Sunday, August 7, 2011

Strange New Waters

I awoke feeling acutely grief-stricken, and I said to myself, "Ah, this is the empty-nest feeling I've heard about, the feeling that says, "You're not at home in your new world, and your old world no longer fits you." I was in limbo, aching for what was and for what might have been. Intellectually I knew this was a growth phase, a kind of labor pain that would yield wonderful things if I could just allow myself to go through it. (It helped to know that I didn't really have a choice.) Rather than smooth it over and find mind-numbing ways to spare myself the anguish, I let myself feel it. I was lonely, disappointed, heartbroken, and scared, and I sat on my bed and cried for everything about my life that was dying." ~Dr. Christiane Northrup, The Wisdom of Menopause

I could have written this passage myself, as I sat here this morning on my bed, mourning the past, not sure what the future looks like but convinced that I'm not going to like it. You see, when we return home from Ormond this afternoon, I will be facing an empty-er house than when I left. One more bedroom will be empty, one more little bird having flown the nest. Bambi moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, a decision I not only approved of but celebrated for her. She's a smart, independent, mature young woman and she's ready to move out on her own. I have no doubt that she will be successful and happy in her new home. But me? That's another story.

I got pregnant with Kali when I was nineteen years old, I have been a mother for 28 years. It is the most important job I've ever done, the only one that really mattered, and I put my heart and soul into it. I barely remember my adult life before children, before full-time mothering, and I have no idea how to do anything different. Of course, I have Beren and my pets and my hobbies, and a little part-time job that fills my time, but first and foremost I am a Mother. And, yes, I realize that I will always have that role, but it's different now that they are adults. They no longer need or want my "parenting." They want and need to live their own lives, find their own place in the world, and that's normal, natural and healthy. I am just not sure how to "do" this parenting-of-adults. How involved should I be? How often do I call, visit? Where is the line between abandonment and independence? How much is simply too much?

I am struggling with these questions, desperately seeking the answers from "experts" as well as my friends but, alas, no one I know has been here yet. Having my girls so early puts me at a disadvantage as many of my peers are still struggling with teenage issues, not ready to deal with the emptying of their nest. I feel like I'm navigating these unchartered waters without a compass or a map, hoping I'm headed in the right direction but not even certain of my destination! It's terrifying yet just a little bit exciting as well. Even though my tears, I tentatively look forward to where this next phase of life may take me but understand that in order for me to get there, wherever "there" may be, I have to release myself from the security of the dock and set sail. Bon Voyage.



Linda said...

i was reading and thinking I must email immediately until I read your ending phrases.. then I realized you will do brilliantly!

it IS a difficult time for women like us, who put having a family on such a high priority BUT times change , nothing stays the same and so will you. this can be a time of deep inner growth-for me it wad a return to my art, with time to spend..HOURS of it! be patient and you will find your path and remember, you are not alone tho it can feel that way!

blessings my friend xxx

The Bipolar Diva said...

It's a hard thing to do for sure. With 11 kids we've learned that they're all different. One thing that, for our family, happens is that we still call "family meetings" when there appears to be something that's getting out of hand. But mostly we step back and watch them fight their way through it. That's one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I've had a hard time "letting go," but I've learned to chose my times wisely. I grew up with no supervision, when I was a teenager and young adult I had no one to guide me. It was a scary and volatile time. You'll know what is right for your kids. You'll know what is right for you.

Anonymous said...

Even though the girls are still living at home right now, the nest is emptier than it's ever been because they are so independent and busy. It's a good preparation time for me. I've already started experiencing that in-limbo feeling of not knowing who I am, where I belong or what to do anymore. I'm finding I'm quiet and withdrawn a lot lately.

Thanks for sharing this, my friend.

Rapunzel said...

Thank you so much, dear friends, for your words of wisdom and encouragement! I've recently found out that Lily, the last one home, is going away to college in October. My nest will truly be empty then. Honestly, I'm sort've looking forward to it. :)