My Beautiful Empty Nest is Magically Full
My nest is empty.
Here’s the thing.
I wish I had a file cabinet where I’d kept the years memorialized in flat-manilla folders. After the documented year, each tab would have a clever label for quick reference and future nostalgia. 1982-The Nanny Diaries. 1997-Thirty-six hours of labor. 2005 Teen-Sport Hell.
This year would read: 2018 Empty Nest, Empty F’n Nest
In this order, I became single (again), both kids left for college, my dad (as you all know) died, and my mother moved to hospice. I have an empty f’n nest. Peanut, my small, furry just gave me the side-eye. Peanut is here warming my side. Empty nest my ass he says.
So all you people who are into The Secret. Did I call this to me? Did I bring this on myself? Is it a coincidence that I wrote a book called I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around?
In my defense, I just thought the title was funny.
Be honest. It is a little funny because the title reminds you of someone. You read the title of the book and laugh a little and then a face materializes in your mind.
You think of the time you went on a road trip with your sister. The one that makes you giggle but also drinks too much at night and starts telling strangers your secrets.
It’s your husband that comes to mind. The one you promised to cherish and honor all those years ago. The father of your children. The one who hovers over your shoulder when you pay the bills and asks,
“What was that one for? “
Maybe he’s retired and can’t quite figure out what to do with himself and you just want to be in the alone in the house.
It could be your friend who can’t stop talking about how brilliant her kids are. How good they are at soccer, math, or college applications. She’s your best friend and you want her to stop talking.
We love our people. We love our family but sometimes, just sometimes we’d like them to go away.
But, then what happens when they do go away, those people that we love? What happens if they decide to leave us, or lose their memory of us, or they escape out of stress or frustration? What happens when we say,
“Just kidding! I love you. Please stay!” But, they can’t hear you.
That’s when we start to learn things.
That’s when we return to ourselves and begin to figure out how to love. Really love. Love our people enough to recognize their flaws. Love our family even when we wish they’d just shut the hell up and let you watch Netflix in peace. Love ourselves enough to recognize that space can feel like a new beginning in all things.
That’s what I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around is about. It’s about how one woman tries to figure out what’s fair in relationships. It’s when she decides that she’s not going to passively accept everything just because. It’s when she starts to be more active in her life and sometimes she get’s it right and sometimes not.
Just like me.
Just like you.
Empty nests are a thing. Yours is either here or on the way but don’t panic it doesn’t have to stay empty. It’s a chance to see yourself after spending so many years of only seeing others. I’m taking applications for new eggs for my nest because like Peanut said, “Empty nest my ass.”
[Tweet ” It’s a chance to see yourself after spending so many years of only seeing others.”] I’m taking applications for new eggs for my nest because like Peanut I said, “Empty nest my ass.”
PS. You might like this if you haven’t read it before. Life Isn’t Fair
Thank you Debby Hudson Beautiful Photo
I, too, am an empty-nester. It’s often daunting, and terrifying, and lonely, and disorienting, but I’m also starting to experience the freedom and the joy of being center stage of my own life for the first in my life.
Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability, Ann.
Right! It’s like being young again (but with more baggage) 🙂
You are so welcome. Thank you for reaching out.
It’s been a remarkable year for you, Ann. I marvel at how lemons become lemonade so effortlessly for you. You have always been and remain a bright light.
You are a lovie.
Sounds like you have been through a tough season. I’m sorry for the loss of your dad. The world feels different after they leave, doesn’t it?
And, I totally bought your book because of the title. Good work.
It has been a hard year. It does feel different when they leave.
Thank you so much :).
“I like you” just the way you are.
Ann, wonderful post because so many of us latch onto the feelings you’ve strung throughout. “Nobody gave me an instruction book for this!” We moan. Then find a gold nugget like this, that makes us smile. Thanks.
I’m so glad you feel this way. I’m always looking for that instruction book too. 🙂
Thank you! I’m always looking for instructions too. I’m such a good girl. Give me the rules!!
Thank you for this. This part hit me where I live and breathe and cry:
“But, then what happens when they do go away, those people that we love? What happens if they decide to leave us, or lose their memory of us, or they escape out of stress or frustration? What happens when we say,
“Just kidding! I love you. Please stay!” But, they can’t hear you.
That’s when we start to learn things.
That’s when we return to ourselves and begin to figure out how to love. Really love. Love our people enough to recognize their flaws. Love our family even when we wish they’d just shut the hell up and let you watch Netflix in peace. Love ourselves enough to recognize that space can feel like a new beginning in all things.”
Oh Betsy, thank you. So much.
