Empty Nest Kuel Category Expert: Mel Greenberg
Yes, even in 2020 there is much to be thankful for…
I sat to write this piece enveloped in the crisp, cool air, autumn had arrived in the desert. Everything about my life had dramatically changed over the course of these past eight months. As that notion settled in, I realized that while we are knee deep, trudging through the waters of these unprecedented times, I am truly, deeply grateful for it all. It’s a matter of perspective. I always try and find a silver lining.
This November, in search of all I have to be thankful for, here is mine…
My second chapter career was established and thrives based on exploring with joy and purpose who we are now that our nest has emptied. A redefining of sorts, but mostly an acknowledgment of all we’ve accomplished and all the possibilities we have in these coming years. Now, thanks to the limitations we’ve encountered from the COVID-19 pandemic, my nest is full once again and a reset has taken place. Albeit a temporary change, it has required adjustments on many levels. I know that I’m not alone. I speak to women across the globe experiencing significant changes at home as a result of the pandemic. Some positive, others terribly stressful, all life-altering.
“Having a couple of extra mouths to feed, and rooms to clean is a welcome change.”
Mine is a happy story, as we are a close and healthy family. Having a couple of extra mouths to feed, and rooms to clean is a welcome change. My heart aches for those of you struggling with aging parents, health issues, financial losses. There is a substantial segment of the population suffering in loneliness and silence. Mental health issues are a grave concern. And yet, there are many situations where families coming together, working through the challenges are thriving in the most positive and unexpected ways.
The Empty Nest Fills Back Up:
At the onset of the U.S. lockdowns my Los Angeles based son and his fiancé came ‘home’. We worked through those early days with care, patience, tears and laughter. A wedding was postponed, travel plans halted, dreams paused. None of us knew what was coming – how long, how bad this might be. What we did know was how blessed we were to have a safe place to wait this out, to have each other. But as days, turned into weeks, into months it also became clear that structure was needed, boundaries put in place and honored, for us all to reside and thrive under the same roof, under tremendous stress. Why we were here was completely out of our control. How we would carry on was up to us.
“Managing expectations is essential”
I highly encourage setting boundaries if, and when your adult children find themselves sharing space with you once again. Managing expectations is essential, even under the best circumstances. My son is a television show editor and producer, his fiancé is in property management. While they both continue their work remotely at full capacity, there is still tricky ground to cover.
This is a key element to thriving in a newly filled nest. With so many of us “creatives” working at home it was important to quickly define workspace, schedules, and professional needs. Creating a family “hub” with calendar, group texts, and the like has helped tremendously. The Slack app is a great for this.
Honor respect on every level. Appreciating that my grown son had returned to the nest resulted in profound growth. This young man, engaged to be married, excelling in his career was not the 18-year-old who’d left a decade earlier to pursue his dreams. He is an independent soul with strong opinions and vision. Allowing him the time and privacy to nurture his relationship without bystander input is something I value more than ever. I mentioned early on that we are a close family. That has made many of these transitions easier for sure. There are adult friendships now, rooted deeply in love and respect. I find that we often turn to each other for advice and philosophical perspective on projects and life.
This is a must! In the throes of the chaos that has come to define 2020 we find ourselves relying on laughter more than ever. That and embracing the slow-down. Family dinners have taken on new importance and enjoyment. Puzzles, game nights, pizza-making, wine drinking, movie watching, fireside talking, sunrise walking are the simple pleasures that have become the main staple of our time. We all view this as a memorable and welcome departure from the ordinary.
“together is a much better way to travel along this road…”
I view this time – days and outcomes out of my control to a great extent – as a gift. Filling my nest again was hardly what I had planned for this year. But as the tumultuous events of the new decade continued to unfold something beautiful began to emerge. Maybe the step back – the deep breaths – opening our eyes and hearts to this new ‘normal’ would provide the remedy we’d sought all along. Just maybe, what we thought we needed to be fulfilled, the success we envisioned as individuals would in fact come from reconnecting, realizing that together is a much better way to travel along this road…
I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.
About the Author
Mel Greenberg a Southern California native, is a best-selling author and publisher. A proud alumna of the University of Maryland, Mel worked as a copywriter and producer in radio and television in Washington D.C. before heading back to the west coast.
Mel draws upon her lifetime experiences as a classically trained violinist and competitive figure skater to see her through even the darkest days. She is a cancer survivor, and prominent midlife advocate. Mel’s debut novel, Running with Our Eyes Closed, explores marriage, life and love after the nest empties. And she’ll be the first to tell you that moving forward – from then to now has been a wildly unexpected and beautiful journey. You can follow Mel on Instagram.