I had a houseful of kids for 200 years. My house was loud and messy and so full of angst it rolled over the edges of the windowsills and splashed into the flower beds. I was exhausted all the time, and so overwhelmed I didn't know what to do with myself, and such a failure in so many ways as a parent that I'm amazed my kids still talk to me. Somewhere deep in my heart, I couldn't wait for it to be over.
And then it was. Oh, my God, it was. They were all grown up. And I wasn't ready--I wasn't ready at all. I loved chaos! I loved angst! I wanted the noise back.
For 30 years, I worked for the USPS. There was not much middle ground there; when I didn't love my job, I hated it. The public was 95 percent wonderful and five percent the dregs of the earth, kind of like the job itself. A carrier bag of mail that wasn't supposed to weigh more than 35 pounds often did. Full-route pieces of mail that went out like clockwork every month suddenly didn't show up when mail count rolled around. Like any other workplace that has both laborors and managers, there were abject failures and glorious successes on both sides. When I retired, though, I suddenly wasn't sure I wanted to. I stood at the time clock for a full five minutes on my last day, not wanting to take that final step.
I have loved every day of retirement from that job. I don't in truth miss it, but I still remember how I felt that day.
Sometimes there are just too many endings, aren't there? Too many losses. Too many life changes that leave you stuttering-- "Wait, wait, I'm not ready."
What to do? Well, it's pretty easy. Of course, I had to write it all out before I got it.
The truth is, you're never going to be ready. But wait, there's more. With endings come beginnings. With loss comes memories. With life changes come new friends, new experiences, good times.
I thought for a long time that in order for my work to be credible, someone needed to be reading it. Someone needed to be paying me for it. Those are things I would always prefer, but credibility comes from within, doesn't it? Do I write better when I have an audience? Yeah, I think so. Do I write better if there's a paycheck attached? Not always. So, no, I won't retire until I can't operate a keyboard anymore.
You don't "get over" losing people, do you? I think it gets better, but the getting better takes effort. It doesn't mean you don't talk about the ones you loved or that you don't remember things. It doesn't even mean you remember only the good things. What it means is, if they had a place in your heart while they were living, they still have it.
Having an empty nest means your life is, for the most part, your own again, and it's up to you what you make of it. For us, live music, coffee shops, and writers' groups have been new and exciting beginnings, including the friends, experiences and good times I mentioned above.
Not being ready doesn't stop things from happening. Life doesn't go on hold until you're ready to start living it again. It stops briefly, breathlessly, and waits for you to catch up. Do that. Don't let it go on without you.
Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.