Empty Nest, Take 2

About a year ago, I was waving my daughters goodbye as one headed to college and one headed to a year-long internship.  Our sons were already out on their own, one married and living in Cincinnati, the other in the Army stationed in North Carolina. I blogged about our empty nest here in our little house by the river.  I soaked in the quiet and took a season of rest.  I watched Netflix, went to the gym, slept, read, and took care of myself for about two and a half months.  Then the nest started filling up again.

I won’t tell their stories, but I will say that each of the girls were home with us for about six months, with about three of those months overlapping.  I don’t think any of us would say they were easy months, but they were good months.  Those months gave us a chance to say some things that needed saying, to shout some things that needed shouting, to sit together, to cry together, and to laugh together. I am very thankful for those months with our girls.

So thankful, in fact, that this past weekend after we had the privilege of helping them set up their first apartment together in Boston, I wept as we drove away.  I love those girls.  They know me and care for me more deeply than anyone else, with the possible exception of my husband. They somehow see into me and sense things that I do not say out loud.  They are attentive and caring.  They are tender.  They are loving.

It does my heart so much good to know that they are starting their next chapters together — that they will have the support and love that only sisters can give.  And at the same time, I am feeling just a little bit lonely today.

Yes, I am in my empty nest in my house by the river.  It is truly beautiful and peaceful.  My doggy is sleeping by my feet.  I am finishing my tea as I type.  I am back where I started one year ago.  It is a good season, this one that I am re-entering.  But, it is bittersweet.

The girls must sense, even from twelve hours away, that I am a little melancholy this morning.  Both of them have already texted me and asked how I am doing. In fact, since we pulled away from their new digs on Saturday, I have talked to each of them each day.  They are settling in to their next chapter while I am reacquainting myself with mine.

I hear us encouraging each other over and over, “You’re doing great!” “I’m proud of you!” “You’ve got this!” “I love you!” “I miss you!” They are teaching me that these things need to be said out loud over and over again.  They have been teaching me their whole lives.

Psalm 127:3-4

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!

Next Chapter Living

I sent you a little subliminal message yesterday; I don’t know if you saw it.  In the midst of explaining my need for a day without driving, I mentioned that I had been busy for six days.  In a row.  Many of you are saying, “Welcome to my life.”  I know.  I used to live your life.  I used to move at break-neck speed for days, weeks, months, even years at a time.  But, guys, this is the Next Chapter.  

When we were packing to move to Michigan, I remember sitting in a chair as my husband packed stuff into boxes asking me what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of.  Why was I sitting in the chair?  Because I didn’t have the strength, the physical strength, to pack a box.  And I thought I would always feel that way.

When my daughter graduated from high school last May my mother and older daughter were in town to help.  I went to work every day.  They cleaned my house from top to bottom, did all the grocery shopping, prepared all the food, and basically ran my life for me.  Because I couldn’t do it myself.  And I was beginning to believe that I would never be able to do things for myself again.

On moving day, my husband and a dear friend of ours followed behind the movers cleaning our house so that renters could move in when we left.  They worked tirelessly for hours while I drank water, then tea, then water, then tea.  Our daughter volunteered to run out for lunch, knowing that I didn’t have a plan; I was busy sitting on the couch catching my breath.

All last year, I would groan myself out of bed in the morning, shower, get dressed, drive to school, interact with students and colleagues all day, then drink some caffeine to help me stay awake for the twenty minute drive home.  I rarely cooked.  I did the minimum around the house.  I tried my best to interact with the people I love.  And then I fell into bed — often before 7:00pm.

For much of August and September, here in the house by the river, I carefully planned my days so that I could have a rest either in the morning or in the afternoon.  I was sure to fit in a walk or some other exercise, but I often spent several hours either reading or watching TV.  My big accomplishment most days was preparing dinner for my husband.

But guys, it’s January, and I worked six days in a row.  Now they weren’t the ten-hour days of my former life, but they did involve getting dressed, driving to meet a student, preparing for that student, interacting with her, and then driving home.  Not only did I meet with a student, I also did some proofreading for another student, encouraged the grad student I am working with, sold a half-dozen items on eBay, prepared paperwork for the tax man, cooked, cleaned, exercised, AND interacted with others socially.  Without a nap. Without going to bed at 7:00pm.  Ok, I have to be honest.  Near the end of that stretch I crawled into bed one night at around 7:30 and read until around 10:00.  I was physically exhausted, but not yet ready for sleep.  And then yesterday, I really needed the day at home.  But you know, being home, I still did laundry, cooked dinner, dusted and vacuumed, paid the bills, and managed to interact with people that I love.

Guys, it’s the Next Chapter! I am feeling better, not perfect, but better.  I am finding a new pace that seems to be working.  I am learning to listen to my body and take a break when I need one.  I’m not pain-free, but who is?

Now, I’m not going to run back to my old life, although it was meaningful, and important, and great at the time.  In fact, I don’t know fully what the Next Chapter looks like, but I am hopeful.  I may need rest along the way, but I am confident that I will have plenty to do in this Next Chapter.  Thanks be to God.

2 Corinthians 5:5

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God,

who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.