One of the greatest perks of being in charge of Kuel Life is my expanded collection of female friendships.
I have been gifted the necessity of seeking out, meeting, and connecting to women from all over the world. Of course we all have different experiences, viewfinders, and perspectives. Encountering and engaging with these women, all of whom offer unique viewpoints, volleys for the top position of my WHY.
Yes, don’t worry, my WHY top position still remains the normalization of aging.
“normalizing aging doesn’t mean we all age the same way”
But normalizing aging doesn’t mean we all age the same way. As a matter of fact, one of the greatest gifts that comes with time on the planet is leaning into our “who we really are”. I mean really leaning into it. The longer I stick around the less Fs I give. I am ok with me and have no issues sharing me with others who are genuinely curious.
The Catch-Up Call:
To that point, earlier this week I had a catch-up call with one of the first women I met on this Kuel Life journey. Deb and I met at a conference in L.A. in 2019 and instantly connected. She’s been fully supportive of my mission and is someone I can call, if I need an ear.
It had been months since we connected and she reached out to see how I was doing with my healing journey. For those of you who are new to the Smack, I fractured three vertebrae in a skydiving accident back in August. She also inquired about my newly featherless empty nest. My son left for the land of higher learning and higher partying, also in August. August was a big month.
“Transparently and vulnerably we shared with one another our very different experiences of this rite of passage.”
We started talking about the phenomenon of the empty nest and how it can play out so differently for each of us. Even though we all know that our children are really only borrowed for a period of time, it’s nearly impossible to really grasp the notion that they will transition out of our homes and lives into another one of their own making. And if you are anything like me, there were times during the rearing process where I questioned whether or not he’d make it – ever live on his own. Happy to report, I was wrong — my son is doing fabulously.
Deb’s three kids are older than mine and flew the coop a while ago. She shared that it was a tough transition when her youngest twins left. And that it wasn’t a short period of difficulty. She shared that her grief lingered for several years. Even though she didn’t say so, I wonder if that is why she reached out to me? She clearly was checking in on me, ready to offer support.
Transparently and vulnerably we shared with one another our very different experiences of this rite of passage. She openly admitted to her challenges and I expressed that I was enjoying my newly found freedom from the daily grind of parenting. Turns out that my son was not the only one ready to take on a new adventure in life.
And here’s the lynchpin in all of this: It’s the daily grind of parenting that I don’t miss. Worrying about whether or not he’s sleeping enough, eating the right way, getting to class on time, or at all, showering,… I think we get it.
It’s important to note the distinction, at least for me, between parenting and mothering. Not that I want to — or even could — stop parenting him. It’s just that the removal of the day-to-day hover of the anxious mom that I was has been liberating. For me. Deb, on the other hand, had a very different experience.
Why am I sharing this empty nest anecdote?
“neither Deb nor I judged the other for the “normal” reaction to our family dynamic transition”
I tell this tale because it’s meaningful to note that neither Deb nor I judged the other for the “normal” reaction to our family dynamic transition. She did not shame me for expressing my excitement for my new found independence. I did not judge her for her extended period of grief.
Either one. Both. And, probably a gajillion of in-between reactions to this significant life change is…normal. Normal has a pretty wide range and the more we talk about how we are, how we are handling, or not handling, life’s events (big and small), the less stigma. Feeling stigmatized can lead to loneliness and isolation, ripping us of our power. But when we come together and share and learn from one another sans judgement, our collective power is unstoppable.
And just to be clear, I get there are long-term rewards of parenting. It’s a great deal of heavy lifting with no lunch breaks, but watching my child now flourish and thrive without my nag lines is somewhat akin to getting to stand on that coveted middle podium at the Olympics. Deb too felt that pride in the success of her fully launched crew, but what has remained most salient for her years later is the sadness of that empty nest. I’m just so glad and honored that she could share those feelings with me earlier this week, and lucky to have women like her, with such varying perspectives, in my life.