I tried to prepare for an empty nest.
But I was not prepared for questioning my parenting career, my mortality, or my significance. I was not prepared for memory fades, heart palpitations or emotional freefalls. They say growing older isn’t for sissies. But I am a sissy! A whiner. A weakling! Even worse, a wuss.
And the irony of the empty nest syndrome is that it was the filling of the nest that made my courage take flight in the first place. Am I the only one who wearies of paradoxes? (Or is it paradoses . . . . paradi? It can’t be paradise.)
I remember clearly the day my fearlessness ran for cover. It was my tenth wedding anniversary, and I sat shivering in a tiny tent on the edge of a sloping mountain in a torrential rainstorm. Any minute I expected my husband and I to be swept over the edge of the Mogollon Rim, along with our soggy shelter, to our certain deaths below. Our young children would be left, alone, to be raised by people who were not us, wondering for the rest of their childhoods what happened to their parents, while our petrified bodies lay crumpled in the desolate wilderness, undiscovered until only our teeth were left as identification decades later.
Of course, that didn’t really happen. Instead, we got in our unreliable vehicle which wearied of my whining and actually started up when Rob turned the key. Then we drove safely down that frozen mountain to a warm cabin with a fireplace.
But that’s not the point. The point is, I didn’t want our children to become orphans. And I lost my sense of adventure. As a matter of fact, in my little world, “adventure” is now the “A” word. Don’t even think of using it around me. I’ll smack you.
Still, I wish I could become . . . courageous again. After all, my kids are grown. The risk of leaving them as orphans now is . . . zero. But the risk of mortality is one hundred percent. Nobody leaves this earth alive. I remember the day I first understood that, too. A cold hearted doctor unexpectedly told me that I had a dangerous cancer on my arm and, poof! Suddenly I had an expiration date.
Surgery removed the threat, but not the fear. Fear lasts longer, it turns out.
So, where does Fearlessness go to hide? And how do I get it to reappear? Will a friendly, “ollie ollie oxen free!” do it? Maybe it’s afraid I’ll confuse it with adventurous and it’ll wind up with a black eye. Just goes to show you—an empty nest can be a perilous place, full of homeless hormones.
I don’t know what the answer is exactly. But it does seem like somewhere between fear and fearlessness lies a happy medium where new experiences beckon and seasoned experience discerns.
It’s ironic that even after the baby birds are long gone, the nest remains—guess it was made of sturdy material. Maybe I’m not done yet. And perhaps significance is a medal born of courage and tenacity. After all, we did launch those young adults. They never were abandoned. Could a nest turn out to be a launching pad? A safe place from which to pursue a new life, for both young and old alike?
Maybe if I keep turning my face into the wind and lifting my wings, I’ll fly far above the tiny voice of fear below and wonder why I ever let it ground me.
So long, wuss. Hello, wisdom. It’s time to be who I really am. I was made to soar.