photo: © Lyn Baxter | Dreamstime.com
I'd been hearing about--and dreading-- this frightening "syndrome" for many years before I became its victim. You know the one--the horrible affliction that parents suffer when all the birdies fly the nest, leaving mom and dad with (supposedly) nothing to do. In fact, for years I'd prepared myself for the terrifying day when all the beds (except mine and my husband's) would be empty, when there would be only two places instead of five at the dinner table, and no school lunches to make. Yes, when our first son left for college and eventually his own apartment I wept with abandon, and when the second son was delivered to faraway Pittsburgh for his college experience I cried for days. And just last year, when our third offspring left for his Freshman year, my knees buckled and I nearly crumpled to the floor. I couldn't imagine what my life would be like without piles of laundry and elaborate family dinners to make. After all, I'd been on this nesting track for twenty-some years.
But then, a funny thing happened. A bunch of other eggs that had been sitting in my nest for a couple of decades began to hatch! I'd warmed them here and there, and paid them a bit of attention over the years, but I'd never really had the time to sit with them long enough to give them life. With my wonderful children off on their own and following their independent agendas, however, these eggs began to crack.
Inside, I found hours and hours of yoga--a practice I absolutely love. No longer did I need to "steal away" to yoga class--I could go any time I liked! And so I began to practice Iyengar yoga almost every day at the gym, and to explore the beautiful and spiritual path of Kundalini yoga. About the same time, I found myself reading scores of books from the toppling pile I hadn't gotten to while raising my children. And my husband and I began taking daily walks, sometimes for hours. Midday lunch at a fancy French restaurant? Why the hell not? A day-trip to the beach in mid-February? Go for it! How about meditating, gardening, or lifting weights? Or just lighting a candle and journaling? Yes, I still did some "work"--writing is my trade. But the "empty nest" offered an opportunity to "fill" so many hours I'd never had to myself before.
Of course, I miss my children, as most parents do. And I love having them home for summers and holidays. But I must admit that the "empty nest" syndrome is not what it's cracked up to be. Instead of lonesome days reminiscing about diapers, sandboxes, and school plays, I find my "empty" new life to be over-flowing. The empty nest, I've discovered, isn't a stage of life parents should fear; instead, it's a golden opportunity to spread your own wings and soar.