It’s been a unique, transformational month in my household as the last of our clan’s three grown-up children left us for the next phase of life. They all had been long gone before, but each found their way back home this past year for their own regrouping and transformations. So when Alex moved back to Boulder last week, my empty nest returned. And for some reason, her leaving and these departures felt more permanent than the last. My empty nest feels more solid and a new layer of mothering, mentoring, and friending took place.
I recorded some thoughts and images on Instagram and Facebook as they arose in me and am organizing them all here for your perusal and my reflection.
April 7, 2016 – I truly enjoyed having a regular commitment to posting with @heychookooloonks #40daysoflight through the Easter season. I’ve missed it and thus started thinking about creating my own personal ‘challenge’ in posting. So for April, I’m going to give it a try with #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest. It’s been an interesting family adventure this past year. All three of our grown children that had flown the coop hopped back for a bit as they took on major life transitions – Drew and Calvin both graduated from college and moved on to real jobs with real lives in Madison, and Alexandra returned from two years abroad to reconnect with the U.S. and life and sort out what her next stage is (which, as it turns out, is moving back to Boulder at the end of this month.) It’s been a gift to watch these major life decisions unfold up close. And by ‘gift’ I mean: meaningful and tough, fun and frustrating, exhausting and energizing. And so I need to focus and reflect as I enjoy these last weeks with Alex and then let them all go…again…and redirect my creative energy back to me. Stay tuned.
April 7, 2016 – More thoughts on this official empty nest that’s coming my way…I often find myself wishing I was in a different place than I am. I have those days where I’m alone in my big house doing my thing and yet long for a crowded home filled with family’s energy. And then days when the house is full and all I can think about is having some quiet time to myself to think and create. And then I ruminate in the aftermaths. Did I fully enjoy the time with them when they were here? Did I maximize my time alone? This conundrum started when they were little – when I’d sneak away for a yoga class and feel totally ‘off’ because I wasn’t with the kids, or when I’d be swarmed with them and reminisce about when I could pee or read a book alone. My cousin, Colleen, who gave countless hours to our aunt in her last years, said something once to me that hit me square in the heart. She said she just focuses on what’s in front of her and for that chunk of time, our aunt was in front of her. So what’s in front of me? Sometimes it’s been a child, sometimes a friend in need, sometimes it’s a neighbor, a personal issue, an art piece, or a writing. Most recently, it’s been grown-up kids. And then sometimes, like now, what’s in front of me is transition and redefining of self. A new perspective on Living in the Present Moment – focusing on what’s in front of me and letting the rest go. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 8, 2016 – On Children is a poem by Kahlil Gibran. Here’s the deal on this one. I found it when Calvin was about 4 years old – more than 20 years ago! I had been a parent for 9 years by then and had been scratching my head for a good 7 of those years feeling like these little beings were awesome and fun for sure, but a degree of mighty and of their own, i.e. not quite ‘of me’. What exactly was I supposed to do with them? I mean I knew I was charged with keeping them safe and loving them and showing them the world, but what for? What was the WHY of it all? On Children has given me so much peace over the years, helping me understand that they are full beings all on their own and releasing me so I could open to allowing them their own path. Since finding this brilliance from Gibran way back when, my mantras have been: It’s not about me. They are not here for me. I’m just a conduit. My only goal is to hold space for them to move through life until they can navigate on their own. Let’s do this. Onward. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 11, 2016 – A perspective on the approaching Official Empty Nest: I’m officially retiring from my job as CEO of a small company. I’ve been in this position for the past 30 years. I’ve had four employees (1 husband and 3 kids) and several ancillary agents (several dogs, 2 cats, 4 hamsters, 5 parakeets) and now I’m moving on. I had a temporary retirement with earlier empty nests, but they were more like an extended vacation that still required me to check emails and put out workplace fires remotely. Right now I think I’m still Chair of the Board of Directors, but that term limit is approaching very quickly, weeks away in fact, only because I’m feeling the tug toward full-on retirement. What I envision for the next phase is Emeritus Status where I get all the company benefits but none of the responsibility. