We’ve all heard about it, if not experienced it for ourselves – the empty nest. It’s that time in our life when we find ourselves at a loss. We usually associate it with our adult children leaving the family home to begin a life on their own. Suddenly, there’s a gap in our lives. Our carefully mapped out routine is no longer viable. We have time on our hands we don’t know what to do with. And then, there’s that empty room in the house. Walls that once were the backdrop for hopes, dreams and memories stare blankly now, waiting for us to define their new purpose.
I’ve been there – in the literal sense, twice now. Both our girls have left home – more or less – and I’ve managed to fill my extra time with a new writing career. It fills the empty place in my life with purpose. I have a reason to get out of bed, something to nurture, something to inflict my life-views and values upon.
But there’s another kind of empty nest syndrome that is unique to this new career of mine. Writer’s Empty Nest Syndrome. It occurs when our baby, the child of our labors sets out on its own. We do our best to prepare it for the world it will face without us. We nurture, we edit, we polish. We dress it in pretty clothes and give it a gentle push. Fly baby, fly.
Our book is out in the big bad world, and all we can do is sit back and watch it test its wings. We have all the same anxiety that accompanies the child of our flesh leaving the familial nest. Will it find a home? Will it find someone who will love it unconditionally? Will it soar, or will its path to success be difficult? Will it ever find success, or will it constantly be seeking its place in the world?
And just like with our children, all we can really do is sit back and watch. We watch and wait with bated breath – arms outstretched, wishing we could shelter it from the harsh realities of the world – all the while knowing our creation is completely on its own. Our heart aches. We hold it close to our breast when arrows are slung at it, and spread our joy when it flirts with success.
We absorb its sorrows into our heart, and as we did when our children came to us weeping, wondering why the other children were not kind, we tell our creation that not everyone will be our friend. It’s impossible to please everyone, so be true to who you are and those who are your friends will stay by your side. And then we encourage our creation to seek out new friends – ones that will appreciate it for who it really is.
And while all this is going on, we sit down at our computer and face a blank screen. Where once, not so long ago, the screen was filled with hopes, dreams and memories, there is nothing. A big empty room. We’ve sent those words out into the world to soar or to fail. It’s time to redecorate, to find a new paint color, new furnishings for our blank little world.
We allow ourselves a moment of melancholy for what was, and then we press the magic button – create new document. And it begins again. We tentatively type the first words of a new world, a new creation. Hope fills us. One day we will send this new creation out into the world carrying a piece of our heart with it, a piece of who we are. With a bit of luck, it will make friends and have a long and happy life apart from us, but always a part of us.
As I finish typing this blog post, I realize, perhaps my analogy is off. Perhaps I should title it something like Sink or Swim, given the nature of my Lothario series books! Well, that bird has flown the coop, or should I say, that ship has sailed? Have you experienced an empty nest? And if so, how did you cope with it?
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