Monday, July 28, 2014

Re-Envisioning the Empty Nest

I can still recall the overwhelming love I felt when each of my children were born and the accompanying grief that one day they would grow up and leave.  At the time, I couldn't imagine that loss.  There were times, however, especially during those difficult teen years that the empty nest didn't seem like such a bad thing.  I looked forward to returning to just the two of us once more and to celebrating the life and family that we had created together.

We purchased an Amish hand-made dining table that extended to accomondate seating for nearly twenty people.  I envisioned our children and their families gathered around that beautiful table for years to come, celebrating holidays, birthdays and the traditions that we had carefully developed over the years.  Our children were grown and soon grandchildren would come but we still had each other.  Our impending empty nest would provide a much-needed opportunity to rediscover each other and to enjoy the fruits of our marriage and labor.

But that didn't happen.

As I continue this journey of recovery, I am realizing that I must now redefine or re-envision the empty nest because the definition I have always used is now outdated.  There is no "us" in my nest, only "me."  And the divorce has redefined the cherished relationships I have enjoyed with my children.  The expectations we had for this time in life have been radically changed.  Loyalties are divided and hurts abound--this is a common side effect of divorce.

I thrive on connecting with others; indeed this has been the focus of my life to this point.  My connections have changed and I am challenged to adjust my expectations of what connections will now look like.  My children are adults now with lives of their own.  While my connection to them continues, albeit in a different way, I must now focus on connections with others outside my family.

I mentioned in a recent post that I have lived life based on plans created by someone else's expectations of me or of their own dreams and aspirations.  Re-envisioning the empty nest offers an opportunity to create an authentically "me" plan for the rest of my life.  As I have contemplated on what I want my life to look like for whatever time remains, it has become quite apparent that it is not so much the container of my life that I am concerned with but rather the contents of that container.

The container or "nest" is typically developed during the first half of life and consists of establishing a home, career, family and identity.  The contents of that container become far more important during the second half of life.  I do not want my life to be defined by my career or house for they are simply the container of my life but rather by the quality of my connections with others, including my connections with self and with God.

  • I want to have friends I can just be silly with--someone who will call me up and say "Let's put on our cowboy boots and go line dancing!"  (I don't own cowboy boots and I don't know how to dance, but I don't want to care about those facts anymore).
  • I want people in my life that I can laugh with--belly laughs without inhibitions.
  • I want my life to be full of meaningful connections--people I can be authentic with and with whom I can cry or shout or simply sit in silence.
  • I want to grow in my capacity to love and in my ability to live loved.
  • I want to embrace paradox--both the light and the darkness, realizing that without both, I cannot fully see.
  • I want to continue to learn how to be fully present in each moment rather than living in the what-ifs of the past or the what-nows of the future.
  • I want to grow and expand and stretch myself in new ventures.  I want to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, maybe create my own "Bucket List."
  • I want to become more comfortable in my own skin and with who I am becoming.
  • Knowing that the second half of life will bring additional challenges and more loss, I want to continue to practice the disciples of acceptance, surrender and courage.
  • I want to live fully until the moment I die--no sitting around waiting for the inevitable but dancing and loving and living until my final breath.
If I can achieve even half of these goals in my new life plan, then my nest will never be empty but fuller than I can imagine.  And though I may be alone in my nest, I am guaranteed to not be lonely.  Hand me that twig, will you?  I'm gonna start building.

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