Thursday, September 9, 2010

Empty Nest Without a Map

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end..." From "Closing Time" by Semisonic

The house is incredibly quiet. There aren't two rooms, both with loud music competing for if the ever rising volumes will somehow win a contest of wills. The pantry is fully stocked....and there are no crumpled potato chip bags, soda cans, empty boxes that once contained Hot Pockets or half finished milk glasses sitting on all surfaces. Laundry doesn't meander about the house, leading me like a trail of bread crumbs to the end point where a mountain has developed. There is nobody yelling "She started it!" and then stomping off in a huff. I am sitting, completely at peace in the blissful cacophony of birds chirping outside. And yet, I find that I miss the ever present beckon of "MOOOOOOOOOOOM!". I have discovered I'm not sure how to cook for just two people. Most of all, I simply miss my kids.

And yet, I'm so proud of both of them. They are each living out their dreams and destinies. This was my hope for motherhood for the past 18 years; to show how much I love them, and to equip them to do the best they possibly can in reaching their goals. I have long despaired of mothers who, when their children leave to go away to school, crumple up in a ball of self-pity. I see it not only as weakness, but honestly as a dependence on one's children. I do not believe it sets a good example for either of them. I would like my children to view me not only as a mother who did a decent job (I don't believe they've turned out too badly), but also as one who is strong and courageous. I've begun to see missing my son and daughter, not as a lack of self-awareness, but rather that I truly *like* them and enjoy being with them. No one makes me laugh the way my son does. He has a wicked, dry sense of humor that I find both delightful and hysterical. My daughter is the best companion I've ever had. She is adventurous and is always up for new experiences.

Therefore, I find myself coming back to the age old questions of: "What is next?", "Where do I go from here?", "What do I want for the coming years?" and "Where do I want to be?". It's as if I have had a clear road map for the past 18 years. Each direction, every turn and all the routes were planned out for me. I had highlighted roads, such as schools and driving to the hockey rink, which were easy to follow. I had taken some detours when I was very ill, when I went back to work part time and when the unexpected descended like a thunder cloud. But, the highlighted route always veered back in my direction. Just as in the board game, "Life", I spun the wheel, I added a wonderful blue figure for my husband, squeezed in a couple of kids later, went from the good squares (on which I was rewarded) to the bad ones (that always came with a cost)...and have ended up at the end of the game. There is no map ahead. There are no more spins left on this particular wheel. The little car I'm driving has gone off the board.

Uncharted territory lies ahead. How will I fare? What will I do? Will I discover yet another map to follow, or will I travel recklessly from spot to spot? I don't have any idea to the answers to these questions. And yet, I love the anticipation of it all. I am delighting in the lack of predictability that my days once held. I am discovering a surge of energy when staring out in the abyss of the unknown future. As Oscar Wilde wrote (and 'Willy Wonka' quoted), "The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last..."

So, if you see me out on the highway, give a wave. I may not know where I'm going, but I am determined it will be fabulous.