Back to Work

My empty nest is full again. It was only temporary—a camping trip over the long weekend, away with friends and no cell service. That was the strange part—no contact at all while they were gone. We did worry a bit about the cold nights, but knew they weren’t going to freeze to death. They might be uncomfortable, but it would be an adventure, and they’d come home with their own stories to tell.

I hadn’t planned anything for my time alone, though I did have a few ideas of how I’d spend it. When they left, I did exactly none of them. No writing all day, no fasting and meditating, no walks in the woods, no healthy eating, no exercising, no awakening to an enlightened state. I didn’t redo the paint and wallpaper (okay, I admit, I knew that one was not going to happen, but I did fantasize). I didn’t lose fifty pounds (see previous parentheses).

Since they had taken the car, I couldn’t escape. No shopping trips. I cleaned and did laundry and watched Netflix. I didn’t leave the house, not even to go putter in the yard. There was plenty to do out there—weeding, planting, pruning. But I stayed in. I felt oddly hesitant to leave the house. It wasn’t a rational thought. It wasn’t a thought at all really, just a vague feeling that welled up when I neared the door. I didn’t leave the house until Day Three when my sister came to get me so we could visit our aunts in the nursing home.

She laughed when I told her how little I had been doing. “You needed to decompress,” she said. I did? I hadn’t realized, but I knew she was right. The clutter, the noise, the chatter, the chaos. It’s a happy chaos, and I missed the little one’s chatter, but it did take my system a few days to relax into being alone. I was surprised it had taken so long. What did that mean?

I had been here before, contemplating the empty nest. Wondering what shape my life would take to fill it. Would I enjoy the solitude? the never-ending me-ness of it all? I live a very solitary life even in the midst of our family chaos. I don’t have a group of friends outside the family, I don’t do social things. When they leave, I really am on my own. This time, I knew it was temporary, so maybe that affected my motivation to start anything new. I want to do all those things. I want to work them into this life, this full-nest life. None of them requires my living alone. They just want commitment and consistency and giving a damn.

So it’s back to work, back to life today. I have tomatoes to water and rugs to vacuum, good opportunities to practice mindfulness. Later I can throw on headphones and do some writing if I need a break from the chatter. Maybe I’ll get an idea for a poem while playing with my granddaughter and hearing about her adventures. She’ll want to play tag in the yard—great exercise. We’ll eat well, since we stocked the fridge with healthy food before they got home, knowing they’d be hungry after a week of camp rations. Sounds like a good plan to me. The wallpaper (and that fifty pounds) will have to wait.

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