2008 Empty Nesters Open the Window
Welcome to a new year. Women are searching for new meaning now that their parental roles are changing.
- What do you need?
- What are your gifts?
- What are you waving goodbye to?
“Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”—William Shakespeare
What does feeling great mean to you? At this stage in our lives, we re-define what matters to us. I hear from the parents I work with that they all want to feel happy, to find new meaning, and to enjoy healthy relationships with their adult children. That would make them feel great about their lives.
Some parents believe it is selfish to want to feel happy. I disagree. Open the window and let the fresh air in.
You might begin by asking yourself:
1. Who or what puts a smile on my face?
2. What hobbies do I have?
3. Where do I consistently go during a week … bookstore, shopping, museums?
4. What three new things would I like to try, but am afraid to?
5. What do I need to start each day on a happy note?
“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.”—Edward Hoffer
I believe that change requires baby steps and that it helps to give yourself encouragement in order to stay motivated. You might tell yourself, “I am going to go (to an event, place, gathering, etc.) for ten minutes and if I don’t like it or am feeling too vulnerable, I can leave.” “I am not alone and I can always ask for help.” “My conversation with my child didn’t go so well today, but I can apologize and we can start off on a better foot next time.”
“The life that is not worth examining is not worth living.” —Plato
Inner exploration begins with time alone. Close your eyes and ask for help. Breathe deeply and keep your eyes closed for about ten minutes in the beginning. Listen inside. Notice what you feel or see or hear. End with the words, “thank you.”
Flip through magazines to see what catches your eye and cut out the images you are drawn to. Put the images in a folder and look at them during the week. Simply notice what you hear yourself saying or how an image makes you feel.
Write a list of things you love about yourself and what challenges you.
My friend and I went to lunch over the holidays. I asked her to tell me how she saw me and I would tell her how I saw her, if she was willing to do this. She said, “Okay, you first.”
Afterwards she smiled and said, “Pretty accurate, except the spiritual part of me; I need to focus there more often.”
I appreciated the words she chose for me which were, “You are like a sponge in listening. You are really present and honest. You have so many creative ideas for problems and for fun.”
I asked her to tell me how she saw the dark side of me, “I have to think about that one,” she said. I still haven’t heard her response, but maybe sometime I will.
We were surprised at falling into that dialogue during lunch. I hadn’t planned it. It came up when she asked me about a problem she needed to solve. I feel closer to her now. She motivated me because what she saw in me is what matters to me on the inside and it must be visible.
It isn’t easy to risk saying what you feel, but it’s so freeing when it comes from the intention of helping another person.
My other reminder for the New Year is set your intentions out loud.
A woman I know wanted her pool fixed. She said it out loud and wrote it in her journal. On New Year’s Day, she was at a party and met a contractor who gave her the number of an expert pool man. This was a party for artists and she was surprised to receive helpful pool information in that venue.
We forget that we don’t have to struggle. We need to appreciate, ask for help, and not insist that the world gives it to us right this minute.
Laugh, dance, sing, play again … Did I say “play again?” Whether you have someone to play with or have to generate the fun on your own, your spirits will feel lifted. We need one spark to light our fire. Go play. If you don’t know what would be playful, think back to the activities you enjoyed before you were a parent or remember something you did this year that was a lot of fun.
My husband and I rearranged the furniture for the New Year. I am simplifying on the outside and the inside. I am freeing my space to make room for options. Leaning into my future and appreciating my past.
“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful; a meaningful friend–or a meaningful day.” —Dalai Lama
May you find new meaning and compassion in 2008.