Friday, September 6, 2013

Empty Nest ... "Journey"

I am a Mom of an only child. She turned 21 in December and has been living & studying in Spain for the past year. When she headed to college, 3 years ago, she told me specifically that "she wanted to learn her own way and gain more independence", so she purposely decided and told me she would not contact me or I was not to contact her, other than attending her swim/dive meets if I wanted to. It was a hard transition, but it was very good for both of us. We started connecting more after the first semester, although, the first semester she called me here-and-there to share her new experiences with her clubs, volunteer orgs., swim/dive team and sorority she joined. In addition, she had a new boyfriend. During that time and for over three years, I have been working through the empty nest syndrome. It's funny how you ask yourself the question, "What is it that I want to do when I grow up?" I kept mulling that over and over again in my mind. Luckily, I had some consulting work that kept me busy the first 2 years, and about 6 months later, an old acquaintance introduced me to the club. Seeing that I was a runner, I thought, great idea, I'll join this to give me some goals to look forward to. I ended up achieving my running goal, running a half marathon in 25 states in 2 years.

Last year, I ended up getting a sprained ankle and was mending an injury, only doing 5 half marathons during the year, without much running, but a lot of traveling across country for work (which kept me occupied). In the meantime, I kept close ties with my daughter, who we muddled through how we communicated, adjusted as we found things didn't or would work for each of us along the way. In the meantime, I grew tremendously, learning to see my daughter as the responsible adult that she is, and appreciating the wonderful opportunity that God gave me to raise her for over 18 years at home. It was a gift!

I find now, that it is more of a gift now, as she shares her experiences, and I see life through her eyes. Our relationship has changed a lot, it took an open mind on my part and realization that I must be like clay, and shift, mold and get smashed, many ways throughout my adulthood, going forward.

Last year, second year with my daughter away, I decided to take an art class through the university and sign up for a writing and meditation retreat in the Colorado Mountains in late spring. I almost didn't go to the retreat, and almost backed out 3 times in the process, with tears in my eyes the 3rd time, forcing my way to my room. I made it, and these were the best things I ever did for myself.

- Just getting my art materials out and working my hands in the materials again, was something.

- I learned to take time for me and it was okay.

- I met and befriended a small handful of very good friends, coaches, mentors who have been instrumental in my transformation, supporting me on the peripherals without me asking or "thinking" I needed help. One friend, who is now my coach, went as far as reached out to me and offered to coach me free of charge. I said, sure, what the heck! She has been a pivotal part in the changes that I have made during this past year and a half.

- I learned that I can write creatively, I wrote a piece at the workshop, and people were crying as I read it. It made a very strong impact on many people in my group (myself included).

- I wrote my first draft (and illustrated) of my children's book, which I am still muddling through how to get it published with little or no money (or ways / opportunities still learning). It WILL happen, because the 8 year old that I read my piece to just LOVED it... It was a good way to get the temperature of customer feedback.

- I can go on and on, there are so many rich experiences gained by forcing myself to go outside my box.

In December, my consulting gig company, pretty much said there was no work, so in January, I took a cross-country trip to New Mexico, California and Nevada, to see these states, visit family and friends.

I arrived back home, and circumstances led me to kick off running a half marathon every weekend, starting in February in New Orleans. Helping me complete my half marathon in 25 states goal the first weekend of May. I wrote a press release of my experiences, lots of twists and a wonderful journey for me.

My daughter comes home from Spain in June, and I'm excited, but also worried about how I am going to adjust my life with her back in the states. Although, she will be working at an internship about 40 minutes away from our home, she also has gained and shared with me her wonderful learned perspectives, one of which is that she wants to spend time with the people who she cares about most, a small handful of friends and she mentions me and her dad. So, this is another thing for me to muddle through, because I am starting to really enjoy free and hobby my time (finally), but also enjoy my time with Staci. But, know it's also important to make the space available and not allow things to go back the way they were, with my daughter depending on me and us doing too much for her.

We'll work it through, but wanted to share this experience that is near and dear to my heart. And seems very similar to your story.

Thank you for sharing and cheers!

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