Monday, October 18, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #38: Madge, You're Soaking In It

Rocket Bar Wine, originally uploaded by Mr. T in DC.
I'm in a foul mood. Have been all day. Before 10 AM, I got so frustrated at work, I cried. CRIED. I never cry at work--hell, there are only a handful of people on this entire planet who have ever seen/heard me cry and today I cried at work. Yes, I'm somewhat mortified about that.

The day declined swiftly from there and I'm pretty sure the problem was half mine and half everyone else's (oh god, please tell me that wasn't all me). I tried to make myself a happier, nicer person today, but it seemed like I was just making things worse. Instead I continued to make a mess of my day, executing tasks without heart and snarling at at least two people who deserved my patience and attention instead.

On my way home, I was writhing inside, trying to buck up before I reached my apartment, and then I remembered--there was no one there. I was free to be as miserable and as lousy as I pleased.

I wasn't sad to be returning to an empty apartment--I was relieved. It was a comfort to know I could finally be alone with my angst (yes, apparently 38-year-olds get angsty), frustration and mean reds. Just me and my shitty mood, and my impolite thoughts and my ugly, unreasonable feelings and fears--all of us indulging each other here. That's right, I'm listening to Le Tigre and drinking wine in my underwear. You want to make something of it?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #37: A Chip Off The Old Block

Red Block, originally uploaded by Uwe Hermann.
My son is coming home for another visit this weekend. He texted today to inquire about such things as the weekend's menu, a hair appointment, laundry services (no dirty dishes this time), and social activities. We spent about a half an hour syncing up our schedules so that we could both spend time with each other and still have time to see our friends too.

While it's true, I go bananas missing the kid every day, I don't expect him to come home and hang out with me all weekend--that would be weird. And I love that he's got a bunch of friends he cares about and likes to hang out with.

While I was raising him, I payed special attention to fostering social confidence--probably because it's the trait that I worked the hardest to develop in myself and found most rewarding. It's nice to see that he enjoys a happy, healthy social life too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #36: This Here Guitar's Not Going To Play Itself

Guitar #1, originally uploaded by grange85.
I haven't played guitar in 10 years. Every now and then, I feel something that I can't articulate with words alone and I want to pick up my guitar, but it's been so long, and I'm so out of practice, I know I wouldn't be able to make it say what I'm feeling, so I leave it sit.

Recently, I took my guitar out and set it up in the middle of my living room so that I would have to look at it every day. The hope was that I would eventually pick it up and play it.

Today I did. From the sounds I made, you wouldn't have guessed that I ever played. It was horribly frustrating. The feelings I want to express are so much more sophisticated than my guitar-playing ability (if we can call it that). Looks like me and that guitar are going to have to get reacquainted.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #35: Did I Really Just Make A Marathon-Life Comparison?

DSC_0264, originally uploaded by lloyd89.
So, yeah. The marathon. I finished it. It was hot, and lots of people had a rough race. I especially had a rough race, but I finished.

While I was in the corral waiting to start I heard a song that triggered a memory of me ten years ago. I was in my car driving home from work and said song (a very sappy, cheery song) came on the radio. I started bawling because I was not cheery at all. My life was a complete mess, and about to get messier, and I couldn't see a day when I wouldn't wake up feeling like there'd been an atomic blast in my chest.

If you had told me then that not only would I stop hurting so much, I'd even feel good most of the time; and that I would figure myself out and still like me most of the time; and that I would be standing with 45,000 other people waiting to run 26.2 miles, I'd have thought you were either foolish or insincere. But there I was, staring at the starting line, feeling extra proud to be there.

When the race was over, I started thinking about that memory again and how that time in my life was sort of training for the mental part of the marathon. Just like the race, there were times in that awful era when things were too hard and didn't want to try any more, and worse still times when I didn't think I could try anymore. But yesterday when the weather was kicking my ass all over the course, I stopped for a second and asked myself what I had to do if I wanted to have any chance of finishing and decided that was something I wanted to do and something I could do. It took me a little longer than I had imagined, and it wasn't pretty, but I made it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #34: I Know A Lot Of Nice People

Shiny happy people, originally uploaded by Donna Cymek.
So, I'm about to take a little jog around the city. Maybe you've heard of it--the Bank of America Chicago Marathon? Anyway, just about every friend I have has called, texted, IM-ed, tweeted or emailed me today to wish me good luck or ask how to help me on race day. Some of my work mates even had signs made for the race (they are super cool). They sent me a signed sign today and it almost made me c-r-y. The idea that so many people are thinking such nice things about me right now is really quite pleasant. If I was a cat, I'd purr.

