A New Nest
David and I recently entered that season in life that many people refer to as "empty nesters". Personally, I'm not a fan of the term. I don't like the idea of defining a brand new chapter of your life by what is gone, instead of what lies ahead.
True, our 3 daughters are launched. The two younger ones are in college and their big sister is working her first "real" job while she strategizes how she can move to Spain ...a country she fell in love with during her Junior year abroad. So, these days it's mostly 'just' the two of us, and while it's definitely different from last year at this time, I don't find life - or even our 'nest' - empty at all!
Last year, as we eyed our youngest daughter Kayla poised to head off to college, David and I decided it was time to pass our 5-bedroom "nest" on to a new family. This was the place in which we raised our girls, and it was packed with 15 years of memories...
A simple rope swing hung from an apple tree on which the girls would sway in the Springtime, blossoms magically floating to the ground all around them... or winter, wrapped in a pristine blanket of snow.
Huge backyard Halloween costume parties for little ghosts and goblins... birthday parties...summer thunderstorms, the 5 of us cuddled together in our king size bed, watching lighting dance across the rolling golf course outside our window.
Over those 15 years, our house was a regular stop for the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and it hosted countless playdates that went from Polly Pockets and American Girl dolls, to tween-age girls giggling through mouthfuls (and *sigh* thousands of dollars) of braces, while mugging for selfies and whispering late into the night about cute boys and Twilight vampires - all to a Justin Bieber soundtrack.
Let me tell you...over 15 years, the floors of that house gathered a ridiculous amount of glitter, glue stick residue and paper shavings from carefully-crafted poster board presentations for school projects.
More snow days than I care to count, I mopped and dried those sturdy oak floors, as hoards of kids celebrated a day off from school by tromping past our crackling fireplace to sled the curves of the golf course outside our back door.
More recently, that back yard hosted huddles of teenagers roasting marshmallows over a fire pit after frosty high school football games. Our home was filled with pets (fish, hamsters, cats, dogs - pretty much the whole food chain!) and hosted everything from slumber parties to prom pictures, and finally, graduation brunches. The memories and moments flowed out of every crack and crevice of that messy, chaotic, cozy, beating heart of brick-and-mortar that we called home!
But... David and I are practical. We recognized that an aging 5-bedroom house is way more than we'd need or want to maintain, and honestly we didn't want to rattle around a big empty house that had been so full, for so long. In a way, I think that would've felt sad.
So, we purged...a massive undertaking, but also cathartic...going through all our stuff gave us the opportunity to revisit lots of wonderful memories, tuck them away in our hearts and start planning for new adventures.
When our house sold, David and I decided to try something completely new... something that would bring us full circle, back to our foundation: the two of us. We moved to a fun, vibrant, urban neighborhood near the heart of Raleigh. Our new "nest" is a cute little 2-bedroom apartment.
It's not fancy. There's no yard, no impressive golf course view, no expansive rooms, comfy-but-minimal furniture... and oh, so much newfound freedom! We have a downstairs gym and countless lively little restaurants, exercise & yoga studios, nail and hair salons, boutiques, nightclubs, street music, seasonal festivals and art spaces just a short walk away. There are two outdoor farmers' markets within a couple of miles, a delightful park, and charming vintage neighborhoods to jog after a busy day of work. Giving up the home of our past season has bought us new time and freedom in our new season! We are traveling, exploring, romancing and re-discovering life as a couple.
You know what? This is FUN! The hours we dedicated over the years to taking care of a house, sorting through endless piles of laundry, restocking groceries and charging through busy kid schedules, once again belong to us. As wonderful and fun as the child-rearing years were (they were treasure that I wouldn't trade for anything), we are once again free to enjoy the family we began with 28 years ago: the family of David and Sue.
I realize that this is a huge gift. Many marriages don't survive the disparate seasons of life. There are so many challenges and changes to navigate. And "how" we did this may be the subject of another blog post, someday. But, I can tell you, no matter where you are in your life story, or who you're with (even if you're solo right now), there are certain attitudes: letting go, embracing change, welcoming new seasons with an open heart - that really do work!
I remember a pastor telling me once, years ago, that nostalgia is putting more faith in your past than you put in your future. It's a sad and futile way to live. That wisdom really stuck with me through the years, and now, in this new season, I see it's so very true!
As I embark on the "New Nest" phase in my life, I'm so grateful for the amazing man who has stood by my side through all the ups and downs. I'm thankful to have had the privilege of raising 3 amazing daughters who've taught me as much - if not more - than I've taught them over the years. I'm thankful for the wisdom of those who've walked ahead of me in this journey - David's parents, my own late parents, aunts, uncles and other wise souls, who've shown me the importance of holding the things in your life loosely, and accepting change with an open mind and spirit. Most of all, I'm thankful for my faith in the God who makes it possible for me to actually do this!
I realize this hasn't been a post about fashion or travel - and I promise plenty of those to come! But I do think that the most beautiful and meaningful adventure of all, is to live an authentic life with a grateful heart. So, if this post helps even one person out in the 'blogosphere' feel less blue, and a bit more hopeful, about the changes you're facing in your own life - then the time I've spent tapping away on this keyboard is totally worth it!
Here are my Tips and Finds for the journey from one Nest to another:
Love your kids unconditionally.
- It honestly does not matter one single bit if they make the team, or ace the test, or get the leading role, or even get accepted into their dream college. Trust me. We've been through all of the above, and more. Yes, disappointment hurts, and wins feel amazing. But these things are temporary and they don't deserve to have the final word, or declare your kid's value. Let your children know, from the very start, that their inherent worth rests in their unique God-given individuality, not on anything they'll ever do or accomplish.
Related to the above: don't sweat the small stuff.
- Really, it's pretty much all small stuff. (Wish I'd learned this one sooner!)
Be kind - to yourself and others.
- Sounds easy, but it isn't. I think we often are our own worst critics, and we place the burden of our own insecurities on our kids or spouses. This tendency is sneaky - and toxic - so be self-aware.
- Fighting it is exhausting and, if the change is something that's out of your control, then it's a waste of your precious energy.
Give faith a chance.
- There's a bigger picture than your circumstances, your problems, your achievements, and your ability to understand how it all fits together. Someone much bigger than you has the answers, and He's worth getting to know. It takes some humility, but I promise it's worth it.
Accept and move on.
- The good, the bad, the messy, the beautiful, the mistakes, the woulda-shoulda-couldas, your best choices and noblest decisions... and those moments that make you cringe...they're all part of the amazing story that make you ... you. Unique in all of creation. Not every brushstroke in a painting is strikingly beautiful by itself. Most are pretty nondescript, and some are downright ugly. But combine each with all the others, and you create a beautiful and one-of-a-kind story. Your story!
- Practice this one every day; it's the most important and life-enhancing of all. Simple, genuine gratitude will take your life from gray-scale to full, living color...and really, who doesn't want a life like that?
I hope this post has helped you in some small way. We all need encouragement from time to time, and I personally learn a lot from other peoples' stories of how they've navigated change in their life. I'd love to hear your thoughts and encouragement, too...feel free to comment or email me through this website at any time, and follow me on Instagram, if you're part of that community. I'd love to connect!