Hi! If you think about it, our goal is to become empty-nesters. I am thrilled to say I raised four children who have all graduated from college, are paying their own bills and are happy. Of course, they can always come back and visit, with one suitcase only! Now I just have to figure out how to deal with my husband who has turned into a twelve-year-old since he retired!!! Cheers!
hahahah I’ll work on that blog post next. Congratulations!! 🙂
Ann I love this. So right on… at least for me right now.
I’ll take an application, however I may crack under the pressure!!!
You’re hired. You come right over and we can do all the things.
Wow,talk about a theme for the day!I’m listening to Lisa Scottoline’s book”My House isnt Empty,It Just Has More Closet Space”. And my son will be 18 this year…
The universe is paying attention to us!
While empty-nesting is hard, I don’t miss the stress of getting my kids to school, chauffeuring them, worrying about their mental and physical health, the mess, the drama. I do miss their companionship and their hugs. There was a recent addition three years ago of a grandson, and we get our hugs and laughs through him. I’ll leave it up to his parents to take care of his education and well-being although I will secretly admit I worry a little. The worrying never stops.
I feel the same and know I will feel the same when I have a younger one to welcome in. The worry doesn’t stop. 🙂
My nest is almost empty. I have one graduating from college in a few weeks, one who is a college sophomore and then there’s G, my H.S. Junior who just turned 17 last week. She’s the wild card on many levels. Not wild as in out of control, but wild card as in the unknown. She’s a whole different piece of work than the other two. I started late in life so I’m pretty tired at this point. The house is so empty compared to five years ago that I just can’t seem to get my head around the whole concept. The echoes are deafening. My youngest is rarely home between school, work, and social life and sometimes I just want to say,”Go ahead, do your own thing, you’re fine, it’s all good.” But of course I can’t because I’m still employed by her as her mother. Sigh. I’m still in charge of everything. I’m ready to be done but alas, it will never be so.
Can’t wait to read your book, Ann.
Thanks and I KNOW. It’s exhausting. I get it. It feels wrong but I was tired too. 🙂 I hope you like my book 🙂
You’ve captured the poignancy of loving and being loved without the dregs of guilt or shame. Humor helps. It’s my survival tool.
Thanks for sharing. I’m more convinced than ever that we were twins separated at birth..,,
Thanks sister sweetie.
Ann I have heard you speak before. I love your energy. I lost my husband when my children were young, so my time seemed to have doubled. As they aged into adulthood they came and went, grandchildren came. I help my mother and aunt on their daily journey, I get home and it is dark in my quiet space. I love it and appreciate it, but I would like to see it in the daytime, I have a gorgeous view, okay neighbors, plenty of things to keep busy with. When my Fiancée comes over on the weekend I CRAVE for Mondays. I hate to say loudly that “I Like You When You Are Not Around” Because I have been taught through life that’ you should “Watch what you ask for” and What you do” But in my mind I enjoy me. Thanks Ann for your spirit.
I think you’ve described how I feel as well. The caregiving goes on and on. We learn how to do it with our kids and we keep doing it with our extended family. I crave and understand that need for solitude. I’ve learned recently that I don’t ask enough for myself and I think it comes from that same place. “Be careful”.
Thank you for this note. Ann
Final goodbyes are indeed final, except they’re not. We maybe said our goodbyes, but no one takes our memories–good, bad and ugly.
On a brighter note, having empty-nested a long time ago–the kind where the kids go off to college or jobs or marriage, they do come back. Usually with the grandchildren.
Such good news….all of it.
I get it! My nest has been empty for 13 years, during which my oldest has become a career US Marine officer and I’ve had to suck it up with every deployment (a total of five, four of which were in the Middle East, in unsettling places).
I never hear men discussing empty nests, but that might be saying something about the men in my circle of friends–what say you? ALL of my female friends lament it and I’m glad we feel safe enough with each other to do so because let’s face it, it can (and does) bring us to tears sometimes–especially during holidays, when our kids aren’t around.
Which leads me to my point. I can change where home is. Since one of my children got marrried, then bought her second home–a bigger one, with more bedrooms and bathrooms than the nest she once left, and has now had a baby, my first grandchild–I decided I’ve put enough time into this emptiness. Ann, you’re in the beginning stages, and I wish I could tell you it gets better, but I’d by lying. Like a lot of us, you’ll go through just the right amount of lonely days before it doesn’t hurt as much. You will think you’re going mad beforehand, though; but, it WILL get better. Your “better” will probably look different, but for me, here’s how I know. I’m on the look out for a nice, comfy condo in Chicago, 350 miles away from the nest. There, I can be Grandma and it won’t be a long-distance relationship. No more lamenting…for now, just a lot of packing. I think of those earlier empty-nest years as my formative years in this stage of life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Awwww honey. Thanks for this.