Bringing New Life To An Empty Nest

I fell off the blog wagon this summer, partially due to life (son’s graduation, travel, house maintenance, family priorities) and partially due to feeling too emotionally scattered to write. I never run out of opinions to share, but I do run out of energy to deal with the jumble of unrelated thoughts in my head. Overwhelm. That is what does me in. To write, you need mental space and time with your thoughts. And because it was such an emotional summer for me as I careened towards the empty nest my husband and I now inhabit, I checked out. Focusing too long on the grief in my heart was not where I wanted to be, nor where I felt I should be as my youngest embarked on his exciting new adventure. I kept telling myself I would break down and navigate the tangled web emotions I was cycling through in background mode in due time. I suspect that time is coming soon.

What happens when you have too much time and a label maker

In the meantime, though, I have been celebrating the good. Our sons are moved in at school, settled into their study routines, and making the most of their college experiences. Thing Two’s transition has been seamless. I don’t think he missed one orientation workshop or opportunity to make new friends. Thing One has been reunited with his college sweetheart, and all is well in his world too. A thousand miles away, we are finding empty nest life kind of refreshing, honestly. Sure. It’s quiet at home, except for the barking of our sporty dogs, but we’re finding ways to distract ourselves. We’ve begun the digging out from underneath the clutter that accumulates when you spend 21 years putting your nuclear family ahead of everything else. We’ve also been meeting up with friends for long-overdue dinners and trying new things, like pickleball. We have relished peaceful nights picking shows we want to watch and enjoying them with a glass of wine and a couple chocolate truffles. So, all things considered, we’re settling into this new phase of life, to quote Larry David, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

With all the newly regained downtime, though, I’ve been doing some reflecting. Our satisfaction with our journey in this life comes down this: we make choices, and our ability to negotiate our expectations about those choices versus the reality those choices bring determines our general level of satisfaction. We chose to have children. The expectation was , if all went well, they would eventually move on to create their own lives, make their own choices, and navigate their own expectations. That has come to fruition, and we are grateful for it. In the aftermath of their departure for their own adventures, Steve and I have new choices to make. What do we want our lives to look like now? What will we choose to prioritize going forward? Yes. There is some grief in giving your children to the world, but there is joy there too. The most important thing I can do is recognize my choice in this moment. I can choose to feel superfluous now that I’ve retired from 21 years as a full-time parent or I can choose to find my next adventure. I can wallow in the vastness an empty and clean house or I can find something new to occupy the space left in the boys’ absence.

To that end, may I introduce Puppy-To-Be-Named-Later, scheduled for a late October arrival.

This little guy

Life is full of decisions. There will be plenty of time to imagine my next career move later. For now, though, I will fill our empty nest with puppy breath, tiny barks, and dog hair and I will occupy myself with frequent walks, potty training, and breaking up raucous scuffles. It might just end up feeling like the old days, when our sons were young and needed me, all over again.

4 comments

  1. I’m glad you’re back. I recently wrote a blog post about missing bloggers, when people you follow drop out of sight. I have been in our empty nest since 2018. The transition was hard for me, but we love the time alone, plus when we are all together.

  2. There are a lot of snapshots of typical scenarios as we grow up, and most of us tend to follow the groove of life’s record. We graduate high school and choose a college major. We get jobs or military careers or hitchhike around Europe for a year. Then we meet and marry. Children are one of the most common denominators. Then we are parents and homemakers. There are several volumes devoted to these humble and honorable pursuits. Learn to ride a bike. Buy a house. Get a dog and a turtle and a hamster or two. Family vacations, camping. The enduring of illnesses and the cheering-on of the soccer team. This period culminates with our hard-won victory: sending adults out into the world.
    And then the snapshot scenarios kinda disappear. No one ever says “I can’t wait for the day when my main purpose and focus of two decades vanishes, and I’m left wondering who I am and what I’ll do.” Folks talk vaguely of retirement (another fuzzy scenario), and talk in broad senses of how “we’re free to travel now”, or “perhaps I’ll join a group of yodeling mimes”, but it’s still dreamy and unreal.
    It seems like the biggest sweeping change since your wedding, and indeed, it puts your world on its ear and drags you through the transition.
    Really, it’s baby steps. It’s preparation for more such things, way, way down the road.
    I invented myself as I married and had children and built a career and a home life.
    When I woke one day to an empty nest, I re-invented myself as a father to adult children, and then, in its natural progression, a grandfather. When my wife passed, I re-invented myself as a single patriarch. I re-invented the spaces in my Ark to suit this time.
    In April, I retired from the working world, and in July, my son (who had been living with me between moves) moved to his new house nearby.
    Since then, I have been re-inventing myself again.
    I share your sentiments about the jumble of life interfering with my formerly-intense blogging.
    Blogging, and writing in general, are two big bullet points on my list of elements that will be this latest iteration of me. It’s not likely to be the last.
    Learning to re-invent oneself is a valuable skill, and you’re at a great time when it has a lot of upsides and little risk.
    Congratulations to you and Steve on your grand success, and best of fortune to you as you invent your “new” lives together.

    All my best,

    Paz

    1. Hey Paz! Everything you said here was brilliant. Of course, you always seem to know the right thing to add to make me feel seen and normal (or as normal as any of us are, really). I appreciate your insight. I do look forward to what happens next. It’s still so early in this stage that I will just wait and see what signs life tosses down for me that pique my interest. Like you, I plan to continue reinventing myself until my time is up. Hope you are well and ready to enter fall, another time of change. Best wishes and peace to you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: