Filling The Void

I Screamed “Give Me Some Space”.  I Should Have Been Careful What I Wished For.

This post is written in response to The Weekly Writing Challenge – Playing with Space.  It gives me an opportunity to stray from my usual style and discuss my Empty Nesting Project in a slightly different light.

Three years ago it hit me that life as I knew it was going to change dramatically in the near future.  My children would be moving on, leaving me with a preoccupied husband and an empty house.  Something had to be done, and I embarked on a quest to rediscover and reinvent myself.

The first one has already skipped joyfully off into her future
The first one has already skipped joyfully off into her future

Not a problem, I thought.  I will throw myself into my freelance copywriting business, take up some hobbies and reconnect with old friends.  The children won’t recognize this fascinating creature and it will be good for them to learn that the washing machine works for anyone.

What I wasn’t expecting was the whining and resistance I encountered with every move.  I’d like to tell you it was from the children, but I was the one having trouble adjusting, not them.

Even while I broaden my horizons and try new things I find myself glued to my cellphone – just in case one of the children needs me.  They don’t of course, they’re teenagers, but it always hurts my feelings a little when they manage without me.

I’m brutally aware how outdated and unemancipated it is to admit that I threw myself into the business of raising children and lost myself in the process.  I have created the perfect co-dependent relationship – one where they need me to do everything for them, and I need them to need me.  What’s wrong with me?  Is it possible that there are others out there who can only be defined by the people they take care of?

Of course it hasn’t been all contented domesticity.  I’ve had plenty of those days when I just wanted to scream and swear and lock myself in my bedroom; plenty of those days when I ended up screaming and swearing and locking myself in my bedroom.

There were so many times when I dreamed of a quiet, uncluttered house with everything put away in its allotted place and an absence of finger marks on the walls.  Now that the vision is just around the corner it’s starting to look like rather a soulless place.

I worked hard to raise them to be independent and adventurous, but now that they’re spreading their wings it’s a type of bereavement.  In fact, it occurs to me that the whole process has been akin to the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial.  When they’re little it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever be old enough to leave home.
  2. Anger.  I’ve been through my share of anger at having no career, no life and no end to the mess.
  3. Bargaining.  I’m not above offering pizza or chocolate almonds if only someone will spend an evening with their poor lonely mother.
  4. Depression.  I’ve tried to stay positive through all this, and my blog is my way of forcing myself to look for the funny side of life.  But in the spirit of keeping it real here, I will admit that I have sometimes typed through the tears and that I do occasionally give in to feelings of hopelessness, uselessness and isolation.
  5. Acceptance.  I’m not sure I’ve reached peace yet, but I’m trying to see the Empty Nesting Project as an adventure rather than just a way to fill the endless, gaping void.

So here’s how I’m playing with the space; learning to appreciate it as it opens up before me…

I’ve joined a choir, which is officially now one of my favourite things (yes, we’re singing songs from The Sound of Music this year).  I love it and while it irks me to be surrounded by people infinitely more talented than I, I find that if I sing quietly whenever the choir director walks by I can retain my place and enjoy the opportunity to sing my heart out without anyone telling me to shut up.

I’m planning to take vocal coaching and piano lessons in the hope that I will spend less time at choir cluelessly trying to mimic the harmonies coming from my neighbour.  It would be lovely to understand those pages of squiggles they give us.  And one of these days I’m going to sing a solo.

I’m exercising and eating well because my plans for the next 40 years involve me being active, mobile and in great shape … and I want to age like Diane Keaton.

I plan to hike across England, backpack across India and volunteer overseas.  I will be an inspiration to all those over 50s wondering about throwing the meds and the muscle rub into a backpack and heading into the wilderness in search of adventure.

I’m writing fiction and articles again, and hatching plans to become a prolific and incredibly well paid travel writer.

I’m becoming more involved in my husband’s business which has brought us closer together and given us something to talk about other than how dreadful the children are.

That’s about it so far.  It’s baby steps, but I’m starting to enjoy the journey.  Now I just have to make sure they do all actually move out, and stay moved out!


All My Trials

While I’m on the elliptical at the gym I listen to my choir repertoire, killing two birds with one stone – it helps the time pass and I get to listen to my songs in the vague hope that one day I might stop being the one who always gets the harmony wrong.

In all it lasts a little under 40 minutes, and I put it on shuffle because that’s just the kind of crazy, spontaneous way I live my life.

It seems that the shuffle, though, isn’t that random, because it always ends on a song called ‘All My Trials’.  It’s a Bahamian spiritual and a hauntingly beautiful song – that is, until you listen to the words, which are slit-your-throat miserable.  It is, in fact, the deathbed song of a woman who welcomes the end because ‘all her trials’ will ‘soon be over’.

How fitting!  There I am slogging away, all red in the face and possibly even glowing, desperately wondering if the whole terrible ordeal will ever come to an end, and suddenly on it comes, assuring me that this particular trial will soon be over.  It’s like a little ray of sunshine sent to give me a final burst of strength.

I Worked Hard … Honestly!

My road to the gym is paved with good intentions, and we all know where that leads.

Having said that I did manage to drag myself there earlier today.  I spent about half an hour on the resistance machines (is that what they’re called, because it makes me feel like I’m spearheading a robot revolution?), followed by half an hour on the elliptical.

It was hard work and as long as I remembered to suck in my stomach before looking in the mirror I felt quite pleased with myself.

While I slogged away there were a bunch of older (well, older than me) ladies pottering around in a nice gentle aerobics class.  They seemed to be having a pleasant time and I certainly enjoyed the addition of their soundtrack to my own workout.

Coincidentally their class ended at the same time as I finished and together we walked out of the gym where we sat and changed our shoes in the leisure centre’s main change area.

At that point I realized that I had walked out, red in the face and sweaty, in the company of a bunch of much older women who hadn’t even smudged their make-up.  “They’re not with me,” I wanted to scream, “I worked really hard!”

When I go to the gym I want recognition and admiration, not a bunch of cheerful, relaxed seniors making me look like a pansy.