This is a blog written by a women I admire, who is also a spiritual director. I feel all parents with young children and those who are grown will be touched by this thoughtful perspective.
My children are launched. They’ve both left the nest and don’t depend on my husband or me to tuck them in at night, make dinner for them or even pay their bills. It’s a good thing. We’ve been blessed to give them roots and wings. Now what?
That time of rushing around when Allison and Douglas lived at home with us is a blur. No wonder! We had a lot surrounding us in those days: education, lessons, church, friends, sports, grandparents. You know what I mean; you could make your own list.
I remember how my mother, a woman of great faith, encouraged me to slow down during that time. She wanted me to spend more time with her and she encouraged me to do things that would take care of myself, but I had places to be and work to do! I often did heed her advice, but I still felt that gentle pull, or more realistically, a constant nagging, that urged me back to my family. I knew my kids were growing up quickly and soon they’d be gone. They needed me, I needed them.
So in 2010, nine years after my sage mother had died and Allison and Douglas were out of college, I quit my job that had helped to pay for their college tuition and had kept me out in the world. Blessedly and suddenly, I found myself at home alone a lot of the time since my husband is still working downtown Chicago and traveling about one day a week.
My spiritual director, who listened to me all through my kids’ adolescent years, my mother’s death and other sacred journeys, suggested something when I retired that I took to heart. “Don’t commit to anything this first year,” she said. I felt my body relax. Psalm 46:10 told me to “Cease striving and know that I am God.” I take a deep breath and began to truly understand what that means.
So instead of busying my life with volunteering and joining lots of groups, I ceased striving. I stay home and mine the clutter that has accumulated in every corner of the house. I fossick and learn new words as I read what I want to read. I wrote a first draft of an autobiography that may become something someday, but just as likely, it may not. I enjoy the introverted side of myself.
And throughout all this homebodying, my husband supports me. He calls me a kept woman. He’s my patron. This doesn’t sound very modern, but aging and moving to the second half of life isn’t new. This new way of life allows me to listen better to the voice of God inside me.
I am gently finding my way into this second half of life. My daughter has a beautiful new baby girl, sharpening my ability to see the holiness in the here and now. Through my own spiritual direction practice I help others to live in better awareness of the presence of God.
I hope my husband will be able to join me before too long in the way of this empty nest. When he does, I pray I’ll be able to encourage him in the way I’ve been encouraged on my journey.
Barbara Perry is a spiritual director and writer who lives, works and plays in her empty nest in Glen Ellyn.