Suddenly, instead of worrying about work-and-family, I have a new worry: work-and-work.
It's a gut wrenching feeling, a time of swollen eyes full of tears, and hearts that feel empty and broken. It's pride filled thoughts of the future and a bittersweet rush of memories. The empty nest: a roller coaster of emotion. It leaves you wondering what to do with the rest of your life.
While not a literal death, an empty nest is a game changing passage from one developmental stage to another. Kubler-Ross was brilliant in coming up with DABDA, which is an acronym for Denial (and Isolation), Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
It was true. My kids were grown and gone, I was divorced, and it was time to leave my home of 26 years for something smaller and more manageable. Gulp. The word 'downsizing' sounds harsh to me. Somehow it conveys your life isn't as important -- as vital -- as it used to be.
As I have waited and watched for the first signs of spring in my town near Charlotte, North Carolina, I knew I was enjoying a yearly rite of anticipation that more tropical climes simply don't offer.
There comes a time in every relationship when there's an urgent need to reconnect: when the kids leave, in the aftermath of an affair, or when everything's just got a bit stale. Even couples who felt they were rubbing along quite amicably while the kids were at home are forced to recognize that they've been living parallel lives when the kids leave.
I came home from the airport to quiet house with an empty laundry hamper, the sink devoid of dirty dishes and a bathroom counter I could actually see. And I thought to myself, there are two things that are keeping me from sobbing from loneliness.
The shocking and painful reality hit me as my last child drove away to college: I will live without my children longer than I will live with them. I stood alone in the empty house and howled like a wounded beast. Then I blew my nose, grabbed my work gloves, and proceeded to convert my son's bedroom into a writing studio. Finally, Mama created her own space!
There was a time when I took pride in the fact that my house was one of the busiest (and noisiest) on the street. I had four children of my own, took care of five others during the after school hours, and maintained a revolving door for all the neighborhood kids to come over whenever they chose. My house was always LOUD. Music blasting, televisions blaring, giggling, squealing, and raucous games of basketball in the driveway --this was the norm.