This Saturday morning I awoke early. The day that I had thought about for 18 years had come: My youngest son went off to college. Not by himself, I followed him up to the school he will be attending. His father also went.
This day was not as I had imagined all those years ago. To say it was bitter-sweet is trite. As a family we did everything that we were suppose to do: Checked in, arranged my son’s dorm room, got his student ID, and parking decal. But there was a huge, wheezing pacaderm in the room with us and it followed us around campus. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier writing, I am going through a divorce. The tone of the whole day was shadowed by my marriages demise, even though it was a sunny, late summer day.
When we took our older two sons to college, those days were much more like celebrations. Sad yes, a little- okay, a lot with the second one. The oldest son had such bright hopes and an attitude to match. We knew he would do great things and when he made the dean’s list the first year, we were confident he would finish well. I’ll just say that he did finish. Junior year of college was a challenge for us all, to say the least.
Sending our second son off to college was harder. We knew what expect. We were broken in. He was a prepared, confident, bright young man who knew what he wanted to do. I remember hugging him good-bye and hearing a heart-wrenching intake of breath. He was crying. I started to cry and did so all the way back home; it was a four hour trip.
Today was just odd, different, though I tried and his father tried to behave as normally as possible for the sake of our son. The initial tension between my soon-to-be ex and I relaxed after the first tasks were completed. Conversation became easier. I found myself making jokes. My son and his father laughed.
On the ride back home, a thought struck me. For the better part of our 29 year marriage, my biggest goal, desire had always been to make my husband laugh. The first night that I met him I wanted to feed him (he’s 6′ 1″ and at the time only 165 pounds), iron his shirts, and make him laugh. For the first 28 years, I seemed to do a really good job of all three. The 29th year, yeesh!
So, today, when I’d say something and he would laugh there was no payoff for me. My goal wasn’t to make him smile or chuckle. It was unconscious to say something funny, just part of who I am. Why he laughed, who knows? Habit? Trying to be pleasant? I guess what I’m saying is that over the course of a years seperation, I’ve learned that my self-worth is not and should not be found in making someone else happy. Not solely. Yes, supply a happy homelife, possess a pleasant demeanor, but don’t wrap yourself up in the payoff that one day might not be there.
Here’s where I have my self-worth; I am closer to God now than I have ever been in my whole life. He is the only one I try to please. People are fickle, contrary. God alone is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Pleasing Him is my goal. I have a feeling that He laughs at me quite a bit and there’s a payoff worth striving for.