Midlife and the Empty Nest. I’m many years into both but still searching to understand this new rhythm and stride. Shouldn’t someone have written What to Expect when I’m Expecting — but don’t Know What?
In my experience, the freedom is intoxicating at first. You do fun things you couldn’t fit in before. The bucket list remains and can serve as a defining focus. Carpe diem!
But if we listen there are other voices. Sometimes an edge of loneliness creeps in with the absence of structured opportunities for socializing with other parents. Often there are the added distractions of illness, menopause, weight gain, elderly parents, job shifts, relational shifts, moves, children’s graduations, jobs, weddings, and/ or those absolutely wonderful grand babies…
Time marches on. Circumstances multiply and keep coming at us, as if we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. Nothing is quite as it was. I call this perfect storm being in the sandwich generation.
Time especially has become an unrecognizable commodity.
On paper, I have all sorts of “freed up” time. But somehow my reality is that I’m pushed, pulled and distracted. Busy but without even a vague notion of just what it is I’m accomplishing. At least not in a “big picture” sense. And the clock’s rotations seem ever faster.
In childhood it seemed there was an eternity between holidays and all the markers of my calendar. Time meant nothing to me outside the present moment and whatever was just ahead.
In my 20s, 30s, even into my 40s, I meandered through my days with anticipation. I still remember what I wore on those milestone birthdays (now I can’t remember if I’ve done laundry this week). It felt like THIS season was the REAL LIFE I had always dreamed of. I had all the time in the world.
But in midlife, time is moving faster! I’d swear I was at the dentist just before Christmas — but I’m due my 6 month appointment! I find myself thinking “that went so fast” about everything.
In my heart I’m a young mother with a family to raise. In reality the kids have been adults for a while, and the stranger in my mirror has pills to take each morning. I’m living a favorite phrase of my Granny’s, “Tempus do Fugit,” but I’m not sure how to respond? I feel an urgency to get life figured out.
I’m conflicted about how to save and spend my time. I’m protective in scheduling, but not sure for what purpose. Not only did I not plan for this stage, I never really believed I’d be here!
The angst makes sense not only because of my denial, but also because midlife is a major transition — the process of changing from one state to another. Beyond the family dynamics — the physical, emotional, and spiritual adjustments are forces to be reckoned with.
What is my purpose, God willing, these 25-30+ years I’m already inhabiting, but without an instruction manual (sounds like bringing the 1st baby home… sigh). Who am I besides what I’ve known? I know God is calling me to something else — but the particulars are not yet clear.
I’ve been trying to give myself grace in the questioning and to live in patient expectation. To be comfortable with this in between and experiment my way to the answers — allowing for missteps and mistakes along the way. Admittedly, it’s hard.
Even the same old, same old often feels very different today. The once comfortable is ill-fitting, like a well-worn glove that’s been molded on someone else’s hand. One part of me is ready to discard it to make room for tomorrow’s new thing; another is holding on to that glove, as if it is Life.
What is it I feel… is it lonely? Lost? Or a new sort of peace? I’m befuddled. I want desperately to engage in something that’s not yet here, and I’m oddly protective of my Time, so I don’t miss it when it arrives.
Ambivalence. Juxtapositions. Change.
I looked around yesterday and realized I’ve become a stranger in my own home. A month after Christmas an almost dead poinsettia is still on the coffee table along with a strand of Christmas lights that went half dark while still on the tree. A Swiffer has long been propped in the kitchen near the ever-cluttered island counter. My bed isn’t made. But the house doesn’t mind; no one is bustling in and out. And Rob and I no longer “see it” or care quite in the same ways as we once did.
I am not this person! …Or am I…?
I used to enjoy having a well-used, but almost always tidy home. A full refrigerator and pantry were a given as we were a “hub” of activity. Meals were fed and clean sheets offered to the predictable tides of friends and family. Happy times for a mom who loves hospitality.
But my truth today IS different. I’m frustrated with the late afternoon taunt in my head, “what’s for supper?” It’s just the two of us — that’s not the cooking I understand or enjoy! The fridge is all but bare, save the outdated produce and dreaded “healthy” additions like coconut milk and kale — neither of which I had heard of when I was young and skinny. But alas, the battle of the bulge is lost if we’re not fighting. There is no cease fire. Culinary enjoyment removed until the next holidays or party.
I resent the dust, laundry, clutter and such that perseveres in its attack to wear me down. Yet it feels frivolous to have someone else help too often with the everyday stuff — when it’s just the two of us.
Rob left a great career in corporate America, to make a change. Am I different? Could it be OK to shift my entire focus? To let go of what’s worked so well? Is it time for something altogether new?
Homemaking distracts me and pulls me away, but from what? Exploring. Purpose. Meaning. I’m restless, but certain God is up to Something…
My sense of time. My priorities. My friendships and involvements — they’re all changing. A metamorphosis is taking place. I’ve been in the cocoon for a while — but I’m emerging. I can feel it. Life has been defined by my own little red wagon. God charged me with certain roles and responsibilities. Certain people and places. And now, my purpose is less clear.
But one thing He is speaking loud a clear… I am so much more aware of eternity. His Kingdom. Biblical Truths I have always heard but couldn’t absorb are becoming Life to me.
My world is increasingly complex and confusing — with many demands on me and my time, making it easy to get lost and perplexed as to what’s next. What’s important.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
It is critical to my peace and well-being to nurture and strengthen my relationship with Jesus.
Direct answers to my question of “what’s next?” have been elusive. But God reminds me of Matthew 8:3 and my need to be more childlike: embracing patience. Being present wherever I am — in the moment without worrying about the next. Humble. Dependent. Trusting. Expectant. Full of awe and wonder. So much easier said than done.
To relish focused time with my Papa first and foremost helps all else fall into its proper place. He’s reminding me of what it is to be “like a little child,” for there is much there that connects me to the kingdom of heaven.
I have 52 years of His faithfulness to draw on as I trust Him. At His feet, I’m finding rest and renewal. Life. For now that — with hope and faith in the future God already knows — is enough.
All will come, in His Time.