Creating my Path

My life is in transition now. I thought I was doing a good job of preparing for the Empty Nest, but when my daughter moved out unexpectedly, I was forced to transition sooner. That got me to thinking about the Path each of us takes during our lifetimes. It’s not about forging a path. “Forge” isn’t really the right word. Forge indicates a forceful manufacture – I picture a blacksmith holding a blazing red chunk of iron in a roaring fire, then pounding that metal into shape with every swing of his heavy hammer. Clang-clink! Clang-clink!

That is not what we do. Instead, it is a more organic process. We create a path. It zigs this way and that, occasionally backtracking. The Path may be fast and swift, through a clearing, but more often it is slow-going, over and around obstacles.

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Creating my own Path has been difficult at times, and as I look back over the years, I realize that there were many, many crossroads where I had a decision to make. According to string theory, each of those crossroads created a new universe. In another universe, I may well exist as a canoe-paddling explorer out to chart new waters in the Boundary Waters along the US-Canadian border (trivia: I took a bunch of Girl Scouts on a 3-day backpacking trip in the BW area. It was an exercise in patience and survival.). In another, I may be an Olympian guiding my hunter-jumper over spine-tingling jumps. But in this world, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, paralegal, writer, animal lover.

What was an important crossroad for me? Going to the World Affairs Seminar comes to mind. At that seminar (thank you, Centralia Rotary Club, for sending me!), I suddenly realized that there was a whole world beyond my little hometown. Talking to students from all over the world was an eye-opener. My weekly thoughts were “What movie am I going to see with my boyfriend?” and “What color should I paint my nails?” It was mind-boggling to talk to other kids the same age as me, who were thinking things like “Is Mutual Assured Destruction really a smart foreign policy?” and “Should the US government be aiding rebels in Central America?” After listening to folks from the State Department and talking to other teenagers who actually cared about more than themselves, I decided my own future deserved a little more attention. Although I was tired of school, I went to college determined to earn my degree and do something worthwhile with my life (which is why I decided to go into education).

Creating your Path is an individual thing. When you reach a crossroads moment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I want to end up?
  • What are the directions I can take?
  • What will it cost me to take each direction (“opportunity cost” will be discussed in a future post)?
  • Which path will take me towards my desired destination?

Please share below the crossroads that have had an impact on your Path.

Empty Nest: Is this really happening?

Lori at Lake Minnetonka

Lori at Lake Minnetonka

Although there’s a ton of information out there for Empty Nesters, there’s very little info about Sudden Onset Empty Nest (more commonly known as What-the-Hell-Just-Happened). For those of us who had a teenager leave home with no warning – and, really, if you were planning to move out, wouldn’t you take clean undies? – it’s not all happy and cheery and cause for celebration. It’s horrible. Like your heart was ripped out, suddenly and with no drugs. Really, drugs should be involved in this. At least a good dose of happy gas.  Your first thought will be, no way, is this really happening?

Yes, it’s happening.

And there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. Unless your kid is young enough that you can drag him/her home.

So, how do you cope?

You get through it, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Keep Kleenexes handy. Eat well (peanut butter ice cream is a mood enhancer). Exercise (nothing beats doing lunges until your thighs are on fire to get your mind off things). Take care of yourself. After all, you can’t control what your of-age child does, but you can control your response.

There aren’t many resources out there for those whose teenagers move out unexpectedly. I found an interesting blog post, which you can read here. Not the same situation, but similar in ways. And like this mom, I’m not going to go into the details. Suffice it to say, I thought my kiddo and I had a great relationship. <SHRUG> Obviously, I was wrong. I have the same fears this mom did. Will she be okay? Have I prepared her for life on her own? Yeah, yeah . . . I know. I did the best I could for the past 18 years.  And I was kinda looking forward to the Empty Nest. Just expected it to be coupled with happiness instead of grief. Maybe it would help to have a name. Sudden Onset Empty Nest? Acute Empty Nest Syndrome? Abandoned Nest Syndrome? Flown the Coop? I’ll have to think on that for a bit.

Your turn. What do you call it when Empty Nest Syndrome doesn’t fit the bill? Any tips for coping?