Empty Nest – Sorta…

I don’t technically have an “empty nest” by definition.  All three of my daughters are still living at home though they live their own lives.  Two of them work a second shift full time job so I don’t see much of them and the youngest is going to the local college full time and working with an active social life so I don’t see her much either.  Which is how it should be.  This is what we parents train them for, going out and getting on with their own life.  What they don’t really tell you is how that is going to affect you.  When I say something about it to people who haven’t gone through it, they roll their eyes and say well you knew they were going to grow up or something equally as helpful.  I always think in the back of my mind, well, you will be here one day too and I will offer you the same grand advice and sympathy.  Okay, I’m a little vindictive at times, I’ll admit it.  

Recently it has become more acute for me because my middle daughter who worked with me went to the second shift job at the place where her older sister worked.  It was a great move for her, better pay and opportunity for her to advance.  As much as I was excited for her, I dreaded the fact that my “buddy” wouldn’t be around to keep me company because she’s more a homebody than I am.  So essentially it was rare I was alone in the house with all the different shifts and people coming and going.  Until now.  

Add in the fact my husband works a swing shift, I’m finding myself home alone much more frequently and not really sure of how I feel about it.  One moment I am ecstatic I can hog the tv, the couch and play my piano as loud as I want.  The next moment, I look around and think, this is weird.  Where is everyone?  For ten years of my life, I lived with seven people in my family.  You were never alone and you never were in the bathroom alone.  There were days I couldn’t wait for this day when I had the house to myself and could pee without an audience.  Now it’s here, I stand in the silence of this house and I am not really sure what to do with myself.  

What I’ve read about empty nest from experts and people that have been through it, we all feel somewhat the same.  I’ve been lucky because it’s been a lot more slow process than some of my friends where it has been very abrupt.  But much of the advice I read, falls short with me.  Volunteer.  Get a hobby.  Travel.  All good suggestions but I am finding myself wanting more purpose than that though volunteering is a great thing.  I often feel like the girl interrupted.  My life went in a completely different direction than I had hoped.  Almost hijacked by narcisstic husbands and poor choices on my part but it’s straighten out.  The chaos and craziness those relationships provided were like white noise that I did not have to face my own life and what I wanted to do.  If you are too busy surviving, then you don’t have time to think about your dreams and hopes or your life purpose.  

My oldest daughter is twenty-five and she is at a similiar cross roads.  She had hoped to get into grad school and further forgo having to choose a direction for her life.  As she said, much of her life has been orchestrated.  You go to school, graduate high school, go on to college and then get out and get a job.  She had taken a hiatus after my mom’s death Becuase we were all pretty shell shocked and needed time to heal.   A little like me, she is asking the question, what does she want to be when she grows up because the old things just doen’t seem right to her.  She is starting to look in directions and for paths she had never considered.    

However, she still has most of her life ahead of her.  She may marry and/ or raise a family.  I’ve done that part.  So check, family done.   I try to imagine myself back in high school when counselors, teachers and parents are asking me what I want to do after I graduate.  The biggest difference is I am established in life and when you become middle-aged, you start feeling that it is really important that you don’t fritter your life away.  But the problem with that line of thinking is that you forget to enjoy life because you are too worried about making a difference, reaching that goal because you feel like you only have so much time.  The flip side is you can become so concerned about making the wrong choice, you make no choice at all so you are stuck in limbo.  Which is where I think I am at times.  

When I was younger, early 20’s, I had a million ideas for businesses and actually had the balls to even go for a few of them. Now I come up with 100000 reasons why I shouldn’t do something.  In a way, youth has the upper hand here because ou are more likely to take risks, even if they are stupid.  The older you get, the more you learn and the more you think, I have to be crazy.  I could lose my house, investments, savings, cars and the like.  When you are just starting out, you have much less to lose usually.  On the other hand, if I don’t ever try or reach for my dreams, I will regret it on my death bed.  I feel much like I am frozen, paralyzed.  

At the end of last year, I wrote down several goals and have achieved several of them or am on the verge of achieving them.  Going back to school has given me a sense of purpose I did not have before and has also eaten up a lot of my free time.  Now I am less than two weeks away from finishing and I am thinking, okay, now what?  Having a goal and a purpose felt good.  I was doing something for myself, just as if I was much younger without a family.   This tells me that after graduation, it will be time to sit down and think up my next moves in life.  In a way, this is daunting and exciting at the same time.  Learning to spend more time alone is different but not a bad thing.  It is much like being single and living alone when you start out, something I didn’t really experience. 

Sure, my life is slowly changing and there are times I’m excited and other times I am sad or dread the change.  Just like anything in life, any real change, there is positive and negatives but middle-age isn’t the end of the world.  I will learn to adjust to this time, just as I learned to adjust to all the other times of my life.  Some easier and others harder, but I always come out just fine.

In some ways, “empty nest” is like being given a second chance to find your path in life, your new path.  

