imagesLess than 48 hours ago my husband and I said good-bye to our youngest daughter on a bustling street on the campus of Brown University in Rhode Island.  We hugged and kissed, shed a tear or two and headed west.  Watching her in my rear view mirror I saw her skip away in search of her  freshman friend.

And, just like that, my nest emptied.

Nothing could have prepared me for that moment.  Of course I knew that it was coming.  Over the summer I had tried to picture my husband and I having dinners alone.  I thought about the quiet that would pervade the house.  However, I purposefully tried not to talk about it with others or to search the web about how the empty nest might feel.

You see, I want to experience this shift my way. I don’t want advice nor do I want to know when this feeling of rawness and newness  will pass.

I want to feel empty.

Right now I don’t want to fill my schedule with a new hobby or sign up for a new on-line course.  I don’t want to work more or socialize more.

I want to feel empty.

The Buddhists teach us that emptiness is the gateway to discovering everything.  In experiencing nothingness I may just become intimate with the immensity of my existence.  In nothing I may just experience everything.

I have been given a tremendous gift this week but it won’t necessarily last. As I sit in this tender transition, my life as I knew it has ended, my role as mother is redefined and my new relationship with life has yet to reveal itself.

I feel empty.  I feel nothing. I feel everything.

Comments 7

  1. That was so touching and thought provoking. I am not looking forward to this time, but at least I still have almost 2 years before it happens to me….hope to see you soon at Yale!! xo

  2. My daughter took off almost three years ago, at 17 and she wasn’t heading to college. My son, is presently 17. We recently went on a college tour (including Brown). My children’s father and I are divorced, so I am used to not being with my son. So, my daughter and son are not with me on a regular basis. The three of us were together for a few days in VT. They spent some time with my family, and afterwards were going to spend some time with their father and his family. We met with their father for a birthday celebration at a restaurant with my parents, Aunt and Uncle and sister. As I was saying good-bye to them, my daughter said, “It feels like I should be going home”. In that moment was the first time I experienced the empty nest. The feeling came with the distinct image of ducklings not following me anymore.

    My daughter has always been an initiator of my ‘growth’. In the moment she spoke up, she sparked in me connection to the parental/motherly feelings I hadn’t yet known were already there, in that way. In order to cope with my daughter’s use of drugs and why she had left home, I intentionally distanced myself emotionally from her (while refreshing my love for her). In the place where I had toughened up to be able to cope, was also the experience of all the emotions pertaining to a child having gone astray. And so in the moment my daughter beautifully captured her leaving the nest (she is attending school school full time this Fall) that emptiness which I hadn’t yet faced in my warrior tough love motherly role, that emptiness became full with the sense of understanding that my children were leaving the nest.

    My son wants to attend college also. I have no idea what it will be like next year when he goes off on his own. But I do know that my role has been shifting and I hope I will let that emptiness touch me even deeper.

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