As I prepare once again for the departure of my son for college, I find myself reflecting on the gut-wrenching experience of taking him to college the first time about a year ago. The close relationship I have with my son was one reason why empty nesting was such a devastating experience for me. I honestly did not know who I was without him in my daily life, and I wasn't very eager to find out. Even though I always worked, empty-nesting after spending nearly two decades immersed in raising my son filled me with dread and terror.
I did everything I could to prepare for his eventual departure, including going to counseling as a pre-emptive measure against feeling so much pain. One day when I was sitting in my counselor's office, she asked me to describe my feelings about him leaving. "Post-apocalyptic," I said without pause. "It feels like darkness. Gloominess. Like Russia-in-winter gloominess." She told me that it would take about one year to adjust. "I don't have that kind of time," I responded." And then I asked for a list of things I could do to speed up the process.
When I drove my son to college last year, I was in a daze. I remember very little about that trip except some intermittent tears (mine) and a whole lot of excitement (his). The college drop-off went by in a whir -- dorm set-up, a quick dinner and that was it. While I remember little of that day, I do remember the drive home with excruciating clarity. The drive was very long, made even longer by the fact that I had to drive through Nebraska (sorry, Nebraska folks, but your state is stupefyingly giant). I was emotional and couldn't stop the rush of tears or the voices in my head that reminded me of how my tiny family of two had just shrunk to one. It was official, I was completely alone. My son was going to skip off into his future, and I'd be lucky if he even remembered my name. I was downright pathetic.
I love the holidays and I hate the holidays. The holidays fill me with hope, and they also fill me with despair. The holidays remind me that I am surrounded by loved ones, and they also remind me that I am far more alone in this world than I'd like to be. The holidays are filled with family, friends, lots of pretty decorations, and baking -- lots and lots of baking. The holidays are also filled what what I like to call bullshit -- lots and lots of bullshit, at least for those of us who feel compelled to live up to some culturally (and religiously)-inspired standard of what American holidays are supposed to be about -- tables filled with happy people, feasts befitting the royal family, an abundance of presents under a $150 tree, and so on, and so on.
Don't get me wrong, I can think of many wonderful holidays I've spent with good food, good people and good cheer, but I can also recall quite a few spent with a mirror held up to my face showing me just how much my life hadn't turned out the way I'd hoped. Lonely holidays where I anxiously wondered if someone would invite me to join their family for a holiday meal, and broke holidays where I knew I didn't have the funds to live up to my gift-giving responsibilities (and no one embraced my "let's knit something for each other" present-theme idea).
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This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being.