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Elan Vitae


  • Heather Doyle Fraser


When I think about what is rising inside of me during this season, I can’t help but look at the proverbial elephant in the room – a paradox of emotions slinking beneath the surface of my everyday, dangerously close to coming into full display with the departure of my daughter to college. I am exceedingly excited for her and all the opportunities and experiences in front of her. I am incredibly proud of her determination and perseverance. I am eager for her to experience the joy of independence, self-sufficiency, and finding purpose and passion in her educational pursuits. I want her to find contentment and peace in her every day and experience the full range of what life offers, but that includes the highs and the lows and all of the nuance in between. And at the same time, I want to shield her from the disappointment, sadness, grief, and pain that will undoubtedly show up in that spectrum of experiences on her journey. Holding all of it together – yep, the definition of paradox.

There is a sense of anticipation within me, a melody that has been building and building and building to a crescendo over the past year. And while I write almost exclusively about how the process of writing mirrors the process of life, I am still surprised when I see my story – entwined with my daughter’s – play out with its predictability in process amidst the uncertainty I feel.

The relationship between my daughter and I has always been sacred. I have enjoyed every season with her, not wishing for a do-over or a return to a different time. I have delighted in her learning, growth, exploration, and how our relationship has evolved and stayed the same over the past eighteen years. I love the person she is, and I love the person I am when I am in proximity to her. I love the essence of home I feel when I hear her voice or feel her presence with me.

For these reasons, I didn’t expect this next phase might harbor something else – something I haven’t yet experienced – coming up inside of me: an impulse to not return to a time before but to pause and live right where we are for just a little longer. That wouldn’t align with how I live my life, my love for learning and exploration, and my eagerness to experience a story unfold, and yet, there is the impulse – standing there in every room and every moment of my life these days.

This feeling is uncharted water for me. I live in the cadence of the ebb and flow of a song that changes with need and necessity, but this… this is new. And in the newness of this utter resistance I feel to the speeding up and the building of this melody, I am reminded to allow.


Process shows me the way every time, even if I don’t like the path it sets out before me.

So, what would my story and song look like if I became curious and allowed in this season? If I allowed all of those emotions slinking under the surface to emerge, to rise up without apology? If I gave myself the space to slow down and feel all of the emotions and sensations in my body and not numb or pause the time? What if I gave myself compassion for being in uncharted waters? What if I gave to myself what I am giving to my daughter?

She is traveling into a new life, just as we drive the miles to her chosen college. She is uncertain about what is before her. She doesn’t know how things will turn out. And neither do I. She is up for the learning and exploration, though, and so am I.

She will become a new person in this next phase of life. I will become a new person in this next phase of life. And parts of us will remain the same. Our relationship will shift more abruptly than in previous seasons, like a key change or modulation perhaps, but these changes have happened before, and they will happen again.

When I am grounded in this idea of process, I can allow for that. I can become a sight reader – a beginner in this new song – for this next phase, not knowing the notes on the page before I see them, but knowing how to come to the notes and string them together because I have been doing that my whole life. I have been living. Why would I want to pause that?

It’s comforting to realize that this phase is like any other in the process of becoming. I can let go of the outcome with the realization that the process will carry me through the living and the learning.

It’s easy for me to cognitively understand these truths and say I will commit to the process, but the process itself is harder to embody during these uncertain times and when I feel like my heart is being ripped from my body. Even as I write these words, I feel like I am showing too much, allowing too much, but the alternative is less attractive to me.

So, I will be with the discomfort of over-sharing, hoping that if you, too, have a story similar to mine, you will see another very important truth: you are not alone. I am with you, and I am with myself. We are together now, and that brings me a fraction of ease. And if you aren’t able to allow these same emotions for yourself, I will hold the space for both of us until you are ready. I will allow my tears to fall, and I also will allow a smile and a hearty laugh as those glorious moments of joy bump up against my sadness and uncertainty. I expect this song will require a new commitment every day as it morphs and changes shape over time. But I can allow that cadence. I can be with my rising discomfort because this uncomfortable truth needs acknowledgment and space.


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