I'm pretty independent--oh who am I kidding, I don't let people do anything for me unless I literally can't do things for myself--as in I have broken bones and can't walk (thank you, Ken), or I am just home from the hospital (thanks, Laila). But I have been told that it actually makes some people happy to do nice things for me and it isn't burdensome at all. So I'm trying to get past the things that make me uncomfortable about being taken care of. Harder than it sounds.

Today I could tell lots of people really, really wanted to help, so I thought about what others could do to make Sunday easier for me and fired off an email with instructions. Yeah! I'm going to feel like a princess Sunday afternoon. A sore, sweaty, starving princess. I'm okay with that.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #34: It Seems I've Overlooked Something Important

WANT! Lolcat Cookie, originally uploaded by melissacorey.

Yesterday someone asked me, "what do you want?". Not in an exasperated 'beat it, scram' way, but I think this person actually wanted to know what I wanted at the moment. I went mute. I tried to say something, but I couldn't think of anything to say. I was kind of taken off guard. I'm sure I wanted something at the moment, but I couldn't access any information about it--and even if I could have, I would have been afraid to say anything about it.

I've spent the last ten years asking myself what I wanted and trying to give myself those things. It took years for me to even answer myself because for so many years before that, what I wanted didn't matter. When I started answering myself and getting myself the things that I wanted, I considered my mission accomplished. Personal growth, check! It never occurred to me that other people might want to know what I want too. I'm glad I got to experience that--it was some of the good stuff of human interaction, even if my part of it was a bit clumsy. Call me Leo the [Very] Late Bloomer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #33: There's More To Making Progress Than Meets The Eye

This way to progress (v2), originally uploaded by robertpalmer.

For the first time in months, maybe more than a year, I stayed in this weekend and did nothing except run a 10K race on Saturday. I had big plans for the rest of that time. I was going to inventory my backlog, schedule each and every task and get started on some of them. I was going to do that last weekend too, but I accepted several social invitations and after being everything to everyone except myself, I was too tired to even get started. I didn't do that this weekend--I said no to everything.

Still, the lists are unmade, the tasks are unscheduled and I haven't gotten started on any of my pending projects. What the hell have I been doing then? Well, I slept a lot; I watched movies; I went for a pedicure with a friend...I kind of slacked off. No, I totally slacked off.

I also said no a lot. I'm not used to this whole no-saying thing, so as crazy as it sounds, protecting my solitude this weekend was a drain on my energy stores. I obsessed about how people would react. I made excuses for them. I almost made exceptions.

Right now, the process of saying no is long and agonizing. It takes from me almost as much time and energy as it saves me. But it's more than what I was doing for myself last weekend, and the weekends before. I have to believe that next weekend it will be even easier and I won't have to entertain 6 catastrophe scenarios in which someone suffers a tragic fate because I said no, before I remind myself that I promised some time to myself and turn down a request for my involvement.

So I guess this has been a long and roundabout way of saying, even though I didn't get anything done this weekend, I can consider it a success because I didn't say yes when I should have said no. I got some rest. I enjoyed some leisure time. I made progress.

Empty Nest Discovery #32: Me Time Is A Must

As much as I love people--and I really do--I need me time. This probably sounds strange coming from the woman who was lonely a few days ago, but I don't think that being lonely sometimes means you can never want to be by yourself. I'm finding that I need at least one day out of seven when I'm beholden only to myself. Lately, I feel like I could use more than that. Probably because I'm not getting that one day out of seven on as regular basis. There may be a solo getaway in my future...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #31: Saying No Is Not As Easy As It Sounds...For Me

Lately I'm awestruck at how hard it is for me to say this two-letter word. I've always been very bad at saying no. I've tried unsuccessfully many times to get over my discomfort with no, but I'd give up at the first opportunity to say it. It's too hard, I'd whine to myself. Well, my out-of-control schedule has me more committed this time to overcoming my objections to no. This time, I haven't given up as soon as the no-saying got tough. I have made two phone calls in as many days to one of my best friends for a 'say no pep talk'. It's kind of sad that I have to phone a friend to stay on the path to no, but it beats the alternative. And I won't abuse the privilege. I'm sure one of these days, I'll be a pro at no.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #30: I Think I Need To Polish Up My Time Management Skills

Eternal clock, originally uploaded by Robbert van der Steeg.
That or stop doing so much. I suppose that might fall under the time management umbrella as well. I'm nine posts behind on this blog (I will catch up over the weekend) and I'm stressing about it. I've got lots to write about, as I've discovered plenty these last few days. For instance, I don't have to say yes to every social invitation. The people who really love me want me to take care of myself and do the things that make me me. They don't want me to be an exhausted, time-crunched, sleep-deprived mess. They're good like that.

