Those times when I wished for a moment’s peace while my daughter was growing up. I wish they would return. I miss the noise, chaos and sense of purpose . This morning I had a long lie in with the cat beside me. The thing I longed for at one time does not now bring me the sense of peace I longed for though I adore my cat, of course. Life seems to present itself in the wrong order sometimes. Solitude presents itself when you don’t want it.
I posted this photo of myself on Instagram this week and labelled it as ‘sitting in the debris of life to make sense of the negative’. The debris literally around me is the mess in my garden which is why I chose this setting.
The phase of midlife involves loss and goodbyes. It may not be the loss through death of someone you love but it is a parting of ways with a phase or phases in life, something that was crucial and integral to your being. Becoming an empty nester is the biggest loss in my midlife so far.
The Mayo Clinic describes the empty nest syndrome as, ‘a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home’. In my case, it was my only child who left home. What I miss is the daily engagement with my daughter’s life. The nuances of what is happening in her fast changing world as a young person navigating her way through her ambitions. I wasn’t there when the email arrived offering her a place to do a Masters level programme. I wasn’t there when she was hungry and too tired to cook for herself. Just the fact that I wasn’t there makes me sad. It is the missed moments that cannot be relived which grieves me.
Empty nest syndrome, to put it bluntly, sucks. Well meaning people offer suggestions along the lines of, ‘find things to do’, and, ‘do things to take your mind off it’. With all due respect, I have plenty to do and always have. Taking one’s mind off things is a short-term measure that doesn’t lend itself to a long-lasting solution. Things may have been made easier if this hadn’t happened in lockdown but, actually, I am pleased that it has because I need to work my way through this in a raw way.
Wish me luck while I climb my way out of this empty nest hole.