I want to mark this day. I’m currently in the process of embarking on a whole new kind of life, one focused on me and mostly me alone, with more time to do the many things I’ve always dreamed of. And more time to work on my book about White Horse Medicine.
I’m becoming an empty nester.
At first blush, this seems like an exciting proposition. And for a woman who has been a mostly single parent for the past 29 years it should be a time I’ve been looking forward to. Yes…and, well, honestly, no. You see my empty nest came a year early when my youngest peachick (#4) followed in the footsteps of both his mother and his father and skipped out of high school and into college a year early. There’s a lot to be excited about as he enters a music business and production degree program to follow his own dreams in hip-hop.
Let’s be honest, maybe, even if I’d had been given another year to prepare this, it might have been a shock to my system. When they were young and used to go off to dad’s house for the weekend I always enjoyed the Me Time. I think I thought it would be a lot like that. Only longer.
And it’s not.
Somehow the finality of it all is just dawning on me, I admit, in a panic at times. Add this to increased frustrations on all sides that things aren’t going exactly the way we each want them to and it’s a recipe for constant stress. If you don’t believe me, I’m writing this from bed where I’m fighting off my third case of shingles this year.
I don’t blame all of my stress on my household’s changing status. There is plenty of other work and relationship stress to share the blame. And I probably couldn’t have prevented much of it anyway. I’ve come to understand that all of the mindfulness and healthy living in the world sometimes isn’t enough to keep chronic illness at bay. When your body is used to being in pain it often accepts the role again far too easily – and of course, it’s usually when you least need the aggravation.
The point in my ramblings is that there has been a lingering cloud over my household for the past few weeks. At first I thought it was the unsettledness of all the impending change. Yet since finding a small barndominium of my dreams in the country and apartments for peachicks 3 and 4, things have only gotten worse around the house. At a time when we should all be excited the frustration is still thick.
I stood at the kitchen counter this afternoon contemplating sending number 3 child packing for the hills 6 weeks before she also leaves for a new college and her first apartment. I was livid. Yet I somehow heroically managed to maintain self awareness. I accepted that even though my feelings seemed crystal clear and real, I had common sense enough to know that I’m sick. I’m never my best self when I’m sick. And I also realize fully that we’re all navigating big changes.
So I stopped to take a breath.
I looked around at the still uncleaned kitchen remembering that she had run a couple of helpful errands for me today even if she’d abandoned a couple of other requested chores to go “hang with friends.” And I knew that the depth of my anger meant something else was going on even if it was far easier to pin it all on the unfinished chores. Like I always do in cases when there’s nowhere to turn, I turned inward. I just let go.
One thing that immediately popped into my mind was that I hadn’t had time to think about the spiders and spider webs that have appeared everywhere lately. Too many for coincidence. (Although I don’t know if heat or summer or some other common sense factor is at play, I do know I don’t recall ever having this experience in my home.) Several have appeared right in doorways. More than once a spider has fallen onto me when I’ve tried to enter a room. It suddenly seemed the perfect time to check in case there was some wisdom there for me in my time of need.
A quick check with Google yielded this list of the various aspects of spider medicine:
- Feminine energy
- Weaver of life’s fate
- Shadow self, dark aspects of life or personality
Well, duh. All important right now, especially “life’s fate.” Children grow up and don’t give a flip about their parents’ agendas. They just do. Even if MOM still happens to be standing the kitchen of their childhoods.
About an hour later as I was fixing myself a tea I got my answer as I heard a phrase from my childhood pop into my head: “Like a horse to the barn.”
Oh wow. That was it – we are all acting like a bunch of horses running to the barn!
When a horse has been away too long its senses are on full alert to home and herd. As it gets close to home it can get so excited that it wants to bolt and run. First a little dance at the bit…then a quickened pace…if you’re not a powerful rider in control of your mount you can find yourself holding on for dear life on a horse running flat out for the barn, ears pinned back and heaving lungs.
I think the chicks and I are all so close to these new lives we’re creating that we’re acting in some ways as if we’re already there. I’m not going to lie. This initiation stuff comes in waves. Just when you think you’ve arrived you realize you’re still in the parking garage! I may have stepped into wise woman status last year; yet I haven’t had more than five minutes a day to be her. Very soon this will be my role 24/7.
This Hero’s Journey stuff isn’t just for parents. Hip Hop Peachick and Peachick #3 are embarking on huge life changes just like I am. And we all seem to have one foot out the door already mentally. So today I decided to act like it.
Even though I have a month to get it done I’m going to pack one box each day and focus on ME. I’m going to require each chick to pack one box, make one trip to donate things, or price one box of items for the garage sale our downsizing demands. In other words, be here now to all of the work we have to do — and then get themselves back into summer vacation, friend hanging, and parental avoidance.
And forgotten chores.
Photos :: Post illustration created from a Wikipedia/Creative Commons photo. Horse photo is two foals on my former farm frolicking in front of the Peacock Creek Farm barn, circa 2006.