I'm going to bed now. I'll see you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #29: Writer's Block

Yep, that's what I've got. It's not that I don't have anything to say--on the contrary, I have a lot to say. It feels like I might have too much to say. I've been spending a lot of time alone, poking around the dark corners of all my yesterdays and I've found they aren't all empty. Some of them have been hiding gremlins who are now waking up from a decades-long nap and they are raising hell in my heart. They want things from me. They want answers. They want apologies. They want things I don't know if I can, or even should, give. The best thing I can do is show them out one by one--find a better place for them to live...outside me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #28: The Divinity Within Me

When your day ends with yoga practice underneath the approving moon, it doesn't matter how it started.

Photo by
Laura Turrell

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #27: Alone Again (Naturally)

My son went back to school this afternoon. My apartment, which had been electrified with love and interaction all weekend, is now silent and vacuous. My relatives returned to their homes too, leaving me here by myself to miss my boy.  

I took a nap because I was tired from being 'on' all weekend and when I woke up, I really felt the sad emptiness of my apartment.  I tried to think about people who would give anything to be alone right now--my neighbor with the three ceaselessly screaming kids, for example--but I still felt lonely. 

I watched the Sunday evening animation shows my son and I used to watch together, then I called a good friend. We talked until I got tired again and now I'm going to sleep through this lonely, silent night, and wake up alone. This loneliness itself doesn't bother me, but the fact that this loneliness feels terminal does.

Photo by Ghetu Daniel

Empty Nest Discovery #26: On A Scale Of One To Ten

When your 19-year-old son moves into a dormitory, you don't automatically lose weight. You actually have to stop eating like your 19-year-old son. Alas.

Photo by vividBreeze

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #25: Parenting Is A Tough Job

Since my son's been home, I have had little contact with the outside world--and not just because I want to spend every spare moment with him. I've been busy cooking, cleaning, shopping and doing laundry. You won't believe this, but he brought home dirty laundry, and dirty dishes as well. That's got to be a first. I'm sending him back to his dorm with a large bag of paper plates, paper bowls and plastic silverware (sorry, Mother Earth). I just stopped to think about the fact that I did this and more, by myself, every day for almost 19 years. I've been patting myself on the back all day.

Photo by Ruth

Empty Nest Discovery #24: I Forgot How Much I Love Blueberry Banana Pancakes

My son is home for the weekend and I have been a cooking fool (hence my absence, dear readers). This morning, I made blueberry banana pancakes for him. It's something I did every Saturday morning when he lived at home. I always enjoyed doing it, but this time I was nearly ecstatic as I flipped those flapjacks. And man, were they good!

Photo by StartTheDay

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #23: Like A Kid Waiting For Christmas

My son is coming home for a visit this weekend. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about something. We planned this visit the weekend he went away and I have been waiting as patiently as possible for this Friday ever since. A few weeks ago, the wait seemed practically eternal; now I've got less than 48 hours to go. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I'm so excited I could pop!

Photo by miki

Empty Nest Discovery #22: I Guess It Was More Than Just A Car

I sold my car yesterday. Long story short, with a kid in college, I can't afford to own a car anymore.  While I was waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I went through the glove box and looked under the seats, putting the things that belonged to my son and I in a Trader Joe's shopping bag. Then I got out of the car and walked around to the trunk so I could retrieve our belongings from there as well. As soon as I opened the trunk I felt really sad. 

I saw the pink, mud-stained folding chair that sat along the sidelines of hundreds of lacrosse games; the huge umbrella that I sometimes had to hide under during those games; and the stray lacrosse balls--tiny trophies from various away games. I remembered the first time I drove my son and his teammates to practice in it. They were so excited. They loved the car. It was roomy and comfortable and lots of them could fit inside it. And I loved driving them in it. I loved watching them play lacrosse. I loved cheering for them. I loved being a lacrosse mom. It never occurred to me that I loved that car too.  It was the car that took my son and I everywhere we wanted to go while he was in high school. The memories attached to that car are so special to me.

