I woke up last Friday morning, August 29th already on the edge of tears knowing that this was the day I officially become an empty nester. I found it hard to believe that 18 years of my life with Nick had just flown by and here we were in our last moments of life as both of us knew it. Nick will be starting a new independent life away from me and I will be starting a new chapter in my life as well.
I drove Nick to Sac State on Labor Day weekend traffic and while I typically don’t do well sitting in endless traffic, I found I enjoyed it as it extended my time with him. We finally arrived; got Nick checked in to his dorm room and began the task of getting him settled in his new home. He had mentioned a few days before that I could just drop him off, as there would be people to help him move in. I was so not looking forward to that. I expect that in part, Nick wanted to experience his new freedom right from the get go, but I expect part of it was that he too would find it difficult to say goodbye. And yes, it’s true; he had every reason to expect that I’d be a blubbering idiot, which no doubt he wished to avoid. He did tell me on the drive to Sacramento that I could not spend all day crying. I told him that I would hold myself together until I drove away. I kept my word.
Contrary to his comment of just a few days before, I did not just drop him off. I helped him unload the car and made his bed for him. We had dinner together and then I was on my way. My wild thing, the one who makes my heart sing was settled in nicely- he was comfortable and ready for his new nest.
But am I? I have been mentally preparing myself for my empty nest for over a year now. For so long, I feared it and the thought of living alone left me feeling lonely- even before it happened. Proof that it’s not what happens that causes us pain, it is what we make that mean about ourselves. I had been making living alone mean that I was lonely and isolated.
What’s next for me? Who will I be? How will I spend my time? The other day I was at church when one of my favorite people, (one of my living saints) Fr. Padraig Greene of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton reminded us that “happiness is an inside job” and that we must find a “reason to live, a reason to love and one day a reason to die”. So I am now actively involved in that process. I have a reason to live… my life has been good and I have had many, many blessings- some of which took a while for me to see them as blessings. What I don’t quite have figured out is what my living looks like.
In my lifetime, I have been a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother and those roles have defined who I am. I am still all those roles (except a wife) but this time is for me- to decide what my living looks like. It’s a process of owning all that I’ve accomplished so far, acknowledging my shortcomings and then going for it. I’ll try new things, I’ll venture out of my comfort zone and I’ll find where I belong and who I am. I’m excited about that… even with so many unknowns. And yes, there is some fear, but I’m courageous and I’m ready to do this.
Oh, and by the way… if on my journey I find a reason to love, that will be good too. But I will approach it differently this time. I’ll know that my love is a gift to treasure and be treasured.
I am not alone on this journey… all of us, but particularly women get to this place in life, whether it’s because of our age (okay- menopause), a change in our life circumstances or because a relationship end (divorce) or change (children leaving the home) or simply because it is our time to find out who we are. As T.S. Eliot says: We shall not cease from exploration. And at the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
Carol and I have created a workshop that is spot on for this time in our lives. The workshop is called Back2Me. Our next workshop will be held on Saturday, October 11, 2008. Find out what’s next for you!