Since the dreaded and unavoidable occurrence of the empty nest in my deliberate career as “Stay at home Mom,” gatherings of my children and their friends and their own beloveds are full of mixed emotions. (The modern title of “Stay At Home Mom” warrants a blog of it’s own. I abhor that title!!)
I naturally want my kids all to myself. Selfish wench, I am!!! A gathering of my children and their significant others (which includes life-friends as well as life-mates) is a painting even Norman Rockwell could never capture. Our life together is The Walton’s, SNL, Lucy, Disney, Will Ferrell anything, Lawrence Welk, Beavis and ButtHead, Little House On The Prairie and The View all rolled into one. Touched By An Angel ranks among the highest representations of our life together. Maybe it sounds sappy, but I can only believe it was the touch of God that blended this family so well and included in the touch all the significant parts, completely labeled, that make us a unique and loving blended family.
The priorities of this family include:
· faith – as distinct and individual they have made it in their lives,
· priority to family,
· humor – a BIG dose of it,
· curiosity and the quest for knowledge,
· a willingness to work for what they get,
· a respect for the endeavor of life in all it’s forms,
· love for one another -- and a bit of adoration for one another,
· the belief that dreams really do come true, and the wisdom to know where to find the dream in their own
heart, their mind and in the world.
Still, I beat myself up sometimes. I confess that I am somewhat jealous of the Moms and Dads who live close enough to their children that enables them to run home whenever they need help; where the kids can depend on the grandparents for babysitting and both forget or overlook just how lucky they are to be so close. I feel guilty that I cannot be with each child as they climb their own mountain and wonder where I went wrong when we decided to move to a place of my own childhood dreams. I forget there are no medals given to the Mom who calls or texts their adult child the most. I confuse “giving flight” with abandonment. But somewhere, most likely from my own parents, I learned it is okay to let children learn on their own while providing a safe landing space whenever they need it.
As make my way down the steps of feelings, I ultimately get to the bottom feeling. I’m not sure it can be described in one word and it doesn’t wipe away any of the feelings I have on the way down. I am sad when I can’t be in the company of my entire family. I am joyful for the time we have together. I am grateful for the adults they have become. I am proud of who they are and who they choose to be friends with. I do feel supportive in that I am there for them no matter where they are in their lives. I am sad when I have to leave them. I am Happy we exist. I am elated we are a family and I am lonely without them. I am lonely in Davis. I am lonely in Otis. Not lonely as if I have no one, but because in order to support my children wherever they are and whatever they do, I must share them with the world. The feeling of loneliness is the rock bottom I hit until I came to understand just how familiar it feels and how important it is to feel it. I felt it the first time I left Nate with a sitter to go to a movie when he was 8 months old. I felt it when Meg left for afternoon kindergarten for the first time. I felt it when the older kids left for the homes of their other parents when we shared joint custody, despite the fact the “little boys” were still there. I felt it as each one took the keys to the car and backed out the driveway for the first time. I felt it as each child graduated from high school and preened their wings for flight. I felt it the day we went to help Justin move into college and felt just a teensy bit better because his life partner, Jenn, was there to cover my bases. At the same time Nate moved to his first apartment and although it was only a mile or so away, that move still made me feel lonely. I felt it the day I watched Joey cry as his best friends, a year older than he, graduated and left him behind. It was the precursor to the feelings I would have for his own graduation and imminent departure to college. And the most obvious time (because everyone always looks at that time as the empty nest beginning when actually the youngest leaving is the climax of the empty nest story) was watching the youngest graduate and leave for college at the same time we were forced to move from our family home. To some that must have looked like Mom and Dad following the babe of the family to Oregon to be near him. This was far from the truth. Our original plans were to use our Oregon home as a vacation dwelling and live here during Gabe’s football season and the hot, hot summers of Davis. The economic crash, and a sudden business crisis made moving to Oregon a requirement to survive and at first was not the vacation haven it was meant to be. In all that, I was grateful – but lonely. John was now commuting to Chicago Monday through Friday. My kids were all out on their own. I was forced to leave friends, a ministry in Spiritual Direction, art and music, a church family, and a home that had incubated the babes in my life for 19 years. Yes, it made me lonely.