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The Many Shades of Grief

It has been several months since I posted a blog entry as I really have had nothing to write about.  Or maybe, I have and I just haven’t felt like writing.  This morning I was lying in bed thinking about the previous day where my husband and I worked in our yard, trimming back all the many bushes that grows in our quarter of acre patch.  Working in the yard since my mother passed March of 2014, is bittersweet to say the least.  She is the one who walked into this house the summer of 2000 while I was a single mother and said, Laura, this is your house, I can feel it.  And so it is and has been for almost fifteen years.

When I moved into the house it had precisely two lines of honeysuckle bushes lining the back yard, evergreens in the front, one old maple, one old crabapple and two ash trees by the front street in the city-owned strip.  Now it is full of anything that flowers.  Over the years my mom and I have bought things for this yard, I have divisions of plants that come from my great-grandmother’s yard.  We pass down plants like some people pass down family heirlooms such as an antique clock or jewelry.  You can’t be from my mom’s side of the family and not want to dig in the dirt.  So now when I work in my yard, it is like walking among a tapestry of memories.  Here is the lilacs my grandmother gave me years ago.  Here are the forsythia bushes my mom bought me on sale a the nursery.  Almost every plant is tied to a memory including ones my kids bought me for Mother’s Day.

As I sat on my front porch after we had completed a long overdue task as I let much of the yard work go last year because I couldn’t even bear to even pull weeds in my gardens full of memories, I felt so restless.  My husband recently asked if we could look for a new house in a town about 20 minutes south of our current one so he could cut down his hour drive to work.  We had talked about it when we first got together, moving about halfway once my daughters had graduated high school.  This of course started a ripple of anxiety, stress and uncertainty in me.  On one hand I wanted to dig in and say well we don’t owe much on this house, why go into debt and on the other hand, I did make that promise to him seven years prior.  The search has netted little.  We did make an offer on a house outside of town that I think we both thought would work but neither of us was thrilled with the idea of living there.

The only house that really excited us was pushing our mortgage limit.  It is also a uniquely designed home from the late 1970’s that would be hard to sell.  It’s already been on the market over two years so we would have to really commit to this home.  But as we put the mortgage payment that would accompany this 5 bedroom, 5 bath, 6 level house tucked in the woods, we cringe at what it does to our discretionary money.  There just isn’t much left over.  We reconsidered it last night after a month of letting it sit on the discussion table, even driving by it and thinking oh how perfect it is for us because it’s secluded and everyone else in this “neighborhood” seems to be just like us.  Wanting to be left alone.  Coming home, he ran the numbers and said it just makes us too tight unless they came down significantly.   We sigh and let it go.  Maybe it just isn’t the time to move.  Or maybe deep down we are both struggling with grief and we don’t want to truly move, though that is probably more me than my husband.

However, I have days where I think, I want to start over in a new town.  One that isn’t full of memories and in a house where we just start over.  Then I think about the town that is half way between our jobs and I am less than excited about moving.  It’s a little bigger than my current town, puts me closer to things I do often, more stores, restaurants, etc. but it’s not my dream town.  Then my mind thinks, well do I even want to live in Ohio?  Maybe I want to move back south?  Then I think well maybe we should just bite the bullet on that expensive house.  Then I think no, I don’t want that financial stress.  In other words, I don’t think I know what I want.  There are days I don’t feel I fit in my hometown at all.  And other days it feels like home.  Days where my house feels like a warm, blanket of love and other days where I feel weird and restless in it because I see so many memories that include my mom.

Grief, I realize manifests itself in so many unexpected ways.  For me it can be as simple as weeding around one of the roses my mom bought me that can trigger it.  Walking into the garden section of any local store.  In addition, I am at that point in my life where everything has changed for me.  My daughters are all out of high school, one graduated college and one in college.  They are all independent and my mothering duties are slight.  I no longer have parents to take care of.  People call it empty nest but all my girls still live at home for the moment.  I work in the same place my mom retired from and my middle daughter works.  I walk the halls my mother used to walk for many years.  My life is like a shrine to my mother almost. I live in the same town, in a house she helped me choose and at a job where there are constant reminders of her.  Even some of my documents show the author as being her because the templates she created.   And I was always in her shadow.  She worked her way up to the top of the food chain at our company while I chose to stay in much more quiet roles.  Mostly because I saw what the stress did to her.

Now that I am at a point in my life that it is much like that last year of high school where I am scrambling trying to decide what direction I want my life to take, I find myself quite lost at times.  I realize how short life is so I want to live it to the fullest, do the things that make me happy but I am not really sure what all that is anymore.  What was important to me two years ago is no longer important to me today.  Watching someone die, you realize how little in life is truly important.  I”ve narrowed it down to the people you love, helping others and enjoying life.  What other people think doesn’t matter at all.  What you own doesn’t matter unless you get a lot of enjoyment out of that purchase.  I suppose for me, it is much like waiting for my calling to be revealed.  I sense there is something, not sure what, but it is out there.

Maybe I just am being taught to be patient, maybe I am being given time to heal before suiting up for my next big adventure…