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 12, 2016 – All of this retirement talk brings up another thought – where’s my gold watch engraved with my years of service? Wait, I don’t wear watches anymore. How about a plaque? I want a plaque! Seriously though…do we celebrate transition enough? With jobs and clearly delineated leavings, I think that we do a fair job. But with releasing layers of self and honing new identities, hmmm…we may fall a little short. I’ll be throwing my own private retirement party in a few weeks. Or perhaps a full-blown shindig. Who’s in? Maybe you have your own transition going on that you want to celebrate and honor…or maybe one that already happened, but was dismissed in its passing. Personal identity shifts, conscious uncouplings, menopause, letting go of a pattern, opening to a new perspective…what needs to be honored that wasn’t? Party reports to follow. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 13, 2016 – Sweet Roxy is also retiring from service which in her case is 12 years. She’s been a loyal guardian due to her herder breed – keeping bad guys out and keeping us corralled in. This transition has been a little stressful for her. As each of her clan wanders off and doesn’t return, she finds herself a little less needed in the same way as before.#AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 13, 2016 – Roxy may be struggling with the transition into retirement and yet, she also seems to be embracing her new, more docile role of Lead Love Conduit. We often wonder if she’s relieved that things finally settled down here or bored silly with the lack of ‘jobs’ to do. Since I talk to her more than just about anyone else in my life, I’m telling her all I know and helping her through this transition. And she’s teaching me how to let go as evidenced by these images. She sleeps harder and more often than ever before. Making up for years of being on call and barely sleeping a wink OR poor hearing? Man, we’re more alike than I can even admit.#AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 20, 2016 – I wrote a few days ago about how our sweet Roxy is retiring from her years of service… mirroring my own parenting transition. She’s settling in to her new role pretty well (as am I) but sometimes she forgets and falls into her old patterns of protection (me too.) Here she is waking from a dead sleep to race around guarding the perimeter of our home from a nonexistent threat – a bunny in the yard, elementary school kids walking home from school, who knows? Feels the same when I fly into mother hen mode and weigh in too heavily on an issue or try to direct too much or problem solve an issue that is no longer mine. Patterns. Instincts. Habits. We’re both working on ’em.#AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 23, 2016 – We’re not the only ones who are going to miss Alex. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 25, 2016 – Saying goodbye to my human is hard. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 31, 2016 – It’s the last day of April and even though I haven’t posted a ton in my #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest, I’ve been pondering and processing non-stop this past week. In fact, all the way through Illinois and Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado en route to Boulder with daughter Alex and back home sweet home to Indiana, aka ‘my empty nest’. So the stages of parenting…lots of ways to look at them, but for me…right now…I see this: Mothering = the main goal is to get to know them as people, help them explore their visions, and of course all sorts of basic mom stuff like making them eat their broccoli. Mentoring = main goal is to help them define their visions and hold the space for them to achieve them – more guiding and less directing, more listening and less automatic problem solving. Basically, helping them determine if they even like broccoli. Delivering = main goal is to release them to see, hold and manifest their visions for themselves – observe, enjoy, probably some silent worry (key in on the ‘silent’ part.) Main key to this one (and it takes awhile) is to really believe they got this and trust the decisions that come from THEIR guts even if they’re different from your own intuition (which you’ve been using all this time to do all of the above.) So, in the end, if they choose not to eat their broccoli, it’s time to just let it be.
April 31, 2016 – There’s another stage of parenting that I’ve been exploring for awhile. That is, becoming friends. It’s not that we have to be besties or anything (although I like my kids a lot and would be friends with them even if they weren’t in my clan.) But ‘becoming friends’ is more of a move to being equals. If I want to offer advice or shed light on a pattern or something I see in them, I ask myself, “Would I do the same for a friend?” If yes, then proceed from that space of sharing. If not, then let it be. #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest
April 31, 2016 – Rounding out #AprilShowersBringBackMyEmptyNest…we had this painting done recently by local artist Terry Ratliff (@otto_ratliff) to honor the changes and shifts we’ve all experienced this past year. I love how we’re all identifiable, but not totally realistic. It’s a new, colorful perspective on each of us – seeing each other and showing ourselves in new ways. Onward!