When Empty Nest Leaves You Wondering – Practice These 3 Things

“Wonder” begets “Wonder-ing”

This past week, I had a long layover in Buffalo, New York.

I failed to experience real, authentic Buffalo chicken wings, however, I was able to take in something even more memorable…Niagara Falls. My crew and I left our uniforms behind and decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and spend our day off (from flying) touring both the American and Canadian sides of the falls.

Although Niagara Falls did not make the 7 Wonders of the World list, you cannot help feeling a great sense of wonder – no matter where you stand.

I loved taking in the view of the Falls from so many different places:

  • the observation deck
  • the Maid of the Mist boat ride into the rock infested basin below the falls
  • the US/Canadian bridge,
  • the American side,
  • the Canadian side,
  • the park adjacent to the American side falls
  • or the banister right at the falls edge.

But when I stood there at the drop off point of the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side,   I was overwhelmed with wonder.

And as I stood there in a state of wonder, I got to wondering,about YOU!

For many, empty nest feels like this drop off point of Niagara Falls. (Here’s my video link of the fall off – it was so mesmerizing – so other-worldly – so beautiful). 

Like a steadily flowing river, our parenting years moves along at a slow and steady pace. Until that climactic moment of change > when parenting ends and we are forever transformed by the raging force of nature of an empty home.

Goodbye river. Hello, waterfall. Just like that, we are forced to adapt to a new way of living. To release one reality and embrace a new one.

A Brief Recap

In last week’s email, I highlighted 10 things that empty nesters struggle with. The list I shared with you came from real empty nesters.

They came from my readers; from YOU.

This week I want to highlight the first few things that were on that list:

  • letting go
  • no longer feeling needed
  • feeling unsure of the future
  • not knowing where or how to begin to write the next chapter of your life.

What are you wondering about, friend? HOw is your empty nest life playing out? or how can you become better prepared for it?

Are you one that struggles with letting go and wondering how to release your loved one?  Is there an emptiness you feel, now that your parenting days have fallen into oblivion? How are you dealing with that nagging feeling to feel needed? Do you wonder what to do with yourself as your next chapter nears?

Or perhaps there’s an emptiness you feel, now that your parenting days have fallen off into oblivion. Do you wonder what to do with your time as your parenting chapter ends and the next chapter begins?

to Assist YOu in your wondering about empty nest & other midlife changes, I offer you these 3 SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS

On Letting Go…

1) Embrace the New

Part of every letting-go story has to do with learning to embrace the new. Letting go is about saying goodbye to what was and hello to the new.

Long before I reached the drop-off point of my parenting days, I began preparing for the new reality I knew I would soon be facing. Throughout my years of parenting, I spent time developing myself as a writer (although I didn’t see it at the time).

Throughout my years of parenting, I spent time developing myself as a writer (although I didn’t see it at the time).

My life as a wife and mother have given me practical life experience and various work I’ve done starting my own home business and working in the non-profit sector, have helped me develop my writing skills. So when my waterfall moment happened and my parenting season of life ended, I already knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to become a writer.  So I pursued a career that would allow me the flexibility to do just that.

I embraced my new season of life by embracing who I believe God made me to be, a person who loves to communicate with others through written words.  Once I had this settled in my heart, I was then able to allow God to direct the course I needed to take.

Letting go means learning to embrace something new. 

On no longer feeling needed…

2) Discover new ways to fill the void

Let’s be honest, we all want to feel needed, wanted, and loved.

When our kids are young, they look to us for everything. They count on us and depend on us to care for them, to provide for them, to teach them, and to love them. The emphasis is on the child’s need to feel loved and secure and safe, not on our need to feel loved, secure, and safe.

This is a normal and healthy understanding of the parent-child relationship. But I’ve also seen parents who use their kids as a means of satisfying their own desires and need for love and control. Needless to say, this creates an unhealthy situation for both the parent and the child.

