Somewhere in between middle school and high school, I grew six inches taller and my tangled perm from 6th grade finally settled back into my natural waves. I won’t use the term “ugly duckling turns to swan,” since then I’d have to believe I ever became a swan and I’m not sure that’s happened yet.. However, the response to my new look showed me that other people felt that way.
I imagine the transformation wasn’t as sudden as my memory allows, since I seem to remember waking up one morning with silky, glossy hair and towering over the short kids in school – the ones I used to stare eye-level at. Sometimes change feels that way to me, as if I woke up one morning and everything I wanted came to me briskly and responsively. I know it wasn’t like that. It was probably long in the making before I was born and was in my genetic plan even during all of those years when I had to kneel in the “shortie” front row for class pictures. I was always destined to be average-to-tall height; I just didn’t know it until right before it happened. To go from 5′ feet to 5’6″ during a short period of time is not without its share of growing pains. I remember the pains in my legs that must have happened for weeks or even months. While I have trouble remembering the length of time of any of this, I remember the pain well.
I stopped physically growing sometime after high school. However the emotional and mental growth spurts continue to happen, and the emotional and mental growing pains are usually there right before the growth happens, whether I notice what they mean or not. I’m experiencing right now my fourth painful growth spurt in the last fifteen years. I had one that I wrote about here. Then I had one before my wedding and a third one before and during our move to western Mass. I think those second two were more obvious. The first one was more murky. Having my sister go to college and starting to think about doing that myself, plus an actual crush on a boy were certainly life changes, but my reaction to them was more anxious than I’m comfortable with. Maybe there’s a whole spiritual reasoning behind it, but maybe not. Maybe I was just particularly sensitive and I felt these swirling changes as the end to my childhood. Those small changes weren’t an obvious reason to feel anxious and scared, but they happened together and my body was signaling to me that something was amiss.
It’s been happening again. I’ve written about not feeling quite right but unlike the last few times, I now have an emerging toddler with her own set of needs and I really don’t have the energy or interest to give her this more anxious and exhausted version of myself. And that’s the symptom – I have more anxiety and fear in new situations. That alone is not so strange – what makes it strange is that I am mostly not an anxious and fearful person. At all. So having heart palpitations before going to the dentist may not be weird for the average person but it’s weird for me. And that’s the kind of stuff happening. Nerves where there aren’t usually nerves. And this is exactly what happened to me the last few times I had a particularly painful growth spurt. I suppose life is really a series of growth spurts and sometimes we’re better equipped to handle them than other times. What I can’t tell is what makes these painful growth spurts so..painful, when life is constantly changing and I usually can keep up with it.
I had assumed that this recent feeling of anxiety was post traumatic stress from a summer of tragedy. Now I think it may also be due to what’s present and in the future. Maybe I’ve only gotten these episodes four times in my life because that’s the only number of times I’ve been caught in the middle of two storm fronts – post-due pain at what has passed, and fear of what is coming! I just got a light bulb over my head, I swear. Nothing like writing to tell you what you’re already thinking but didn’t quite know yet.
Things are always changing, of course. Right now I’m leaving the baby bubble of parenting an infant. Believe it or not, I feel that the easiest times are behind me. It’s like when the doctor told me that pregnancy is so much easier than parenting because they can’t yet “talk back” or be picky about what you feed them. And you have read here that I’m terrified of having a kid over a baby. On the other hand, I’ve recently lost a few family members from my grandparent’s generation and I can sense that the current eldest generation is transferring to my parent’s generation. And I’m shifting too. The mixture of the past pain and the impending, inevitable future makes my heart pound a little harder than usual. It makes my stomach twist a lot more than usual. When will it end? All I know is that it will – it will disappear as mysteriously as it appeared. I think what I’m starting to figure out is that it’s not as mysterious as it initially seems. For everything, there is a reason.
Do these painful “growth spurts” happen to you too? How do they manifest? What do you do to cope during them?