Fuck Empty-Nesting!

I thought as we got older we were supposed to be better prepared for the next curve balls life fires at us? I would not say that I have handled everything over the past 20 years with grace and aplomb, and yes there were definitely moments when I was thrown (hard) by those proverbial loops, but I did not expect to find myself slamming up against as many completely mystifying, unseen walls as have come my way this year, especially over the last month.

Last week, I woke up one morning in full-blown hopelessness. Wtf? I spent the morning messaging my young chicks group (that is what I have decided to call the group that has evolved with 3 of my high school friends since in my mind, we are all still 17 yrs-old and hot as hell), and we talked about feeling useless, lonely, worried for our children and our aging parents…and finally, one of them says, “I think it is the empty nest syndrome.” Oh.

I thought I understood what it meant, that you just had to re-adjust your days, figure out how to just do for yourself and stop worrying about your kids. Lies. All lies.

It is this sense that there is nothing to get up for in the morning. It’s going to bed to read at 5:30 pm, because I don’t know what else to do with myself. Even my knitting is not keeping me up as it feels monotonous and terrifically unfulfilling at the moment. It is having to force myself to feed the dog and cats since they really won’t feed themselves. It is digging through the pile of clothes on the bench at the end of my bed to find something to wear, because I have not done any laundry ’cause no one else needs any…though I will wash underwear with no problem, thank gawd. It is not doing any grocery shopping since I go to Caribou Coffee in the morning to get my tea and a sandwich for lunch, and I just graze on snacks when I get home from school (tho, the snacks are running low now). It is wanting to be entertained by new shows and movies that fail miserably.

It is waking up and very matter-of-factly asking myself why I am here and then having that feeling follow me all day long like PigPen’s dirt cloud.

My Oldest Diva is an artist, and she does drawings for Halloween for #mabsdrawlloween every year, one a day. This one is for 10/4/21. She writes: “Night Circus✨🖤. Being a whole circus is hard work.” My inner drama queen is trying hard to create a circus for myself.

Actually, this drawing is making me feel better…I am imagining myself in this poofy skirt changing my attitude!

Now that I am working again, I find myself looking at/watching the adults around me at the school. Except for a few male teachers and the principal, all the rest of us (teachers, tutors, paras, admins, etc) are women of all ages. As I watch everyone go about their business, I wonder what they are thinking. How do they view themselves? How do they feel about what they do? That woman seems to focus outwardly with a smile on her face. The 3 women who just went by seem to be completely inside their own heads. That one is frazzled. That young one looks frustrated. That one looks shell-shocked. That older one looks bored out of her mind.

I wonder what I present to an outside eye.

Do they all have constant chatter in their heads? What does that chatter say? Is it kind, judgemental, cranky, funny, warm, brutal, loving, cruel? Are they aware of the chatter as chatter, or is the noise a low hum in the background like a power line buzz that is no longer consciously acknowledged?

I read something a few months back that made a case for that noise not being who we are. That noise is not me. That noise comes from a place that is afraid of silence. Silence must be filled, so let’s fill it with a voice that constantly reminds us how inadequate we are. How often we screw up. How often we are wrong. How often we are sub-par. How we are less than, unworthy, stupid, failing, ugly, fat, decrepit…

It struck me that our “inner voice” is so often, if not always, so fucking awful! Why? Why isn’t our first instinct to be kind? Why is it so ugly and abusive? My inner voice is a gawdamned bully! Why?

I started to really think about this idea that my inner voice is not ME. There is a part of me that finds that to be utterly stupid since the only one in my head is me, but then another part of me got quiet. It was a head-tilt moment. I stepped back and imagined that voice was a demon from another plane of consciousness who was just looking to create negative lightning bolts. Ooooo…not me. Something else, but not me. Could I stop listening? I imagined stepping around a corner so the demon thought it was alone…and there was silence.

I started to laugh. Every time I take the demon’s power away by stepping out of sight, the silence first makes me smile, and then I laugh! Is it relief? Why does that strike me as funny? Not a clue, but it has made me question what our first instinct really is? The lack of chatter in my head allows me to breathe and smile.

I have read that all life moves toward balance. We are surrounded by systems, biological and otherwise, that are apparently working towards equilibrium, yet all it takes is one glitch, one foreign body to throw it all out of whack.

I have also read that all life moves toward decay and chaos. Life expends energy as it moves until the day there is no more energy to be found and death ensues…except that decay itself gives off more energy to feed something else that for a bit maintains balance until it too begins to decay.

So does that mean balance, equilibrium is unsustainable? And even though death and decay are a given, they can sustain something else in its own balance for a brief time. So, what the hell are we striving for?

Popcorn mind…and no closer to knowing how to go forward now that those who have needed me are moving on into worlds and lives that they have created. It is as it should be.

Eye-rolling - Wikipedia

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jay Farris
    Oct 06, 2021 @ 09:19:10

    Great writing there, Ann. I’ve noticed that now in my “of a certain age” time in my life I’m much more analytical. That’s not so much a big thing for many I suppose but when I was younger I was very much a spontaneous person. I’d wake up and without a second thought go on 10 hour drives to Chicago, south to the beach or just hop on a plane to Cancun. Now, I think about every minuscule detail and go through a hundred “what if’s” before I go anywhere and do anything. I know my anxiety has a great deal to do with it but I do miss the days when I didn’t think too much. Or “think about it tomorrow “. Wait…was I a real “Scarlet”??

  2. Lee Anne Watt
    Oct 06, 2021 @ 12:15:53

    I feel this with every word! I remember both my sisters going through empty nest syndrome when I was a young adult. My sisters were 16 and 18 when I was born so their kids were closer in age to me. I couldn’t understand why they were crying so much. Why mentioning one of their kid’s names brought automatic wells to their eyes. Why they seemed so broken. I had no life experience to relate to them. My youngest went off to college 2 years ago. Now I get it! My whole existence seems to revolve around waiting. My sense of self and motivation are gone. Getting up in the morning..why? To clean my house? Who’s going to see it? We are not just empty-nesters now but stuck in a world wide pandemic where having people over is no longer a thing we do. I don’t have the passion to pursue my hobbies. I think the pandemic didn’t help here either. Lots of people who share my hobbies have expressed that same disinterest and lack of creativity or passion. I still go through my day on automatic doing what I always did day to day just with less interruptions or ‘mom I need you NOW’ moments. I can’t seem to focus on one thing for very long. My sewing machines sit idle. My camera too. My knitting needles in a drawer. Yarn in bags just haphazardly piled in a corner. I look forward to phone calls and visits but it all comes crashing back down when the phone call or visit ends. Back to the reality of empty days. Unlike my husband, I don’t have a career and I am not interested in starting at my age. My career for the last 30 years was raising my kids. And for 14 of the last 17 years it was Irish dance. Now I am officially retired I suppose. Is this what retirement looks like? Waiting… for a phone call or a quick visit? The loss of feeling needed by the ones you love the most is deflating. Letting my now adult children figure out their own problems is both rewarding and anxiety-inducing. When they tell me of a struggle they are experiencing my first reaction is to try to fix it but I have to restrain myself. They need to experience these things to continue to grow. They are competent, caring, strong, determined and intelligent adults now. My job is done. I did a good job. If something major comes up and they need me I will be here.. waiting.

  3. taoknitter
    Oct 06, 2021 @ 13:27:54

    Yes, yes, yes! And since I am also ecstatically divorced, I no longer have (or want) another body in the house to bounce things (balls, vases, plates) off of!

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