By nature, moms are nurturers. We enjoy caring for our families, tending to their needs, and serving them in whatever needs to be done.  But problems arise when parents continue to parent their adult children as if they are still age 5 or 7, or 9. They want to hold on to the past. They resist letting go because it means they will no longer feel needed, or wanted, or loved.

If you are struggling with feeling needed, may I make a suggestion? This will require some honest reflection for some and perhaps some professional counseling for others.

Why do you no longer feel needed? Use a journal to process your thoughts.

And after you wrestle with that question, I invite you to journal your response to another question…

“What gift do I have that would help others feel needed, wanted, and loved in this new chapter of my life?”  

Is there something you’re really good at that you’ve had to put on hold while you were raising your kids? Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? A career you’ve considered?Perhaps, you are neglecting or unaware of the gifts God has given you to bless the world.

The scriptures tell us that it’s in blessing others, that we ourselves are blessed. Prov. 11:25

Perhaps it’s time you explored a new way to serve others. Volunteer doing something meaningful. Take your talents to a new level. Change careers. Start a new business.

It starts by asking God to affirm who he’s made you to be and discovering what he’s called you to do.

I’m certain that when you start becoming more of the person God made you to be, that you will not only feel needed, wanted, and loved, you will also bless the world.

On feeling unsure about the future:

3) fix your eyes on the one who is in control of all things

There seems to be a global unrest on the world stage today.

And when it comes to our personal lives, we could find 101 things to fill our minds with fear, worry, and concern. We may not be able to solve the world’s problems in our lifetime, but I do believe God has a role for each one of us to play the world he created for us.

Yes. Uncertainty about the future is a given. But are we going to become cronophobias and shrink back in fear and allow those concerns to keep us from the work God has called us to do in this new chapter of our lives?

We need to know what our purpose is friends. And yes, we need to fulfill God’s plan for our lives with everything that is within us. But we also have to know and trust the One in control of every aspect of our lives and the world because he is worthy of our trust.

It’s Gods Word – and God himself, that we must look to in times of uncertainty.  So why not try one of these on for size?

We need to have an attitude of gratitude about our past (because it has made us who we are today). And we need a sense of hope for the future.

So this is where some self-talk and prayer comes into play.

There were many times I too, was anxious about my future. My mind raced with conflicting messages.

It’s at times like this though when I realize…I have the ability to choose how I will respond to the anxiety that rages within. It’s Gods Word – and God himself, that we must look to in times of uncertainty.

In the same way that Lake Erie finds it’s end at Niagara falls and discovers a new beginning at the US/Canadian border, let your feelings of uncertainty about your future be carried away in faith knowing that he who began a good work in you will complete it.

Don’t stay where it’s safe. Fly m’lady.

Rise above your own limited perspective and take in a whole new view! Let God help you create new pathways of thinking. And then allow him the chance to give you the courage to act on how he leads you.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Choose faith over fear; confidence over concern; and wisdom over worry. God’s got you, friend. He knows your future and he knows how to get you there.

“Why so downcast oh my soul? PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD!!!”

On not knowing how to take your next steps:

4) Just take the first one.

After I left the non-profit sector, and before I became a flight attendant, I felt very lost in the in-between season of my work life. My youngest was still in high school and I was at a loss on what I should do. I felt led to pursue my Master’s degree – so I went for it. Once that was completed, I hit a roadblock in the form of a health issue I needed to take care, so I took a year off to tend to that. Then I bumped into the founder/director of the fashion design school that I attended after high school (to become a fashion designer) who hired me to become an admissions advisor for what had become a full-blown design college for all kinds of creatives. It was an exciting time of discovery for me. I learned a lot about myself and how much I enjoyed inspiring others to use their God-given potential. I loved helping them in their decision-making process. And I loved watching them graduate having obtained their design degrees and finding their place in the world.

But when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the small college I worked at, like many businesses, suffered losses and layoffs incurred.

I didn’t know what to do? So I just did the next thing. I talked to people. I prayed. I journaled. I went online. I explored new opportunities. I applied for different kinds of work. I dreamed about starting my own business. And I considered various ministry positions. But nothing felt right. Doors seemed to close at every turn.

