed.
When Connor joined the academy a year-and-a-half ago, I gave up much of my parenting duties. In fact, the Portland Timbers literally replaced Kep and I as his legal guardians. But he was just down the street, one town away, and I knew his mom and family were nearby if and when he needed us.
Now it’s real. He’s newly 16-years-old and he’s gone. Gone in the sense that he and Maddie will both feel gone when they go to college. But for Connor, “gone” happened Sunday.
I wish Portland worked out for Connor. I wish we had the next 2 ½ years together as a family. I wish he wasn’t registering right now for online high school, unsure of where he’ll land in the coming weeks, maybe months…
But I know Connor made a great choice to leave the Portland Timbers Academy to find an academy that aligns closer with his playing style and personality.
* * * * *
Back on Maddie’s bed, it was just us girls: Maddie, me, and Carly, panting happily.
I read Maddie a poem that sat in my inbox as she cleaned.
She liked it. So, I pushed my luck and asked in a voice laced with please, “Maddie… It’s only 16 minutes. Will you watch this Ted Talk with me? It’s called The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage and it’s incredible.”
Maddie joined Carly and me on the bed and we watched. I thought to myself, if she just takes away this, she’ll have SO much.
“Only dead people never get stressed, never get broken hearts, never experience the disappointment that comes with failure. Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”
In this gorgeous and potent talk, Susan David shares her personal story of learned emotional rigidity when faced with a great loss. She stuffed and judged her intense emotions until her English teacher set her free with a blank notebook and instructions to “Write what you’re feeling. Tell the truth. Write like nobody’s reading.” She discovered that feeling her grief and sadness was her path to authentic happiness.
I wish for Maddie, myself, and each of us a sweet friendship with ALL our emotions (that are ALL seen as normal and natural, versus "good" or "bad"), and an emotional agility “born of a lifelong correspondence with our own heart.”
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