Last night, for the first time in 28 years, Matt and I slept in an empty nest. Officially empty, that is. I mean, at this point, I still share a bed 3-4 nights a week with my granddaughter, a pint-sized, human version of a Kitchen-Aid mixer on overdrive. For some reason she detests the thought of covers and spends half the night pulling on my hair to self-soothe (Ow! Ow! OW!). But this is a season that I know will, one day, be behind me. And life will change. As it always does.
The empty nest is one of those things that parents long for and dread, sometimes with alternating emotions and sometimes at the same time. That is the way most of parenthood is, really. Mixed emotions. Mixed everything. A perpetual state of confusion. You love them so much you can hardly breathe and they drive you positively insane at the same time. You remember how badly you wanted a baby and then you wonder what the hell you were ever thinking and when when WHEN will you ever have a moment to yourself to think or your house to yourself to have a little bit...just a teensy weensy bit of peace and quiet where you brain cells can come out of hiding and maybe, just maybe, you can coax them back to life again.
So here it is. We went to bed last night and it felt so empty and it was weird. We woke up this morning and it was still weird. Peaceful, but weird.
I recently read the book Walking on Eggshells by Jane Isay. It was so wonderful to hear that other parents find having adult kids a challenge. In fact, the author said that most parents find parenting kids in their twenties (though you aren't really parenting, you are still relationaly their parents) just as challenging as any other stage. Sigh. We are eight years in to that decade with eight more to go.
That really was a wonderful book and encouraging to the likes of people like me, who want to have a good, healthy, respectful, loving relationship with my adult children but are having to learn by hunting and pecking, trial and error, like a dance. Step forward. Step back. Step forward and stumble on toes. Fall back. Gradually get the swing of things. Do a cartwheel. Look ridiculous. Whatever. Be a safety net, not a hammock. Love them but don't smother them. Listen way more than you speak. As one woman interviewed for the book said, "Keep your mouth closed and your door open."
Today I will go downstairs, to the emptiness. I will tidy up and clean. I will sort and stow. I will put my clothes in the washer without having to take out someone else's load first. I will look around and remember and be thankful for what I had. And what I have. For who I have. Even if they don't live here any longer.
Friday, February 16, 2018
Some emotions are hard to handle. I seem to be one of those people who feels certain emotions intensely. It is easy to try to wriggle away from them, cover them up, explain them away, even, at times, drink them away. Anything but just let them be.
Some emotions are red flags. Anger, for instance, is like an alarm system, telling you something is wrong either with a situation or the way you are perceiving it. Anger takes some digging to figure out what caused the alert and what needs to happen to defuse the ticking bomb from exploding again.
Other emotions sometimes just are. Sadness is one of those. Sadness can be the most natural of all emotions in light of grief and sorrow. In light of loss. There often isn't a thing to be done with sadness other than let it be. Covering it up or dressing it down will only push it underground to erupt in some more destructive way. Sometimes the best thing to do with sadness is just to feel it in all its heaviness and let the tears gradually, in time, carry it away.
Life gives ample opportunities to be sad. Even changes that are, on the whole, very good, can bring with them hard, hard emotions. I am staring the empty nest in the face. Within a few days my youngest will be gone...moving on to a new life 12 hours away. While I know this is so good, a step toward independence and learning and growing and adventure, and while I am excited for her, I am also sad. I will miss her dearly.
So today, in the middle of the hubbub of packing and plans and work and caring for my granddaughter and all the other calls on my time and attention and my head and my heart, I will let myself be sad.
Saturday, February 3, 2018
Isaiah 53 says that Jesus was a "man of sorrows." I wonder how many people told him to look on the bright side. To not be such a Debbie Downer. To smile. I wonder if he was told that he wasn't living the victorious life. He wasn't trusting God. That he should just be more thankful.
If God Incarnate was a "man of sorrows" who looked the reality of life on this planet straight in the eyes and knew just how much life can hurt, why are we so darn scared to do the same? And why do we shun those who see the hard for what it really is?
If you have experienced sorrow up close and personal, you are not alone. That is the beauty of the gospel. God became man and is there with you in it. He knows. He knows.