I really thought this whole Empty-Nester thing was going to be so easy. I mean, what is there to figure out? It turns out that the answer is… JUST about everything.
Drama sorted itself out by the end of last week, and more relaxed days returned. That meant I could go back to trying to find my own groove, something that has turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Staying up late, as mentioned in my previous post, was letting my natural night owl self rule the hours. That’s something I can do now, since I’m not beholden to anyone else’s schedule anymore.
Living like a “normal” person for so long has taken a toll. More, having kids must actually lobotomize you, because I swear I am drawing blanks and operating like a zombie given a task. This became crystal clear over the last two weeks, because my husband has also been out of town. That’s right. Just me, four cats, two dogs, and a rabbit. The most schedule-like thing I should have to contend with are the dogs wanting food and to go out, and the trash-pick up. Even the mail is really a negotiable thing, because you don’t have to pick it up every day, right?
Instead of “living my best empty-nester life” and feeling fabulous, I have found myself wandering around and accomplishing little while feeling as though I’m late for everything. Sleeping until 10-ish (staying up until 2AM) has made me feel like I am out of sync with the “real world”, especially as I had forced myself for the better part of 20+ years to get up at 5-6AM and exercise. Actually, on that note, exercising isn’t happening consistently either, because I cannot figure out where it fits. By the time I am actually awake, it feels like I am running late for doing all these other things and I better get on it! The problem is… WHAT other things?
My self-imposed schedule is now fake, because I don’t have to be up and getting anyone off to school, or dashing off to work, or making sure a mealtime schedule is met. It should be easy to let go of this old routine, as it conflicted so much with my natural rhythms as well as my studio time, but instead I am finding it’s making me feel weirdly isolated and left out (which really makes no sense, when no one is around in the first place!)
My husband and I, a few weeks ago, went to three different grocery stores to shop for the house and figure out who we are on our own food-wise. That was an eye-opening experience, as there are so many things we won’t be eating anymore, and new things that we will. All of that was great, kind of exciting really, but then these past two weeks have shown me that when left to my own devices I’m awful.
Maybe it’s just meal burn-out after all these years (even with splitting all the cooking with my husband and everything), but when it comes to settling down and actually preparing something where I cook I’m simply not interested. I forced it a bit while my husband was here, but even then I kind of dodged the whole thing. Without him here trying to make us make a dinner? I found myself with my normal coffee and eggs in the late-morning, lunch was a maybe-maybe not eat scenario, and dinner might be popcorn or cereal while standing at the counter.
My husband was back in town over the weekend, and he made a healthy shepherds pie on Sunday. A BIG batch of it, even though he was leaving at 3AM the next day. I started to suspect he actually did it to make sure I ate during his absence, which I then asked him about and he got a cheeky grin on his face. I wasn’t sure if that was a dismissal of the idea or not, but then mid-week he asked about it and was pleased to find out I finished it off yesterday. So, yep, pretty sure my husband made me meals because I’ve become this baffling version of myself when left to my own devices (but seriously, is there really anything wrong with handfuls of Cheerios over the sink for dinner? Heck, maybe I’ll lose weight and this is a really good thing! What? It could happen.) Even with leftovers, I only did breakfast and then this other left-over meal. I just couldn’t be bothered to venture into the kitchen again.
On a positive note, I have had a couple moments where I’ve thought to myself “I want to go and…” and my brain would come back and say it wasn’t time yet or some other sort of constraint, and I had to stop myself. I had to have that internal argument where I confronted the idea and asked: Why not? Why can’t I go take a bath in the middle of the day? Why can’t I have a spot of ice cream for breakfast? Why can’t I…whatever?
You know what?
I CAN! And you wanna know why? Because I SAID so! HA!
I really can do whatever I want, so long as I actually DO things. That’s the real key. Does it matter if I go running at 11AM instead of 6? No. Does it matter if I paint at 1AM instead of noon? Nope. It only matters that I DO those things. The real obstacle is me. Figuring out how to rearrange and disengage from all the previous expectations is far trickier than I ever supposed, and it’s often left me feeling like I was all tied up and resulted in my doing none of it.
This no schedule thing is especially hard for someone who works at a home business without visiting customers, instead of in a place of business where a normal schedule is maintained. I think it must be a little like retiring and suddenly having all these life-threads that tether you to the rest of the world severed. It just turned out my tethers were my kids, and they held me to a sleep, eating, exercise, paint, effort super tight type of schedule. With that thread cut, I’m bouncing around like a lost balloon in the forest.
I even briefly considered looking for a job. Which is silly, because I HAVE one. It just turns out that my coworkers have four paws and no regard for what time it is, or if I even work. Speaking of, here’s a lamb in a sweater that I finished (and is available):
What I have learned is that I need to select elements of my day that I want to be there. I need to structure, without over structuring myself. I need to start chasing my goals, now that there is finally nothing standing in my way (acknowledging the fear, and how fragile this is given the circumstances I cannot discuss. But here’s hoping it holds and this is real!) I need to learn what feels best for myself, and make it a part of this new phase of my life. Most of all, I need to somehow figure out how to let go of the societal 9 to 5 narrative that has been my life up until now.
I know I’m lucky to be at this point, but it’s admittedly pretty weird. It’s also embarrassing sounding like Home Alone the Teenage years, when left by myself so far. I have never had this much freedom before. I really thought I’d go charging out of the gate like a wild mustang set free, and instead I busted out like a lawnmower with the steering wheel stuck turning right with the accelerator jammed. Not my proudest moment.
So, if everything is “Because I said so”, I guess the real question is what am I going to say?
What would YOU say? If you had the freedom to set your day any way you want, every day, but you still want and need to work (it’s on your own time as well – YOU decide) how would you live?