(elinor b – this is for you – log overdue)
I apologize again.
I had intended to write ALL about our travels to Australia this summer – and still intend to do so – but right now – there is only one thing on my mind – one thing that I want to write about and that is :
I am about to be an “EMPTY NESTER”!
We drop our youngest off at college in 6 days – this is the last week that he will live under our roof – yes, yes, I know that “they come back!” and all that stuff – but let’s face it – my years of raising children will be behind me. All that “stuff” that filled our days – the places we drove and sat through and visited and waited for – are behind me.
It is the first time that I have ever had what feels like a completely blank slate in front of me. No course requirements, no orientation, no syllabus, no one telling me what to expect. It feels akin being on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Vast open space. Total emptiness. Boundaries completely unknown. No road map or itinerary or schedule to adhere to – nothing to give me a sense of purpose. I feel so completely pathetic. I wake up each morning thinking all these things like ” “You should have NEVER stopped working!” or “You made them your life and now you basically have NO LIFE!” and “Why did you leave Acting and Nursing and everything else to become a blogger and artist?” and “You should have learned a more tangible skill that could be put to good use now!” and the absolute worst – most self-defeating thought a person could have – “You have wasted your life and now they are gone!”
I mean – even I want to slap myself. Shake some sense into ME. I want to remind me of the 3 absolutely amazing kids we raised – that perhaps in some small part they were able to become these amazing people because of – in some small part anyway – ME? I remind myself that THIS TRANSITION, while immensely personal and as different person to person as each person involved – that this PLACE I am about to find myself in – is actually unavoidable – no matter what I did – how I chose to do it – whether I had a worked full time – or not – I’d likely have a whole set of things about that predicament that would bring on regret. But in fact – when you have children – and love someone that much – all roads lead HERE.
In those moments of despair it does not occur to me that maybe – had I stayed Acting I might have never met the man I have been married to for nearly 25 years and created these incredible people.
But I’m also a little mad. Miffed and a tad slighted that so much attention is placed on the START of this journey – beginning with conception – all the way to college admission tests – and yet – little to no voice – is given to the end of this journey. To the part when it is over. Is it because it is just so sad that either no one wants to visit it any earlier than necessary ?or that those who have weathered it have absolutely NO desire to reflect wistfully on their journey? I have had conversations with recent empty nesters where they start to talk about their experience and then, pause, give a little shudder – as if they just stepped on a grave – shake it off and subsequently just say “It was really REALLY hard”. I get the sense most people would rather talk about in-depth about a surgical procedure than to visit the home office of Empty Nesting. Is it too indulgent? Too ungrateful -I’ve been told, by well-meaning friends – “They will still be your children! – it’s just different. ” (as if I had forgotten that) .
And most tell me that – in the end – AFTER the crying and the sadness and the emptiness and the loneliness that in fact, “It’s actually not bad. It’s even good!” and I know they are telling the truth. I see it in their faces and their homes and their lives that they have rediscovered a piece of themselves – lost somewhere along the Preschool admissions line – and that they are indeed finding actual “benefits” to having raised happy and healthy adults who are living productive lives out in the world – and not with them. They are visiting amazing places that in the other life were too expensive or just not much fun when you are are dragging a hot toddler or a surly teen who would much rather be with his or her friends.
I get it. I KNOW that is is GOING to be just fine. Maybe even more fine than I think and perhaps just perhaps – there is a parallel JOY that I will discover – the flip side to all of this deep grief I experience now. I’ll get there – heck, I’ll probably even say “WOW – I cannot believe how happy I am!” Someday. I will.
But right now – I’m in the middle of the part that no one wants to talk about. I miss my babies and my little kids and their sweaty bodies and the mac and cheese and cartoons and all the side-line chats. Ballet and soccer and Rowing and drop offs and pick-ups and buying school supplies. I miss the routine and bathtime and stories before bed. Lightening Bugs and Prom pictures. All of it. Even the part that was very very boring. I miss all of it. It just went so damn fast. Just so fast.