I love stress. I respond to it and hug it up as my friend. It keeps me focused and strong. When I am in stressful points of my life or singular situations, I find that I get quite unemotional and shore myself up to work harder and smarter to make things happen. I educate myself on the situation and seek out nuanced points I can exploit for success.

I don’t talk about the stress much, nor do I wallow in the unknown. I don’t look to friends for comfort nor do I spend time feeling sad or sorry for myself.  I respond in a way I know has worked in the past. In the past there was a mission and sometimes the mission was dangerous and whatever stress I experienced propelled me forward. When my son Sam got home from winter break in Botswana, I released that six weeks of hovering stress by being nearly comatose in my chair for the day. I was surprised at how exhausted I felt, the complete weakness I felt and the abject exhaustion down to my bones.

The night he was home I kept looking at the hallway doors knowing each of my sons was where I could get to them if I had to (even my oldest who has his own place not far away from our house). My husband was scheduled for surgery four days after Sam got home. A complex surgery we hope will alleviate back pain. We’ve prepared with wills and powers of attorney and I was in full combat mode (forgive the reference but it is what it is). Then Monday night the surgeons called and rescheduled the surgery for important reasons, but *poof* it was off the plate. All of that stress I used to focus on that issue became less friendly and I’ve been up most of the last two nights understanding how I process challenges. Amazing how something I cherished as an ally—stress—turned into a foe.

My 50 meter target (his surgery) was gone without a shot fired. And I don’t know how to rid myself of the unused potential energy. It is not a good thing to have this stress, meaningless stress, so I’ve now refocused myself on my #3 son, Benjamin, who is leaving in days for a semester abroad. I have to work very hard to not let my friend stress turn into the foe I’ve come to know as anxiety.

I have to work very hard to remember that Benjamin is a strong, fiercely intelligent man who knows how to handle himself. I have to remember all the lessons he’s learned his 19 years of life are enough, and my 19 years working to let him go and live his life is the culmination of my job as his mother. It is his adventure, and *sigh*, it is his life.

Ben read a piece I’d written recently and was surprised to hear I’d also left home at 19 for Europe.

“That was different,” I lied.

But it was. And not in a comfortable way if you’re a mom.

I had on a backpack and left for a month with a friend. No communications back home, no “student room booked” or registration in a college. No “what’s app”, no Facebook or Twitter feed. My poor parents. Without those technologies my mom was reduced to asking me to “let it ring once” when I returned home from another adventure. And often I forgot.

But it was different to me. Now I am the mother. Now I’m the one supporting a child, my baby boy, my beautiful baby boy, as he grows forward. Every Liam Neeson movie is playing in my head, but I’m letting him go. The guts it takes to do that has every part of me on fire with stress.

I remember a woman telling me when I had toddlers that it would get harder. I remember wanting to throat punch her. I remember being surrounded by little boys wanting to be entertained, and fed, and fed— and dear lord, fed again—feeling like I was stressed.

That wasn’t this stress. This stress if a mix of excitement, terror, envy, and resolution that this is where his path is taking him.

Ben asked me last night if his dad and I were proud of him.

Oh my dear son. We couldn’t be prouder of the man you are growing into. We couldn’t be prouder of your determination, your resilience and your grit, your sense of adventure and trust in your own skills. You are flying into the world with wings built of confidence. But for the love of God, please text me when you get there, or as my mom said:

“Let it ring once.”