I stood in the shade on a hot, humid day. The air was full of the sound of cicadas. I was chatting with a friend as we watched a pair of goldfinches flit about a pine tree. We are in a similar place in life – our kids are all grown up and recently left home. Both of us spent the majority of our children’s growing up years at home with them. She talked about where the time goes and what she might do with so much of it on her hands. She asked out loud. “Who am I now?”
I hear my friends ask that quite often these days. Over coffee, lunch, or out walking.
“Who am I now?”
Now that the kids are out on their own, my husband or partner is still elbows deep in his/her work and the house doesn’t need constant picking up. Who am I? What do I do with myself? How do I manage all of this extra time and space around me?
I swatted at a bug and replied, “I know, it’s a weird place to be in.”
I’m a hard worker. I’ve always been a hard worker. I remember thinking that “some day” I would have time to rest and relax. No more soccer practice or Friday night football games to attend. No more panicked calls from school asking me to bring a forgotten item.
It will be magical and I can do whatever I want.
And then the day comes and it’s not quite as magical as I had hoped.
Oh sure, there are plenty of magical moments.
There are some moments of reacquainting myself with that man I’ve been married to all of this time. There is some sleeping in, dinner for two, shopping without rushing, and even some of that much fantasized about spare time.
But there can also be times of confusion, depression and anxiety. Especially for those of us who always feel like we are supposed to be DOING something or WORKING TOWARD something. Go. Go. Go. Do. Do. Do.
There seems to be a period of time after the last child leaves where we feel very disoriented without something to focus on. And that period of time lasts a while. Months maybe.
It can be unsettling to say the least.
I’m not gonna lie – my last child left home right after I finished treatment for breast cancer and my mother was dealing with leukemia. It was a Herculean effort just to get out of bed most mornings. Not only was there the physical recovery of cancer but the mental as well.
Even when you are lucky, like I was, cancer is a game changer.
But I discovered that once I sat with it – that disorienting, unsettling feeling – and really looked at it closely – I was able to see a HUGE hole of possibility. A bright spot to latch on to. And I came to this discovery –
I could basically start over. Be anyone, anything I wanted.
I could go back to school, take up rock climbing, be a volunteer. So many possibilities. I could get a job or ramp up my at-home business. I could finally read a book, write a book, garden, or paint…. the list goes on.
It’s much less scary if you see it as a time of incubation, hope and possibility. Relax. Sit with it.
Don’t fight it.
Try new things – everything from clothes and hairstyles to hobbies and interests. Cook new recipes drive a different way to work.
Try it all.
Let the experiences marinate and have a chance to take up space in your soul. Discard the things that don’t fit you. No harm, no foul. No big deal.
And in that process you will find out who you are.
It may take a little while but one day you will wake up with a half day all to yourself and know exactly how you want to fill it.