Friday, August 17, 2007

The Road Ahead


Okay, no way will I concede to the Empty Nest Syndrome thing. My nest empties out this Sunday morning, when our only child flies the coop to go live in the dorms at his first choice university, which gave him a hefty Presidential Scholarship, and he can share a room with his best friend. I want to be so cheerful and wish him happy landings. I hope at least he's convinced.

You'd think I'd be thrilled for the kid. WPI is only nine miles away, but it might as well be on another planet, for all the emotional stuff I'm feeling as this week draws to a close. This is due punishment for all the times when I scoffed inwardly as I listened to older women moan about how empty their lives were when their kids moved on. I don't get away with a thing.

Yesterday was kind of a low point for me. As Andrew washed his new sheets and towels, and neatly folded them into a box with a meticulousness I've never noticed before, it hit me that not only does he not need me to do these things, but he does 'em a whole lot better than I do. He's going to do just fine.

Like I said, I ought to be thrilled, but instead, I was surprised to find myself in tears -- not the usual way of things for this pragmatic Jersey girl. Fortunately, the tears didn't last long, because suddenly I remembered something I'd read somewhere which said that grief is an old person's emotion -- not that there's anything wrong with old people -- but that grief is usually about regrets, and regret is really all about the past. Of all times, this is the time I should be excited about the future, so I guess it's kind of pointless to give in to this grief if I can avoid it. I think I can. I think I can. Gulp.

Not that I'm sure that I can avoid it all the time, of course, but when it does rise up again, I'm going to try to remind myself that I don't actually regret a thing about how Andrew turned out, and not for a million bucks would I deprive him of the opportunity he has earned for himself. I can honestly say without boasting -- because we take no credit for this -- he's a remarkably sweet-tempered, level-headed, brilliant frugal neat freak, and if I can't feel good about unleashing a kid like that onto an unsuspecting world, well, at least I can pretend to feel good, and then maybe I can even talk myself into it.

So I made myself a list of ten fun things to do next week. Sure, I have to work, but since I work at home and make my own schedule, I ought to be able to squeeze in some good times for myself. I've never been the kind of mom to claim a lot of "me time," as they say, because nothing seemed like it was more fun than hanging out with Andrew, a remarkably engaging little companion who started talking at five months old. We've been in more or less constant communication ever since. Through five moves, we've gotten to be a pretty close family, and the habit of backburnering my projects for one thing or another has become such a firmly ingrained habit that I hardly even start projects anymore, let alone finish any of them. But now that my favorite distraction-excuse is outta here, maybe I can re-program myself to a whole new set of habits which will support me for the next half of my life, or at least until Andrew returns to the nest at the end of first quarter in October.

The list:

1. Clean the whole entire house. It might not be fun to do it, but it sure feels good when it's done. To this end, I've issued invitations to a Sunday brunch in two weeks. I do ever so much better at this housecleaning thing when company's on the way.

2. Join the Painting A Day group online, and summon the courage to post my work.

3. Play with my new and as-yet practically unused embroidery machine. God, I love to sew. Ditto, my nifty electronic knitting machine. Ditto ditto, my stained glass grinder, and the tons of gorgeous glass I've been buying, but haven't had time to cut into yet.

4. Take a class at the Provincetown Art Association.

5. Ditto the local art museum.

6. No more skipping Pilates at the gym. Face the pain.

7. Sew a fantastic artsy coat for this winter, like a Blue Fish design kinda thing.

8. Take the extra time to shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's instead of just blasting through the regular grocery store because I'm short on time.

9. Make something wonderful for dinner every night. Nothing fancy, just something interesting.

10. Master Photoshop Elements, or at least figure out how to open a *&^#$ file.

Henri Matisse said, "If you want to be a painter, cut out your tongue." What he meant, of course, was that a sincere artist shouldn't waste a lot of time blabbing about her artistic ambitions. (And to think he said that a hundred years before blogs were invented.) Therefore, this aging art history major shall refrain from yakking about her big plans to spend hours in front of the easel until she's at least got something to blather about -- but suffice it to say somebody is running up a pretty substantial bill on eBay in the paint category. Stay tuned. This empty nester won't be picking twigs out of her feathers for long.

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