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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The top twelve things on my mind

The top twelve things on my mind first thing this morning:

  1. My mom – Tuesday is the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
  2. My health – I frequently have anxiety upon waking. My sleep is restless and I never know if it will be 3:00 am, 4:30 am, or 6:45 am when I wake. Anything before 6:00, and I stay in bed.
  3. My 2nd son – He has been unemployed for some time and continues to look for a job.
  4. My husband – His body is warm as he sleeps here beside me. He came to bed last night very disappointed in the Bengals’ performance in the playoff game. I save myself those ups and downs by maintaining a lack of interest in most sports.
  5. My youngest son – He is in Hong Kong for two weeks on a business trip. His days are my nights.
  6. My daughter – Will we be able to work out a quick visit to Chicago in the next few weeks to help her with an upcoming move?
  7. My oldest son – He and his wife are expecting a third child in June.
  8. My mother-in-law – I should call her today and see if she wants me to go to her doctor’s appointment with her this week.
  9. Things to do today –  I added several items to the “today” list on my Wunderlist phone app before I got out of bed. I love that app. It’s very satisfying to click items off when they’re done.
  10. Bathroom design – A remodel for our bath is overdue. It is a complicated space and the design is not straightforward, but we’re getting close. I took a few more measurements this morning to try to visualize how things will fit and look. I keep a tape measure in there for this specific purpose.
  11. The weather – I heard rain falling when I let Arthur out the front door (I did not accompany him today.) Then through the laundry room window I saw the rain turn to snow in the light that shines from above the garage door. I took a few quick photos with my cell phone. (Whatever did I do before I had this handy device?) This photo is going to do triple duty as my photo-of-the-day for the 365Project, my post of the WordPress weekly photo challenge for “Weight(less)”, and an image for this page.
  12. What to blog about. ‘Nuff said.

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The snow has weight, because gravity causes it to fall, or float, from the sky. But each little snowflake is nearly weightless by our typical standards. The wind was able to blow the flakes horizontally.

 

A passing thought

When I was younger my life was like a bottomless basket of days to spend. Of course I always knew it was a finite amount that would eventually come to an end. But there were so very many days in that basket, that the idea of them running out was of no concern to me.

Here is one of my midlife revelations. I see now that the level of those days in that basket has dropped significantly. I don’t know how many more there are, but I can readily tell that I have already used more, undoubtedly many more, than I have left.

I think the death of both of my parents has sharpened this sense that time is running out, that time is of the essence. Since their passing, I have been somewhat preoccupied with death, and in particular with my own death. It’s not that I fear death or am even particularly sad about the idea of the end to my own life. But the thought of my inevitable death makes me consider more seriously my life.

Recently I feel like I struggle with younger people. I don’t always understand them. I don’t always understand their behavior at times or their priorities in particular. And I came to realize today that perhaps younger people still see their basket of days as an endless supply, as I did. When I was young, I had just arrived at the amusement park. I could go on the first ride that caught my eye, and then the next. But now, at this stage of my life, I’ve spent a good part of the day at that amusement park already. I’m starting to think about what rides  I most want to go on before I have to leave. It’s a different perspective altogether, with different priorities.

I know. If younger people are reading, or were to read, this, I suspect they might protest. I would have too. Of course younger people know their life will come to an end. I did too. We all do.

But that knowledge has transformed somehow inside of me with the passing years. That knowledge now colors and informs decisions I make like never before. Where do I want to live? Because, realistically, how many more moves do I really have in me? The knowledge of my mortality informs daily choices I make. Do I really need another print book? How am I going to get rid of all the books we have already collected?

Most importantly, that knowledge informs the quality of the relationships I have with other people. Do I really have time for hurt feelings or disappointment? Maybe disappointment is a choice I can choose not to make.

Today would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. Her days ran out sometime during her 78th year. Do I have twenty more years, thirty or more, only 5? I have no way to know.

You might link I am maudlin or morose. But quite the opposite is true. I am on a challenging journey to find the light. I want those days left in my basket, however many there are, to shine. To really shine.

 

 

2012 — a midlife review

I woke up this morning with troubling thoughts swirling around in my mind, and remembered that I started this blog with the intent to write about what was on my mind each morning.

I’ve strayed from that intent.

I think I may look back on this year as the epitome of “midlife.”

I started the year nursing my husband through bilateral knee surgery.

I continue to make every effort to support my mother as she cares for my father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The needs always changing and shifting. A continuum of problem-solving.

I struggle with denial as I try to make every moment count with my father who slips further and further away.

I’m working to fill my life with meaningful purpose now that my days of child-rearing have come to a close.

I’m trying to nurture and even invigorate a relationship with the man I’ve loved for more than 30 years, well past the days of infatuation. For relationships do require attention to thrive and I want to do more than settle into comfortable routine.

