Three months into our empty nest and I am feeling the emptiness.
I’m surprised that I never noticed how similar those two words sound.
Our house feels empty.
My days feel emptier.
The girls came home from college last weekend with a bunch of friends. I fell gratefully into my mom role—preparing a delicious homemade dinner for them including an apple crisp; making a big breakfast in the morning with a fresh fruit salad; taking them shopping for clothes, shoes and food.
At one point, I was sitting near them, feeling a little resentful that I had to share my girls with their friends. They were talking about sorority life, their school life and their campus life.
That’s when it hit me. They have their own lives.
Even if they weren’t surrounded by all their friends, I’d still be sitting there on the outside of their lives, because that’s how it’s supposed to be.
They have their own lives and I have mine, even if it does feel a little empty at the moment.
I became a yoga teacher two years ago in anticipation of sopping up some of the emptiness I knew would be spilling out of me once both girls moved out. But what I’ve learned is that this emptiness doesn’t have to be filled up like a hole.
It feels more like I am clearing away debris—uncovering and discovering who I was before I had children. Who I am besides mom.
Instead of emptiness, it feels more like white space—the space around text or artwork that gives it room to breathe.
In graphic design, it’s used to create a harmonious, balanced layout.
In painting, it attracts the eye, giving it space to rest.
In poetry, it is how the poem is arranged on the page including line breaks, page formatting and spacing.
It takes confidence to allow white space. The tendency is to fill up a canvas or magazine page as much as possible. The problem then becomes that everything has equal weight in the eye of the reader or viewer. Nothing is important. Nothing stands out.
There’s a basic drawing exercise that asks us to focus only on drawing the negative shapes or white space created by a chair. Don’t draw the leg, draw the space around the leg. Each time I’ve done it, I am always surprised when an image of a chair emerges on the page.
White space complements and reveals what is already there.
Now that I have my own white space surrounding me, who I already am is being revealed.
I have time and space to follow what piques my interest, to explore what calls to me. As Rumi said,:
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
This new white space allows me to do just that.
So, I no longer choose to picture my home as an empty nest.
I no longer choose to see myself full of holes that need to be filled.
Instead, I allow myself to be embraced by the white space between me and my daughters, space that creates harmony and balance as we each move into our own, separate lives.
I even allow myself to become a void or white space that complements their lives, stepping aside so that who they are can be revealed.
I am allowing myself to celebrate the white space of motherhood.
Author: Kim Haas
Editor: Travis May
Photo: AwakeningParish / Flickr