Our Nest Empties of More than Our Kids
I’ve lived without roommates (at least human ones) for awhile now. My kids moved out years ago. As time passes, I’m starting to notice things I no longer keep in the house. I don’t mean the obvious like piles of laundry, messy rooms, and a sink full of dishes I didn’t use. No, I mean the more subtle things. The products I no longer use and the foods I no longer eat, what occupies of my space.
Here are a few things which moved out when my kids left the nest:
- Kid-friendly foods like Ketchup, Goldfish (the kind you eat), boxed macaroni and cheese, and Bagel Bites
- Feminine hygiene products
- Random animals (guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards other than the suicidal ones I see once in awhile…)
- Board Games
- Constant noise of some kind
Filling the Gaps
The list is long, and varies from person to person. But what about what moved in when the kids flew the coop? Here are a few things, years later I’m still discovering and loving:
- An entire house all for me
- Clear space everywhere
- A clean kitchen every night
- Healthy food in my refrigerator and freezer
- Keeping my own crazy hours without worrying about disturbing anyone
- All the cats sleep with me
Adjusting to the Empty
Still, it isn’t all wine and roses. There are and always will be downsides to living alone. The biggest for me is being alone when I’d rather not be. As an introvert, I’m not likely to go out by myself to a place where I don’t know anyone to avoid being alone on a Friday night. Alone is still better.
Most of my friends still work outside their homes and often need a quiet Friday night to relax and detox. As I’ve been working from home and only seeing people when I wanted to, I’m usually in a pretty mellow state by Friday and wouldn’t mind some company of my own choosing. Nevertheless, most Friday nights I spend alone.
Other areas where living alone can be hard are:
- No one there if you fall in the shower and can’t get up or even reach the phone
- No one to hold you when you’re sad or lonely
- No one to take you to the doctor or go get you soup if you’re sick
- No one there if you need an extra set of hands
- No one to help with the chores
- No one to talk to when you don’t feel like being alone
- Dinner in front of the TV or at your desk gets old after awhile
- Cooking for one (need I say more?)
Empty Nest: A Blessing and a Curse
Needless to say, adjusting to the pros and cons once the kids move out for all us single parents has its highs and lows. We learn to adjust to the lows and fill our lives with enough activity to keep us from wallowing. We learn how much alone is enough, and where it becomes too much to bear. Of course, pets are a huge benefit. Without them, I know I’d have crashed and burned a few times when life threw too many tough things at me, or gave me too much time alone.
You could say people who are extroverted have an easier time of it, but do they really? I have extroverted friends who struggle over the same things I do. Maybe they manage them differently, but you can only go out alone so often, even to crowded places without finding yourself in “lonely town” in spite of the crowds.
Sure, we chit chat on social media or talk to our pets. We may private message or text back and forth. But it’s not the same as human contact. It’s definitely not the same as having someone around at least part of the time who cares how you’re feeling, how your day went, and what’s making you feel anxious at times. Nor will it ever replace a good, old-fashioned, heartfelt hug that’s made especially for you.
The Beauty of Human Contact
My social circle; my friends are real huggers. We hug hello. We hug good-bye. We hug because we know someone needs it, or because we know they’re having a tough time. We hug for joy when someone has wonderful news. We hug for no reason at all. Still, there is the hug from someone who believes you are their moon, sun, and stars. It’s the most special kind of hug, and one I haven’t felt in a very long time—not since my kids were young and believed I was their sun, moon, and stars.
How can you miss something that’s so far in the past as to have been forgotten or so distant as to be more a dream than a memory? Some things embed themselves into the very fiber of our being. We don’t need to remember. It’s just there. And it’s the single most unpleasant part of always being alone; of putting the key in the lock, knowing only the cats will be waiting behind that door. Of getting ready for bed every night knowing you’ll fall asleep alone, get up alone, and maybe not even talk to a single soul all day long.
I miss having someone there if I were to fall and hit my head.