Happy Monday, everyone! I intended to blog from the airport while waiting for my flight home from Nashville today, but instead, I have two little words for you… AIRPORT INSANITY. Anyway I’m dashing this off while waiting for the plane to leave. This week, we’re talking about where God is in our particular stage of life. Here’s a bit about where I’ve found God in the Empty Nest.
Sometimes, He speaks through the people in your head.
Everywhere I go these days, it seems like empty nesting comes up in conversation. That could be partly my fault. It usually starts like this:
Random person I haven’t seen in a while: “Hey, how are you?”
Me: “Good. Busy, but good.”
Random person: “Oh really, so what’s been going on?”
Me: “Graduations. College boy finished. Has a job. All settled in. High school boy graduated. Off to college at Tech in the fall. ”
Random person: “Ohhhh.” (sympathetic face) “That’s a big change.”
The conversational trail branches off from there, depending on whether the other party is an experienced empty nester, but everyone seems to have something to say about it. Usually something reassuring. Maybe I look like I need the therapy.
Even the voices in my head are getting into it, now. This spring, one of my projects was to write a novella prequel for my September book. So, guess what the novella ended up being about? A forty-something mom. Guess what her issue is? She’s trying to figure out what to do with the second half of her life. The kids are graduating, family life is changing, she’s wondering… Who am I now?
Her aunt gives her a bit of advice, and like so much of what happens in the writing process, it was something I needed to hear as I was working on the story. You wouldn’t think the people in your head could tell you things you don’t already know, but they can. Here’s that little lesson from the novella. If you’re a soon-to-be empty nester, maybe it’ll speak to you, too:
From The Sea Glass Sisters:
Aunt Sandy wants me to know that an empty nest isn’t the end of the world. It’s normal, what I’m going through. Even the distance between Robert and me. “It’s the leap from one phase of life into another,” she assures me. “Like when you went from being a young married couple, to being parents. Remember how hard that was? Remember those moments when you realized that you’d never again just hop in the car and go somewhere? That your life would always be tied to this new responsibility now? But it was the beginning of something, too. It was the beginning of this great, big adventure of having a family. And that becomes your focus for a lot of years. It’s normal to feel lost when you suddenly realize that family, as it has been, is being taken away, now. It’s normal to grieve something you’ve loved.”
I nod, still taking in the distractions. I consider what the people on Hatteras have been through during the hurricane, and I feel ridiculous. We shouldn’t even be talking about my problems right now.
The salt air blows through the jeep and tries to steal my aunt’s baseball cap. She grabs the bill and pulls it lower, and the sun reflects off rhinestones that spell out the word, Beach Time. “The trick,” she says, “is to find a new dream for the next part of your life. Then empty nest becomes a beginning, not an ending.”
“I know.” I try to shift her off the subject. “I just want to get through this year, through the graduations and everything, and then I’ll think about it.”
A stern look comes my way. “That’s not soon enough. Do you think those kids want a mother boo-hooing at every one of their little milestones this year? They want you to celebrate with them, Elizabeth. They need to know that you’ll be okay when they’re gone. That you and Robert are looking forward to new things, too.”
It’s good advice, I think. It’s time to sweep away that mentality of “I just want to get through this and then I’ll think about what comes next.” After all, that kind of thinking implies that there’s nothing worth thinking about ahead, or that it’s too hard to think about, or that there’s a total avoidance mode in effect, which is a bit of Elizabeth’s problem in the story. God bless Aunt Sandy for setting her straight. Avoidance mode doesn’t help anything. In fact, it multiplies the problem.
So, here’s to not avoiding. That’s what I’m learning in this phase of life — step out, move on, go forward. Live in the now.