It was noon on a Tuesday and I didn't want the tow truck driver (or my neighbors) to think I was mentally unstable, so I pushed those thoughts out of my head, promising myself that if I really wanted to or needed to, I could have a good cry once the car was gone and I had returned to the privacy of my apartment. I didn't want to, but I needed to cry, so I did for a little bit. A day later, I'm still kind of blue about it.

Photo by Pete Zarria

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #21: I Wouldn't Change A Thing

Ever since the nightmare I had last Sunday, I've been second, third and fourth guessing almost everything I've done in the last ten years. Today I asked the question, "what did I get in return for the shit-storm that followed my petition for divorce?" The answer is my authentic self, my freedom, my friendships, my personal growth, my successes, my art, my future, my hope, my beauty, my truth, my life. I made no mistake. 

Photo by kevindooley

Monday, September 13, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #20: All I Have To Do Is Ask

I hate asking for help. It makes me feel powerless and burdensome. But I raised a white flag today and asked a good and trusted friend for help with something and she came through for me in a big way. I will definitely not make a habit of this, but it sure is nice to know that if I need something or someone, all I have to do is ask.

Photo by Liminalmike

Empty Nest Discovery #19: Going The Distance

Again I'm posting twice today because I didn't post yesterday. I don't post yesterday because I ran 22 miles, came home, showered, ate and watched movies until I fell asleep. I'm training for my first marathon and there have been several times during my training when I doubted myself. After yesterday's run, the doubt is gone. I've got this.

Photo by jayneandd

Friday, September 10, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #17: Can't Read My Poker Face

Yesterday was my son's 19th birthday and the first time ever that I couldn't see or talk to him on his birthday. I received a text message just after midnight informing me that he was 'out' and would be going home soon. I assume he was enjoying some sort of collegiate birthday activity and chose not to pester him, but instead to let him enjoy being a college student, and I tried not to think too hard about what that might entail. 

I didn't mention his birthday to anyone yesterday because thinking too long about not being able to see my favorite person on my favorite day would have made me cry. Instead, I walked around with a smile fastened tightly to my face and I fooled everyone, even myself for the most part. 

I try to be a positive person and I am finding things to celebrate and be happy about during this transition, but sometimes a cloud or two slips by before I can slap a silver lining on it. Either way, unless I have a nightmare and call you choking on tears, you'll never know when that happens.

Photo by Paloetic

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #16: This Is Delicious, What Do You Call It?

I have rediscovered leftovers. I vaguely remember this delicacy from ancient times--the early 90's to be precise. Now lunchtime is a commemorative celebration of last night's dinner.

Photo by staramaze

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #15: Some Days You're The Pigeon...

...Some days you're the statue (or as my son would say when he was little, 'snatchoo'). Guess which one I was today? That's right, the snatchoo. It's okay--even a lousy day like today had a few bright moments. In the midst of a very frustrating public transportation SNAFU, I was able to play a game of Words With Friends and share a few texts with my son. It was so nice to check in with him, I forgot how annoyed I was with the CTA. And tomorrow I'll be the pigeon. Look out, snatchoos!

Photo by mushypea

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #14: That's Entertainment

If you work productively once you are home from the office, you'll have enough time to watch a movie--any movie you choose--and turn in at a reasonable hour.

Now watching Paper Heart

Photo by Eric in SF

Monday, September 6, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #13: Sometimes You Can Work It Out In Your Sleep

I had a nightmare today during my post-run nap. I woke up wondering if some of my biggest and most difficult decisions were mistakes. I called a friend and talked through every detail of the dream and realized that for the most part, I was just angry (and sad, which made me angrier) that I felt forced to make those decisions in the first place. Now that I don't have to hold my tongue or police my thoughts anymore, some pretty intense 'junk of the hearts' has surfaced, and there's no good reason to hold it in anymore. Better in my dream life than in my waking life, I suppose. I'm off for another round. Sweet dreams everyone.