And although lonely seems to be the bottom-line feeling, it really is just the landing. The landing is a place where you choose to keep going down, or use as the place to start climbing back up again. Lonely is not a bad feeling and is not a feeling of finality. The word lonely is a gift to me. If I did not love being with these souls of love, I would never feel lonely as I do. And lonely is not the same as the word alone. Because of the closely-knit family we all have created, I am never alone; I am just lonely for the moments together.
Last New Years Eve, John and I found ourselves sitting in our old living room in Davis, celebrating alone and found ourselves laughing at the fact –“This we could have done in Oregon.” We soon found ourselves contradicting ourselves. This was no different then when we lived in Davis and believed in encouraging the kids to be with their friends and chose to let them lead lives that would allow them to become healthy, independent adults with lives that were theirs not ours.
Driving home to Oregon a week after the wedding, I initially had the same feelings of loneliness at the beginning of the drive. But this time we were listening to Neale Donald Walsh’s book, Conversations With God, an uncommon dialogue. This book is a narrative between Neale and God as he asks God questions and writes down what he hears in return. There are some profound statements and clear, common-sense messages in this book. Although many think this is a blasphemous book, if one reads or listens to it with an open mind and heart, there is plenty in it to challenge one’s mode of living, feeling and thinking and for me a clear understanding that God has never stopped speaking to us and will, indeed, speak to you whether you’re listening or not.
Just at the right moment in my feelings of loneliness, I heard this:
* "My pay—the payoff you get when you “work for” Me – provides a great deal more than spiritual comfort. Physical comfort, too, can be yours. Yet the ironic part about all this is that, once you experience the kind of spiritual comfort My payoff provides, the last thing you’ll find yourself worrying about is physical comfort.
Even the physical comfort of members of your family will no longer be a concern to you – for once you rise to a level of God consciousness you will understand that you are not responsible for any other human soul, and that while it is commendable to wish every soul to live in comfort, each soul must choose – is choosing – it’s own destiny this instant.
Clearly, it is not the highest action to deliberately abuse or destroy another. Clearly, it is equally inappropriate to neglect the needs of those you have caused to be dependent on you.
Your job is to render them independent; to teach them as quickly and completely as possible how to get along without you. For you are no blessing to them so long as they need you to survive, but bless them truly only in the moment they realize you are unnecessary.
A true Master is not the one with the most students, but one who creates the most Masters.
A true leader is not the one with the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders.
A true king is not the one with the most subjects, but one who leads the most to royalty.
A true teacher is not the one with the most knowledge, but one who causes the most others to have knowledge.
And a true God is not One with the most servants, but One who serves the most, thereby making Gods of all others.
For this is both the goal and the glory of God” that His subjects shall be no more, and that all shall know God not as the unattainable, but as the unavoidable.
So now, as parents, spouses, and loved ones, seek not to make of your love a glue that binds, but rather a magnet that first attracts, then turns around and repels, lest those who are attracted begin to believe they must stick to you to survive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could be more damaging to another.
Let your love propel your beloveds into the world – and into the full experience of who they are. In this will you have truly loved."
Loneliness, at that moment made me smile. And maybe lonely is not the way to describe my feelings anymore, because always, always, that feeling has propelled me to take a step back up to the feelings of contentment, pride, love and joy. Yes, I miss the everyday-ness of my family, but if I had not let go, I could not rejoice in those who have been added into the clan, Jenn, Preston, Daniel, Matt, Nicole, and every being who finds themselves attracted to this mayhem of joy, i.e. everyone who walks through the door and claims this family as their own. Heck! Everyone who is a part of my children’s lives become a part of the propellant and maybe even a fuel additive!
It seems that I always, always, walk the path of feelings and end up embraced by love, joy, pride and gratefulness. Gratefulness….the true landing spot because it is the foundation. Gratefulness is consciously placed at the beginning of my feelings journey and welcomes me with a warm embrace at the end of that very same journey. Thus, I bask. I bask in the warmth of love, of joy, and gratefulness.
I am grateful for it all. I am.
*From Conversations Wtih God - an uncommon dialogue - Book 1 by Neale Donald Walsh