Instead of handling our children’s problems, I discuss them over telephone calls, e-mails, and text messages: a suspended license that defies resolution, teeth implants that will be required, job dissatisfaction.

I look forward with sweet anticipation to the new grandbaby expected to arrive next month.

I make road trips to St. Louis, packing a suitcase, boarding out Arthur, driving, and then doing everything in reverse, to eke out every last second  of time that I can spend with our grandson.

All the while I  try to minimize the strain I put on my arthritic knees and visit the orthopedic doctor at regular intervals for injections.

On a daily basis I deal with ongoing physical issues that result from crashing hormone levels and simply aging, wondering if its time to get a stronger prescription for my bifocals yet again.

Thirty years ago today I first became a mother and was nearly swallowed up by the love and joy.

When I was younger life seemed clearer and perhaps less varied. I was bringing children into the world and caring for them. My concerns were primarily focused on little people whose ages spanned less than a 10-year gap. It seemed busy and complicated at the time.

Now I visit my 2-year-old grandson on a weekend, savoring the joy and laughter.

And I visit my nearly 80-years-old parents on a Monday, holding back and denying the sadness and tears, wondering what changes need to be made so that Mom can still manage taking care of Dad at home. Wondering if we can make those changes. Wondering if she’s going to hold up under the strain. Wondering how long this can last.

Here at midlife, I am smack in the middle of the huge spectrum of life, still trying to understand what it’s all about.

Life is full of surprises — an observation from midlife

My child who refused to participate in his preschool play when he was four, by standing on stage and holding a cloud made out of cardboard, was my only child who acted in a senior high school play by performing a significant role as Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

My child who was so shy he used to hide behind my legs at family events or in social situations, arms wrapped tightly around my knees, is now out in the community where he lives, decorating walls and entertaining with  performance art.

My child who ran away from the dinner table and down the hallway screaming, “I hate my mother,” when she was two, now calls me on the phone nearly every day.

My child who was afraid to explore caves with his friends or ride a jet ski with me now fearlessly engages others, as he strives to shape his world.

How little I knew.

How much I’ve learned.

The distance ahead to which we can see is very short and near.

Life is full of surprises.

Has anything surprised you?

What should I blog about?

A photo taken at our old house in 2006.

Yesterday I read a post by BubbleCow called What Should Writers Blog About? If you’ll notice, my blog title today is very similar, but it’s not a title so much as a question I ask myself every morning.

Dang. What should I blog about today?

BubbleCow has some very clear advice that boils down to write something that will add value to your readers’ lives. Undoubtedly good advice that I vaguely remember hearing in Communication101 – Rule #1: consider the reader. Who is the reader?

I recently learned this the hard way when two of my remaining three siblings rejected my memoir and refused to sign release forms. My husband, in his infinite wisdom, said, “You didn’t write it for them. If you had written it for them, you might not be happy with it.”

Anyway, I digress. I know that if you want to be a successful writer you have to treat it as a business and take it seriously. You need a plan. Bubblecow points all this out in the blog post I linked above. It’s not that I don’t want to be successful; it’s just that I want to have fun. Can I do both?

Primarily, I read the blogs I do for entertainment, enlightenment, or inspiration. Although I do scan through and occasionally read a few “How to” blogs (Kristen Lamb has a good one on social media, and Nina Badzin has helped me out a lot with Twitter), I don’t want to spend my entire day reading instructions manuals on how-to write, how-to blog, how-to market. These kinds of blogs have their place and I appreciate the fact that they’re out there, but I want to read something that makes me laugh, like the antics of  The Idiot Speaketh, or Carl’s sketches on I Know I Made You Smile. I want to read something that challenges me to see the world anew like  Suzicate’s hearth-warm wisdom, or Hugmamma‘s energetic and often light-hearted opinions, or Julia’s stories from the coast of Maine. I read blogs that challenge me to make conscious decisions about how I live my life, like LeRoy’s posts at the Wordsmith’s Desk or Nancy’s at Spirit Lights the Way. Sometimes I like to see beautiful scenes from another place as Robin takes me for a walk in the bogs or Rudolf allows me to see the Czech Republic through his eyes.

I read a lot of blogs and I do it for the human factor, not the business factor. Call me fickle.

From time to time I try to provide information with my posts, at times I try to allow readers to understand something that I am going through, like Alzheimer’s,  in a way that may enlighten them. Sometimes I just want to take the reader someplace I’ve been with photographs.

Often there is very little of redeeming or lasting value in my posts.

I look at it as a whole body of work. I am a woman in the middle of her life, trying to help her parents, still involved with her children, trying to find meaning in sun rays and bird song. I think mid-life has a lot to offer in terms of personal challenges, contemplative thoughts, and spiritual growth.

Walk with me. Hear my cries and my songs. I was young once and will be old sooner than I realize. I invite you to walk with me here and now. That’s all. If you want.

(I am, however, open to suggestions about what I should blog about tomorrow.)