The Empty Nest

There’s a bird’s nest inside this birdhouse outside my window.

Today I sit and watch as two little wrens go in and out. They fly away, return, then leave again. There are chicks in that nest, I think.

I marvel at the energy and devotion of the two parents, for both of them are involved in the feeding of these babies. Their search for food on endless flights seems to occupy every single moment of the day. Hard workers, are these little birds. And demanding are the babies.

One day, and I likely won’t see it happen, the babies will leave the nest to fly away, as will the parents. The nest will sit empty inside the birdhouse for weeks, months, nearly a year I suppose, until the next breeding season.

What will those hard-working parents do? How will they spend their time now? Do they realize it is but a reprieve until next season, next year, when they will be back at this hard work again? Or perhaps, with a limited view of time cycles and the future, do they fly away with a song, set free at last?

In either case, I suspect they rest, and play, if birds can play. Maybe they soak in the sun on their backs, ruffle their feathers in a soft breeze, and drink in the fresh and cool summer rains.

Our children have left this nest, but we have not. We are still here. But the nest feels empty now with the cessation of incessant needs, and the purpose that energized our flights back and forth dissipated.

How will we spend our our time now?

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Living with the pain

I think we have pain for a reason. I think it serves a purpose. I know this is true for physical pain. It’s part of our human condition and it’s part of our survival mechanism. No one escapes life without pain. Even if someone only lives a very short while, it is likely he or she will experience pain. Babies feel hunger as pain and they cry. This alerts us to feed them.

The longer we live the more pain we will experience, physical and quite probably emotional as well. It is part of the human condition.

I have experienced a sadness that dates back to when our family unit started breaking up and our children started leaving our home, one at a time. I missed them, and I missed the life I lived around them. I felt lost and without purpose. Sometimes I still feel sad about it.

It doesn’t help now, nor ever has, for people to tell me in one form or another to get over it. I think people who try to hurry me out of my grief are more concerned about their own discomfort with it than truly about my well-being.

To me, “getting over it” feels a little bit like denial. “Push it down, forget about it, and move on.”

I don’t want to get over it. I want to feel it, know it, understand it, absorb it, and then place it gently in a velvet-lined case safe in my heart to carry the rest of my life.

I’m experiencing a lot of sorrow at my father’s condition of Alzheimer’s and sadness about what my mother is enduring. I look around and see other elderly who are suffering. It’s a lucky man or woman who dies without suffering. Sometimes people suffer for years and years first. Sometimes I think the best argument against the case for a benevolent God is how most of us have to leave this life as old and decrepit people. It’s like we danced the dance and now our number is up so we have to pay the piper. It seems like a truly benevolent God, who created such awesome things of beauty with intricate mechanisms for survival and propagation, could have found a better way to get us out of this life. But I don’t claim to understand all of life’s mysteries, and that’s an argument for another day.

Our sorrows make us who we are. They teach us about love, loss, life, and endurance.

On a larger scale, acknowledging our own pain, sorrow, and sadness, and that which we witness in others gives us a chance to make progress, to right the wrongs. I’m thinking now of some of the news reports I’ve seen recently from Syria, or those from other years about natural disasters. They make me feel bad. Sometimes they make me feel bad enough that I write a check to the Red Cross. We have to feel pain sometimes. It serves a purpose.

I don’t think the avoidance of pain should be our objective. I think learning to enjoy life while we live with pain is a better cause. I think acting on, or growing from pain is a much better cause.

I want to live fully and completely.

I’ll keep my sorrows.