The pattern of my life has changed drastically over the last few years…severing ties that I had carefully built over the years…death of my dad, resultant changing in relationships with my siblings, daughter getting married and moving 2200 miles away, major change in a couple of relationships, death of my 3 dogs, the last one last September…leaving me feeling totally rootless last year. When the business of raising children, caring for ailing parents, friends and pets suddenly come to and end, whatever our other ties and connections, we come to a point of drifting…knowing that even though it was at times too busy, it was familiar and fun and we felt useful. Now we are rootless, empty, in unfamiliar territory. Empty nest.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I was so busy with work and launching my book, I really didn’t have the right kind of time to sit with it, sort it out and find out what I needed to do next. I knew I needed to figure out what kind of balance I needed to re-establish work:social:play:relaxing, but the picture wasn’t clear yet. I indulged myself in the mornings, lazing in bed for sometimes as much as an hour before getting up…luxuriating in not having to jump up to the calls of children, pets and duties…and later feeling the wish/disappointment over the lost time and simultaneously kicking myself for that thought. Go figure.
Everything sorts itself out in the goodness of time. Being busy last year probably was a good thing, and though I couldn’t focus on the issue(s), a variety of things came clear about how I did/did not want to spend my time. My weaving, though I love it, will never be the all consuming passion that it was for my mentor and weaving teacher Alice. My true talent is with my teaching and being largely rooted in Michigan this past year made me realize how much traveling is part of my fiber…are the key to connecting with people, at least to the best of my understanding currently. So observation and careful thought are useful.
The thing that made the biggest difference was a change in attitude (surprise, surprise), and the words I use to frame it (more surprise). I found that my discomfort/pain/grief/suffering (whatever you want to call it) disappeared (95%) when I changed the story that seemed to be revolving in my head. Instead of “they’re 2200 miles away, it’s not what I pictured for myself”, I had changed the story…”I gave her wings…now I have wings too”. This shift happened just 3 weeks ago, so it’s early days yet, but it seems to be working. It’s helping me re-build my life. For instance, last year I didn’t do any traveling, expecting to visit them, but timing was never right. So I’ve made a list of places I want to go, things I want to do, knowing that I have back up plans for when things don’t work out, or I can do both. At Christmas, I may go to New York with an Elder Hostel group and fly to the other coast for New Year’s.
Not for me, the retired picture of casual lunch and shopping on a whim with my daughter, the spontaneous family comes to dinner tonight, or the annual camping trip, at least not just now. So I need to build casual lunches, spontaneity and close-friend contact opportunities that fill that gap and plan my travel to meet my wanderlust and connecting needs.
Negotiating boundaries is a little more challenging when miles separate you, you get to practice the negotiation process less often then if they lived on the other side of town.
Other things that have helped:
Sprucing up the house: refinishing the floors, redecorating my bedroom and bathrooms, simplifying (carefully considering need, aesthetics, clutter as I put everything back into the rooms).
Excerpt from The Wedding Quilt, by Jennifer Chiaverini
Sarah had wanted her children to be surrounded by love every day of their lives. For all too brief a time she was their world and she could grant them that great gift, but as soon as they began walking, they began moving away from her. Although James always circled back, smiling happily, arms open wide for her embrace, Caroline seemed ever set upon venturing beyond the gray stone walls of elm creek manor, beyond the towering elms, over the creek and away, with just a glance over her shoulder to be sure Sarah was watching. And Sarah, who marveled at her confident, fearless daughter, had smiled and waved and fought the urge to beg her to stay—and tried unsuccessfully, to hide her broken heart when she did not.
Living Joyously Tip for the Day:
A gourd that is empty is infinitely useful.