“Experts define empty nest syndrome as a collection of symptoms including sadness, loneliness and/or grief experienced by parents whose children come of age and leave home. Unfortunately, because the empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, there are few statistics on how many people are affected by it” (www.first30days.com)
Years ago, I told my children to write down 100 things they wanted to do in their lifetime. Little did I know that one day, when they had all flown from my nest, that I would be writing my very own list. Only this list involved finding 100 new feathers for my empty nest. Having mothered three children for so long, I was definitely a bit lost when they left. I knew I couldn't wallow in self-pity forever. I had to play hide-and-seek with my newfound sense of self. Find out how I wanted to live in this new season of life.
One day while browsing on my phone, I found a great article, written by Paula Scardamalia, that gave me a little kick in the pants. “When your house gets uncomfortably silent," she writes, "dive into an activity you always wished you had time to do. Pursue creative interests like playing the piano, repairing clocks, ballroom dancing or learning a foreign language. Think of this (the empty nest) as an opportunity to reclaim your passions or discover new ones. You may also want to use this time to volunteer, as it allows you to fulfill your need to help others.”
Okay, Paula, I thought. I'm taking the challenge. I grabbed my journal and pen and sat on the front porch. Here are just a few of my new feathers. Some are sensible, some are outrageously extravagant, and some are downright practical:
- Spend time with me, myself, and I and get reacquainted.
- Practice yoga daily.
- Travel to Tuscany to take Italian cooking lessons.
- Swim in the Mediterranean.
- Get my Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
- Eat candlelight dinners with my husband and have deep and emotional conversations.
- Run around the house naked, just because I can.
- Sit my self down and work on the writing projects stuffed in my filing cabinet.
- Consistently develop and love on my oft-neglected online community.
- Dance to disco music at least once a week.
I had so much fun dreaming and scheming. Admittedly feeling a bit guilty about such self-indulgence, I reminded myself of this eye-opening fact:
"With many Americans living until 80 or beyond, an empty nest at 50 or even older probably means spending as much time as a couple as within a family unit. Spend the first 30 days of your empty nest improving this relationship. Imagine your dating again: talk, joke, go on dates and spend more time being intimate. Rediscover the spark that got you two together in the first place" (www.first30days.com).
Once again, Paula was right. My husband and I will spend more time as a couple then we did as a family unit.
Today, it's just the two of us living under our roof. Thankfully, we like each other. So much, that we decided to find 100 new feathers for our marriage, too. I'll share a few of those next time. Maybe, like me, your finding your nest a little empty. A little too quiet. I get it. I'm here for you. Grab your journal (or even a scratch sheet of copy paper from the printer) and a pen and find your way to a quiet spot. Pour yourself a cup of something delicious.
Find new feathers for your empty nest. Shoot for 100, but take your time. Dream big. Nothing is too silly or small or sensational. When you do, share them. Right here. I'll be waiting and can't wait to cheer you on