Listening to Dreammaniacs - Bettie Serveert

Photo by solofotones

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #12: You've Got To Have Friends

My introduction to the empty nest experience has been difficult at times, but I'm doing okay because I have friends. Friends to sing with; friends to run with; friends to dance with; friends to laugh with; and friends to cry with. Friends who pimp my blogs; friends who call or email 'just to check in'; friends who take me places; friends who come over for a visit; and friends who have my back. I'm a lucky woman indeed. Thank you, friends!

Photo by janine berben

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #11: Every Day Is A Tall Order

Sometimes I will have to post twice in a day because I will be lured away on a Friday evening by two friends who want me to have a little fun.

Photo by Anita363

Empty Nest Discovery #10: Dolore Racconto E Mezzo Consolato

There is an Italian proverb, dolore racconto e mezzo consolato--literally, pain told is half consoled. It means if you talk about your troubles, you'll feel better.  No one is alone in being sad, scared and alone. Once I fessed up to it, others shared their sadness, their fear, and their loneliness with me.  We sat over it like it was a warm cup of coffee we sipped over the the Internet via direct messages, @replies and Facebook comments. Some of us even made phone calls and *gasp* got together in person!  Together, we weren't as sad, scared or alone. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #9: You Can Only Prolong The Inevitable

My grandmother died early this morning. She was 94. This wasn't shocking news and it wasn't unfair. She had lived a long, full life with more happy times than sad. I had the gift of her love and care for many, many years.  Still the news upset me. 

I got the call when I was on my way to work. In a split second, I decided that I didn't want to turn around and return to my empty apartment to be sad all day.  I had been fighting to stay positive ever since I pulled away from my son's dormitory parking lot 12 days ago. What would happen if my exterior was punctured even slightly by a little sadness trying to escape?  I kept walking toward the train to work. I wanted the distraction and the company more than I wanted to mourn.  

I held my news until the end of the day when I told my boss. I had to tell her because I wasn't sure what travel plans I might need to make and how they would impact my day tomorrow. I took my time packing up and shuffled off to the subway.  

On the train, I read blogs, checked email, sent email and played Words With Friends. I didn't sit still or quietly. I called my best friend on my walk home from the train and not a single sad thought was able to break through. I stopped at the store and bought some candy corns.  

I arrived home and devoured the candy corns. I wasn't hungry, but I couldn't stop eating them until I felt queasy from too much sugar. I walked my dog and said hi to strangers I passed on the street. I made dinner and cleaned the kitchen. And the bathroom. 

I sat down on the futon and closed my eyes, but I didn't sleep. Instead I sat still and quietly and began to feel sad, scared and alone in my big empty apartment. The unsympathetic echoes of my sobs hit my core like hail stones, sending cold concentric ripples of grief outward from there. I tried to hold time up, slow it down, but my son grew up and left home. I began to age. My mother figures died one by one until only my aunt and ex-stepmother remained. I came home from work and I sat sad, scared and alone.

Photo by basegreen

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #8: Time Still Flies

When you live alone, there is still a price to pay for working late--less time for yourself.

Photo by ~Brenda-Starr~

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #7: Brrrrriiiiinnnnnnnngggg!!!

Email, text and instant messages are lovely. A phone call makes my day.

Photo by Ollie-G

Monday, August 30, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #6: The Staring Contest

When you live alone, you can stare down loneliness until it surrenders and becomes solitude.

Photo by BrittneyBush

Empty Nest Discovery #5: Ice Ice...Baby

The Great Ice Cube Famine, which spanned nearly two decades, has ended.  My long nightmare of lukewarm beverages is finally over. I can now go to the freezer secure in the knowledge that the ice cube trays will be at least half full.

Photo by Mags_cat

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #4: Running Away

When you live alone, your Saturday morning run can take place on a hilly, wooded road, hundreds of miles from home.

Empty Nest Discovery #3: Wines Constantly

When you live alone, you can scoot off to a friend's cottage on a Friday afternoon to drink wine and giggle for hours and you don't have to worry about what might be happening back at home. You can also sleep as late as you want to the next day. Cheers!

Photo by rogersmj

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #2: Dinner In Bed

When you live alone, you can come home from work, eat a lemon bar, then climb into bed and blog. You can also turn in early. Goodnight!

Photo by organizingthesoup

Empty Nest Discovery #1: Cool As A Cucumber Sandwich

When you live alone, the cutting board you sliced your cucumbers on doubles as a plate for your cucumber sandwich. Efficient!

Photo by trekkyandy