Looking For The 'New' In My Empty Nest

This will be the first September I won't have any children starting school since 1992.

The memory of dropping off my daughter for her first day of pre-school, my 3 month old baby boy in my arms, is so vivid. Everything in my life was brand new -- my children, my home, my marriage, my minivan, my friends. There was so much to wonder about and plan for the future.

Raising children was filled with new experiences, opening doors for both my children and me. Each new teacher, new friend, new team, new skill, new interest -- the ever-evolving lives of my growing children kept me constantly changing my focus and adapting to new expectations. The sense of anticipation at the beginning of the school year was always the most exciting for us -- the teachers and classmates, textbooks, assignments, field trips and special events all laid out on a school calendar, sent home in my children's backpacks on the first day of classes (now I'm sure available only online). I would diligently add everything to our color-coded family calendar that hung on the refrigerator -- green for my daughter, red for my son. Along with all of the new events came new supplies to purchase -- bats and balls, folders and pens and binders, costumes and uniforms and tap shoes and cleats and socks and tights.

The constant new is something I miss, and I don't know if that longing will ever really go away.

With my children grown it's not as easy to find things that are fresh and exciting in day-to-day living -- and it was so easy when they were growing up. My children brought home news every day, from the good to the grumbly, and though sometimes their lives seemed to supersede mine, they were a constant source of newness in my life. For months my son was obsessed with David C. who lived around the corner, the only boy he wanted to play with. Then he moved on to Alan P. Then Brad H. Each new friend became a different story to be told, another family to get to know, another parent to communicate with, another phone number in my Dayrunner (remember those?). My daughter was in a children's theater program for many years, and every four months they staged a new musical. There were auditions; then songs to learn, costumes to make (or have made, in my uncrafty-case), dance moves to memorize. Week after week we'd hear the soundtrack to The King and I, and then when that was over we moved on to Lil' Abner. Then Oliver. I was carried along on their waves of newness with almost as much enthusiasm as they were.

And then there were the sports teams...the drama of being picked, or assigned, a team, finding out which, if any, of their friends (and mine, of course) were on the team. The excitement of what Major League baseball uniform he would wear, what her team name would be (a decision of monumental importance in girl's softball).

And that was all before middle school.

I search now for the new in my life, and it's not easy to find.

Some of my friends travel a lot -- it seems as if they're headed somewhere nearly every weekend, every month, planning trips and adventures. Travel is a great way to experience new things. I envy their spirit of adventure, not to mention their tolerance for frequent air travel, but that's not something I'll be doing on a regular basis. Others are downsizing, or buying a second home, or building a new home, changing their environment for both practical and stimulating reasons. We may be doing that soon, too -- but not right now.

I find the new in my life in books and films and television shows. I find it each day on social media, with entertaining and enlightening friends who share updates and news that I would never have found on my own. I find it in my friends and their lives, their children's lives...post-children careers begun, their kids' engagements and weddings, their  grandbabies. A generation of new is starting to grow in my circle. I find the new in my grown children, whose lives are so vastly different from mine now, who spend their days in places I know nothing about, with people who know nothing about me.

But it's not the same.

There are days when it seems as if everything new that will ever happen to me has already occurred -- as if the future, which is all about me, about my midlife, is missing something. Where are the bright, shiny new school sneakers? The calendars to be filled in with endless activities? The growing, changing, new people my children were, each time I turned around?

It's funny, in a way. I've always craved stability, a sense of belonging, a rootedness and familiarity in my life. Now that my nest is empty, that exact thing -- the streets I know so well, the house we've remodeled top to bottom, the friends I've had for 20+ years -- the things I value so much and would never give up -- they seem a little flat sometimes, without the new that my children always brought to my life.

This is middle age, this settling in. This is good. But even so, I keep looking for that new and shiny thing to get excited about. Some days I find it. And some days, I don't.

Some days are as familiar -- and comforting -- as my husband's face, my front door, my dog and my own thoughts.

This is midlife.

Previously published on Empty House Full MInd

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

10 Things to Look Forward To As An Empty Nester