Transitions: The Ever Changing "Nest".
I figured that I would be writing a blog on transitions soon after my children all left the nest for the first time. And here it is seven months after the beginning of my transition and I am just beginning to write. I had figured that I would transition and then "get used to it" as so many people told me I would, yet I find that transition, at least of this sort, and yet I imagine of any kind, ebbs and flows and comes and goes. There is not a clear end to transition, especially to me one as big as children leaving home. It helps me to realize that I've spent over 21 years with my children and I've gotten used to them being around. I think the transition to them not living at home full time is harder than the transition of their coming, although that seemed big at the time, it is not near as big as this one, at least in my heart. I think the best thing I can do is leave room for my feelings, whatever they are at the moment, and have acceptance that they will ebb and flow and change depending on the day. Having them home for spring break recently reminded me how much I miss them, and so it was an adjustment to have them go, still is.
I have found that if I notice my thoughts then it helps me really look at how I am and get a sense of some choice in how I respond. My thoughts point to my feelings, so when I am telling myself, "This is all wrong. Children should not leave their families..." and "I have no one to be with" I tend to feel sad and lonely and powerless. So I notice when I am thinking these things that I am longing to be reminded of our connection, of the huge gratitude I have for who they are and I am mourning the physical presence. And when I fully leave room for whatever feelings, and leave room to mourn, no matter how big or small, I then get the gratitude - I am so grateful to have these three amazing people that are my children. What tremendous love I have for them. I have learned over these months to leave lots of room for my mourning because it is in the resistance to my feelings that I begin to suffer. When I am thinking "Something is wrong with this." or "I shouldn't feel this." or "Oh no, I might feel sad or lonely, that's bad," I tend to suffer. When I stop and notice my thoughts and notice I need space to mourn then there is a little bit of relief as I give myself permission to have these thoughts and feelings. It doesn't mean I need to buy into my thoughts, I can still be an observer of them and see what they're trying to tell me. And I love them, that's what it points to and so I miss them. If I push the sadness away I don't get to the joy. And if I'm wanting connection and reassurance that we we'll stay in touch, then i can actually make requests of myself to think of them with love and send it to them, to text them and ask times they can video call. What a blessing to be able to see their faces! In that way, technology can be very connecting. A quick text to ask how they are and what they're doing, keeps me connected. Whenever I say to myself, "Of course you are feeling this.... it's understandable," then I feel more calm and less afraid of my feelings.
I think the other big thing that comes up with a transition of children leaving the home, and maybe in any transition or change, is the wondering what is my purpose, where can I contribute? Who am I in this new role? I have my work with Nonviolent Communication that I greatly love, and I also hold nurturing as a huge way I contribute. So I look to how do I nurture and contribute now? And that's why I have two new kittens. And I can nurture my kids from afar and provide listening and empathy for them and for others as a way to contribute.
I think the other thing I've learned through this is how much I need compassion for myself, compassion for how hard this transition can be. It helps to have others who resonate with that. When I let go of my expectation that I SHOULD do this transition in a certain way, then I can negotiate easier. I did notice that when people asked, "Have you gotten used to the kids being gone?" every time I wanted to scream "No!" and I realized it was because it seemed like a dishonoring of the preciousness of our relationships if I was ok with them gone and "used" to it so quickly. I understand that some parents really relish their freedom and the ability to choose more self-care, and yet that's just not me in the moment. I think I would have appreciated just being asked, "How are you now?" Then I could be real and say some days I'm ok and others I miss them terribly. And then I could say that I am letting all my feelings have room and I have some acceptance that I may never get entirely "used" to it, and I'm ok with that, because I really value our connection as a family. And I even wonder if living apart is good for us as a society or a family. I think we need community and connection and family provides a connection that can be like no other.
In the end, I want to honor how any of us transition to something new and give ourselves lots of room to have whatever feelings. No need to rush to being "ok". What if "OK" is how you are? What if this is doing transition? I want to trust that It's ok to be however we are as long as I'm not harming myself or others . I just want to be aware of my feelings and thoughts so I get connected to what's important to me- what I'm longing for and what I value.
It seems the one thing we can count on in life is that there will be transitions, and many of them and so if we can give ourselves permission to do it at our own pace, I think we can contribute a lot to the world. So if you notice someone else going through a transition, maybe check in with them and give them room and permission to be however they are. You don't have to agree with how they're doing it, you can just connect with what it's like for them to be a human having thoughts and feelings about where they are. What's important to them right now is something you can relate to and offering that resonance can be the biggest gift. And most of all, do this for yourself. Check in with yourself and give yourself permission to have your feelings. As Rumi said in his poem Guest House,
"Be grateful for whoever (feelings) comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."
That's really all I ever wanted for my children. I wanted them to know they had a safe place to have all their feelings and to have room to get understanding of what was important to them and that I would hear that - a place of unconditional love. And that's what keeps us connected now, even if we aren't in the same nest all the time. Maybe my new role is to just be there when they call, that in knowing I'm there with unconditional love, I contribute and I nurture.
Thanks for reading. I hope it contributed something to you.
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Marcia has been studying and practicing Nonviolent Communication since 2005. She has experienced immense joy & gratitude while learning this consciousness. This blog reflects some of that learning.