I felt lost. Directionless. Anxious. Unsure. And I was all over the map trying to figure out my next steps.

(I had to buy this lovely piece of art at my local TJ Max the other day because it perfectly depicts my life at times …where I’ve been and where I’m going).  

Does this describe how you’re feeling right now, friend? Or how you feel when you think about the many ways you could go in your next chapter?

It was during the time leaving the design college and my last child leaving home that I started writing about my state of lostness.

I wrote a lot! I processed my journey on paper. And guess what I discovered?

I discovered how much I loved writing.

I seem to lose track of time when I sit down with my computer. I forget to eat. I drink lots of coffee. I seem to forget about time altogether when I’m writing. I almost missed a flight one day because I was so wrapped up in a writing project.

And it then it dawned on me.  I needed to do what I God had wired me to do. Write.

I was in a casual conversation with a friend (who happened to be a flight attendant) and she asked me if ever considered becoming a flight attendant. She knew I felt called to write and reminded me of how I could use flying as a way to write while also reaping all the benefits of good pay, free travel to visit my out of town kids, and so many other perks.

And so, at the tender, still young age of 52, I went for it. I’m an empty nest, midlife, fly-writer of sorts. And here I am, now starting my 6th year of flying this month. I’m fortunate to be doing what I love…which is connecting with others through words and helping others realize their full potential in life.

I love telling you that story because I want you to find your empty-nest place in life too! Whatever that is.

Allow Jesus to give you the courage you need to take YOUR NEXT STEP.

So What’s your next step, midlife momma?

Start with your journal. Have a brain dump session with yourself or a good friend who knows you well. Make an exhaustive list of things you enjoy doing. What comes easily to you? What’s a skill that you’ve wanted to learn? Name it. Ask God to lead you and just start playing around with your ideas and do something each day to help you take the next step forward.

Record what you are learning in the process. Give yourself time. Let the winds of change carry you downstream to that place of new discoveries. Enjoy the ride! You never know what you’ll find….it may feel kind of other-worldly at first. But you’ll know it when you find it.

And when you do…please let me know where you land. Feel free to share your letting go stories here. I’d love to hear from you.

On next weeks Midlife Monday, I’ll talk about the other issues I mentioned on last weeks blog: but mainly this one: “trying to figure out who your “authentic self” is and knowing how to help her “rise to the surface.” 

Until then, Have a great week! Explore away and have fun doing it!

Betsy

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4 thoughts on “When Empty Nest Leaves You Wondering – Practice These 3 Things

  1. Ann Rose Kijinski says:

    Betsy,

    You are honest, thoughtful, funny and have a heart of service! I love all those things about you…so glad we are friends!

    Annie Roo

    Like

    • Elizabeth Duncan Stretar says:

      Dear Ann, you are also honest, funny and have a heart of service. And guess what? I love all those things about YOU and so glad we are friends too, Sista! 🙂 How’s that for originality? 🙂 But seriously though…Thank you for that Annie girl…my sweet midlife friend! Love you. bs

      Like

  2. Mary Lou Mills says:

    Dear Betsy,
    Your blog has become a highlight of my week. Your way with words captures my attention and sucks me into a vortex of inspiration. Seriously! You sometimes make me get tears in my eyes as I read. Today I actually cried while reading your analogy of Niagra Falls with empty nest life. Your words just “flowed”! (Pun intended) Did you take those pictures or were they from stock photos? They made an amazing connection to your writing. Thank you Betsy. Thank you for being obedient to the Holy Spirit because He is using your servant’s heart to bless my needy heart.💕
    Mary Lou (Gates) Mills

    Like

    • Elizabeth Duncan Stretar says:

      Mary Lou, your kind, generous words encourage my heart more than you know. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Yes, these are my photos from my recent trip. I’m so thankful to have you as one of my readers friend. We’re on the journey together :). God bless you Mary Lou. Betsy

      Like

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