Having your only child move away to college feels as heart-breaking as you might imagine it would, only worse. It’s as if my daughter’s soul inhabited the house while she lived with us, but the moment we stepped back in the house after moving her elsewhere, a gaping hole filled our hearts. Empty echoes fill a house that just yesterday felt too small. Here are a few things I’ve learned about our Empty Nest:
- My husband is feeling just as awful as I am. For some reason I assumed I would feel the bulk of the grief. But he feels just as empty and confused as I do, so it’s a good thing we have each other.
- There are books written about coping with the empty nest. We found one written by a comedian so we can laugh through our tears (my real tears, his held-back ones).
- We don’t want to stay home. This weekend, we’ve been to Home Depot and the grocery store twice, visited my father-in-law and driven through nice neighborhoods, bought some new clothes, explored a local park, and took a walk with the dogs. In the Florida heat. Anything to get out of the empty house!
- Manatees are the cure for depression. Really, they are! I spent so much time this past year trying to be a mother (and a new employee, and a college student) that I didn’t have time to other things I really wanted to do, such as find the manatees. So we drove out to a local park, aptly named Manatee Cove, and were delighted to find several:
When I first saw this big guy, I thought it was an alligator. Yikes! They make a snuffling sound when they surface for air. There are other viewing places on docks so we can get a better view, but this was a peaceful spot that was good for our souls. The quiet was perfect. The crabs were interested in us, too, and kept inching closer to check us out.
- Neighbors are awesome! Our next door neighbor brought over oatmeal raisin cookies. These cookies were a lifeline. You see, my daughter never liked oatmeal raisin cookies, so I rarely made them. In this way they were a tangible expression of the kind of sweetness in store for us in this second dance of life. But…I think I may need to get her recipe and make some more! (see #10 below)
- Life is about more than homeschooling! Oh, this is a biggie. I had a dream last night that I was in college (which I am, working on my masters degree, so that part was true) and my daughter was tagging along with me to my class (not true, never happened). In a panic, I realized that I did not have anything planned for her school this year. I turned to her and said, “Well, you could do Challenge 1 again!” And POOF! She disappeared from my dream, and I couldn’t find her, which filled me with angst. Then I woke up and felt sadness like a heavy, wet blanket on my soul.
- I wake up and feel the sadness before even remembering why I am sad. There’s a stone in my chest. I have a split second where I wonder why I feel this way, and then I remember. Although this is what I want for her, there’s a real grief in missing her presence, her scent, her humor, HER.
- I don’t know how to act anymore. How often should I text her? I really want to give her the room and space she needs to be an adult, so I haven’t been texting her like I used to when she lived at home. Is that ok with her, or does it make her feel abandoned? I foresee a conversation in the future about what she needs from us in terms of communication!
- Now is the time for my husband and I to go do the things she didn’t want to do with us, like eat BBQ. So we did. And we enjoyed it. Sort of. Everything kind of tastes like dirt right now (except homemade oatmeal cookies!).
- Which makes it a great time to start a diet together! So after this weekend’s oatmeal raisin cookies, we are doing a modified Adkins diet. I’ve come to the conclusion that sugar is evil. It makes me feel so bad when I eat it that I haven’t had (many) cravings for it. I feel the H Pylori infection is roaring back (probably helped along by the stress of this month), but if I don’t feed it sugar, I feel better overall. It would also be nice to not have to donate all my jeans as none of them fit anymore except the two pairs I bought at the beginning of the summer.
- Finding Yoga classes is hard, y’all. The only thing I know about them is they are $10-$15 a class, and the choices are bewildering. The closest studio to me only offers “hot” yoga, which is where they intentionally TURN ON THE HEATER TO 90 DEGREES. Seriously? If I wanted that I could just go do yoga outside in the front yard. No. If I’m going to have to exercise, let it be in blissful air conditioning. I’m such a wimp. So far, no yoga. Don’t hold your breath.
- Finding line dancing classes is hard, too. Most are set up for the retired set and meet in the middle of the day, which won’t work for me now that I’m back in the workforce. Googling “Line Dancing Classes Near Me” brought up a studio at the other corner of the country, Seattle. Sorry. I can’t fly to Seattle once a week just to learn how to dance.
- I took this month off from my master’s degree classes. The good thing about skipping this month is that I did not have to divide up my limited brain cells between the Big Move and Classical Rhetoric. The bad thing is that now that the Big Move has been accomplished, I’m ready for classical rhetoric, baby. Bring it on. Next month. Get my mind busy!
- Tangental to the empty nest is the spiritual transformation taking place in my life. I’m not standing in the same place I stood when I first began this blog. Here are some interesting insights I’ve gleaned lately in my study of early Christianity and contemplative prayer:
The name for God, Yahweh, or YHWY, when pronounced, sounds like breathing. So every time we take a breath, we are silently saying His name. No wonder focusing on breathing helps a person relax!
The notion of Christ being IN me has taken hold in a way I haven’t experienced before. He’s always been there. But I haven’t always noticed. When I take the time to be still, I can see the world through His eyes because his eyes are my eyes. There is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, black or white, rich or poor, in Him.
- We still don’t know what we want to do when we grow up!
- The dogs miss her, too. Our lab has started stretching out to nap in front of the place where she used to sit in the living room. The little dog goes upstairs at least once a day to check out her room. I haven’t had the heart to do that yet. But I will.
- We’ve survived the first “holiday” without her. My husband came up to my office, and we watched the eclipse together, sharing our extra safety glasses with other students who happened to walk by. The funny thing is, I still FEEL like a momma. I kept scolding the students who LOOKED UP AT THE SUN — and then I offered to let them view it through my glasses. So even though my daughter isn’t here to suffer under my mothering….I still have my students!
- Yes, I’m terribly sad, especially when I am home. But as MY momma always says, this, too, shall pass. She missed me when I grew up and flew the coop, but she and my dad survived. We will, too.