I've officially been and empty nester now for two years. It feels longer, but that's probably because my daughter was the first to leave for college and that was five years ago.
In that time period, there have been a LOT of changes. Some because of decisions my husband and I made, and some because life ebbs and flows and brings about things we can't anticipate.
Some of the ones within our control were things like purge cleaning our house and moving to the beach. We downsized and embraced a new city and lifestyle and then a global pandemic hit. That certainly brought changes beyond our control.
In the midst of that, I finished grad school and then graduated in May of this year. I now work part-time as a chaplain and I also have gone back to writing. (I had taken a bit of a break while getting my masters degree.)
As an empty nester and after graduation, I thought about how I wanted to be intentional in moving forward. I don't want to do things the way I've always done them. But I have found those changes tougher to make than I thought.
Is it because I'm not creative enough in doing things a new way, or possibly lack a level of bravery needed? Is it that I've just become so comfortable with the known that to venture into unknown just seems too big and overwhelming?
I try to give myself grace. It's a process. A journey. As much as I would love a map or a plan, I need to do a bit of trial and error as I go - see what works and leave what doesn't.
I've found myself falling back into ruts where I am doing things the way I used to do them. I become aware and then think through what needs to change.
I think that awareness in and of itself is growth.
One thing I have discovered in this time of life is that most of my day, most of what I do, isn't influenced or driven by anyone but me.
That may seem like a no-brainer since I don't have kids at home anymore so their schedules and needs aren't here, but it's a tougher transition that one might think. It feels weird. And it takes adjusting.
One recent thing I have discovered is how I do my calendar. I live and die by calendars. I found one not long ago in a box of memorabilia that I had from kindergarten.
I had a day planner when I was five. It's true.
I have done a bit of trial and error, going back and forth between using only my phone (electronic calendar) and using a paper day planner. I'm a writer. I love paper and pens, but also appreciate the convenience of the one on my phone.
I found myself seeing different planners online and getting excited and pumped to get organized. And I'll admit I tried a few. However, I sat down the other day and looked at all the journals and calendars and "stuff" I carry and just got tired.
And then it hit me.
I don't have nearly as much on my calendar or to do list as I used to AND THAT'S OKAY.
But again, the reality of it is weird for me and takes some getting used to. We also live in a culture where a full, busy calendar is a badge of honor (but that's a whole other blog post).
In all honesty, a global pandemic has also taken a decent amount of things off my calendar as well. That has also taken quite a bit of getting used to.
Change is hard. And good. And sometimes weird. But I think the biggest thing for me has been to give myself grace and permission. Grace as I acclimate to all the changes and permission to do things in new ways and in ways that work FOR ME.
My husband and I went to the beach yesterday for some Labor Day downtime. We watched as a man nearby set up nine umbrellas for his group. Nine. We discussed how he could have saved himself some time and covered more ground had he used a pop-up, but the result of his efforts was a beautiful little cluster of color that brought joy to that little spot on the beach.
I had to take a photo….
He did things HIS way and it added color and life to those around him.
I’m not saying that how I do my calendar will bring about the same result, but I do wonder what would happen if we all gave ourselves grace and permission to do things in a way that works with who we are and where we are in life. Maybe there would be a bit more color and life in the world.
Is there something in life you could yourself a bit of grace and permission to do differently?