I’ve been pulling this Band-aid off for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the sting. It still hurts but the pain is a dull one just below the surface.
Until it isn’t.
But then once it’s off, that means the healing has taken place and the wound is restored to health.
Isn’t that the way it goes?
Last Wednesday we took our youngest to college, to the big university that happens also to be in my hometown. Athens, Georgia was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s – living in Five Points was a citified Mayberry – but I went away to school and never returned except to visit. Reasons are many, mostly tied to job, but I’ve arrived at a definitive peace with my hometown, and it feels so good to be there now, like all the unpredictability, challenge, and change over the last four years was leading to this: setting the stage for my baby to go to college in a familiar-to-me place.
Home. Through him, in an odd sense, I’m able to be at home when I go home. Family is still there – family has always been there – but I think I appreciate being closer in proximity in a way I haven’t in a long, long time.
So we moved my boy in to the 9th floor of a 960-student high-rise, and we left him and a chunk of my heart right there on Baxter Drive, 1.4 miles from the apartment we were living in when Mama died, down the road from my high school and middle school and around the corner from Barrow Elementary….within a few minutes and miles of where I spent my entire first 18 years.
It’s easy to drift into memories – they’re a flood – but I’m anchoring myself to today.
We came home to begin a new season, and lordy, our house was screaming quiet.
And here’s the thing, a good thing for you to file away if you’re years from where I am:
You can “prepare” for Empty Nest all you want, you can steady your heart for the letting go, and you can even believe it’s good, well done, that this is what your parenting goal has been; but that doesn’t insulate you from the impact of this major change.
So…I’ve given myself permission to feel it.
Thursday, my husband went to work like normal, and I went to work like normal. No, not normal, I threw myself into my work and barely stopped all day. Not to eat or use the bathroom, just go go go so I wouldn’t have to listen to the damned silence.
But then late in the day I had a conversation with a work colleague and she asked about taking Stephen to UGA the day before…and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t speak. And she spoke simple, liberating words over me, He’s your baby. This IS a big deal. It’s okay to be sad.
Which of course made me cry, which of course made me feel better.
Sometimes tears are a means of escape for all the feelings pounding your heart.
I AM a half-full glass girl. I DO see silver linings in stormy clouds. But sometimes it’s fine, even better, and certainly more honest, to absorb the impact of life and to recoil; eventually you’ll spring back.
If you don’t, you need to get help.
Two things are helpful, important and maybe even necessary when you’re approaching or in the season of Empty Nesting.
1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Your identity has been wrapped up in being a mother for a lot of years; while that will never change, your role will. Transitions can be tricky…. Remember that while there may be loss of young humans under your roof, their departure is one measure of success as a parent. You’ve been raising children to be independent young adults, not grown children who need you to survive. Their leaving might not be your only end-goal but it certainly should be one of them.
2. Collect friends in this same stage of life, and even a few years ahead of you. When you’re a new mother, it’s vital to be in community with other young moms; whether to encourage or advise or just listen, having others going through this same life stage is sanity-saving. It’s equally important, if not more so, to have women who can speak life and experience into this new season of Empty Nesting. What you’ll learn soon enough is, at this age, it’s not one thing going on (kids all leaving), it’s many things (aging parents, health issues, sickness among friends, marriages falling apart, career issues, financial pressures, etc. etc. ETC.) and you NEED others who understand from living it that you CAN get through it. It makes a huge difference and I’m so thankful for those in my life who continue to encourage, champion and challenge me…and even let me be sad.
To be continued…this is at all what I intended to write about when I started. Oh, the mind of my fingers sometimes…