The Empty Nest Test 5/10

May 2010

birdnest

First on March 8, then on April 11, our baby chicks independently left their cozy nest for backpacking adventures in Europe. At the time of writing this, my husband and I have been chick-free for 40 days. It is a strange experience, indeed.

Challenge or Opportunity

I miss them. I miss their energy, the noise. I miss having dinner together. I miss knowing what they’re up to and who they’re with. I miss talking with them on a daily basis.

The opportunities in this nest test are numerous for all involved. In short, after 27 years of marriage Ken and I are back to where we started – enjoying each other’s company and talking about something other than our kids. He is getting a lot more airtime at the dinner table and the extra pork chop. And we buy a lot less pork chops.

Surprisingly, I’m a lot less stressed. It could have gone the other way. I could worry about a lot of things like terrorists, plane crashes, volcanoes and healthy diets. But I did the math. By my calculations, there aren’t apron strings long enough to reach all the way to Europe, so I let them go. Just like that.

Trust Versus Control

Understand that I have been known to worry about everything, including worry. Letting go is no small feat. The age of our kids tells me they are technically adults – more math. I know that my role as a parent is changed. At this point, trust is the answer. Actually, it was always the answer. Why try to control is the question. You see, trust and control are opposing forces.

Try this exercise.

Clench your fists and squeeze tight, as hard as you can.

Hold them tight for at least five to ten seconds.

Then, ever so slowly, release your grip, allowing and gently encouraging your hands to unfold.

What do you notice?

What position feels better for you?

Review these pairs of words and ponder the contrast.

Trust versus Control

Open versus Closed

Flexible versus Rigid

Loose versus Tight

Freedom versus Restriction

Confidence versus Doubt

Belief versus Skepticism

Allow versus Block

Courage versus Fear

How do the words on the right make you feel? Stressed? Uptight? Compare that feeling to the one you get from the words on the left.

If you care to look closely, you will recognize the need for control is based in some kind of fear, even if just to protect the ego. More often than not, having the courage to trust is a valuable, healthy strength.

The energy we spend trying to control people, or things outside of us, creates stress. Stress, as we know, can contribute to any number of health issues unique to each of us, including weight gain. And increasing weight predisposes us to other health risks.

We can’t really control much at all, except of course our attitudes and our choices in the present moment. When my first child left home I quickly chose to replace the sadness I felt with joy because he was doing what he wanted and worked hard to do, and I really wanted it for him too. Clarity is good. It allowed me to let go.

Try the fist clenching exercise every time you need to let go, trust or relax. Giving up control is a choice.

This is truly a nest test because our chicks will be flying home soon. Feel free to check in with me this summer to see how I’m doing. Hopefully there won’t be too much squawking going on.