Life from a Different Perspective

As my husband and I get ready to celebrate our silver anniversary, I am immediately brought back to one of the most amazing anniversaries we have ever had. An adventure second to none but, an adventure that immediately brought us back to reality.

At year 20, I wanted to do something special. Something unforgettable. I never loved to fly but he loved it. He had mentioned a number of times that he would love to take helicopter lessons. He talked about how he wanted to go up in a helicopter. I was never a great flier but i know it’s the best way to get where you need to go so I grin and bear it because, at the end of the day, I love to travel. Besides, a couple drinks never hurt to take the edge off either.

He was shocked as we lifted off, exploring the coast of Newport and the incredible mansions. We were soaring 500, 1000, 2000 feet above the beautiful Cliff Walk. It was amazing! We were in awe of the beauty all around us.

Here’s the switch of perspective. As we walked through the door after an incredible 48 hours, the news was reporting a bombing at the finish line of the Marathon. Our city was under attack, terrorism had struck again, and the joy, excitement, and amazement was washed away by horrible people with an unthinkable agenda.

This switch of perspective made me appreciate all I had even more. Two great kids, a strong marriage, and a love of country that still makes me tear up at the National Anthem.

Silent Lucidity

Our latest adventure took us about 300 miles west to a small venue that let us relive the late 80s/early 90s. A place that gave us the opportunity to be up close and personal with an old favorite – Queensryche.

Like most “Class of 80-something” teenagers, hairbands were a key to life. A staple in our daily music choices. Recently my husband and I began going to see these old favorites any time they come within driving, or sometimes, quick flight distance. We were lucky enough to see Queensryche open for the Scorpions a couple of years ago and it reminded both of us how much we had loved them. When we found out they were going to be in upstate New York, why wouldn’t we jump in the car and go? New York was as close as they were coming and we weren’t going to miss it.

As Silent Lucidity rang out – my all time favorite Queensryche song – I truly listened to the words and finally understood Silent Lucidity. An unspoken clarity.

Ripped right from the lyrics, “Visualize your dream. Record it in the present tense. Put it into a permanent form.” The life of an empty nester…the time in your life when the dream is being lived to the fullest. The time when you can clearly see where you are going and where you have been. There’s a sense of calm and peace – moments of lucidity that come more and more often.

Well worth the 600 mile road trip to acknowledge what we have come to understand – clarity for our future; a future beyond parenthood.

I’m Not From Around Here

Have you ever played I’m not from around here? My guess is you haven’t because I think I made it up. But now, it’s your turn to play!

Next time you’re up for an adventure or searching for something to do, pick any town or city close by, even your own, and pull out that phone that is probably already in your hand.

Search “best things to do in ________”.

Typically on the top of the search, Trip Advisor pops up. Of course, some of the things you already know will pop up if you are searching local but not all the time.

Search for whatever you’re into – show me the top five restaurants; show me the top ten historical sites; show me the best hiking trail. You get the picture…type in your want and presto – a new adventure, a new special spot, a hidden gem. We’ve been steered to some of the best places to hike or take a walk, to have lunch, or even just to explore.

Trust me, they’re all not gems but what do you have to lose? Life is about the adventure! Find it, run with it. You only go around once, make the most of this new found time. The life of the empty nester!

Do You Ever Sit Still?

When the kids are little you are either at home or en route. On the way to a friend’s house, a practice, an appointment, or a birthday party – nothing adult-related. As they are able to drive themselves, you stay home, not so patiently waiting, pacing the floors awaiting their safe return. Now that they’re grown, there’s no need to pace at home. You’ve done your job, you’ve done the best you could and now it’s time.

Time for what you ask? Time to explore, time to find and rediscover you. It’s not time to sit around the house and watch Pretty Woman or Sixteen Candles for the 100th time. How will you remember who you are by staring at those same four walls you’ve admired for 20 or so years?

So, to answer the question that I hear from my friends on a regular basis of “Do you ever sit still?”, the answer is, “No, I never sit still.” What’s the point of sitting around? I need to find me and she’s definitely not locked in this house.

The Real Journey Started in 1990

I loved him and I knew I was doing the right thing or at least that was what my naïve, twenty year old mind was telling me.  I made a rash decision to move eleven hundred miles away from home.  I withdrew from college with just three semesters left.  I quit a decent, full time job that could have been a career.  I deserted a loving family who were always caring and supportive.  I did all of these foolish things just two weeks before Christmas, Christmas the biggest family day of the year, with just a promise to come back and visit some time.  Was it the right thing?  Who knew, but I was sure as hell going to find out.

As my parents stood in the driveway wiping away tears, all I could think about was myself.  As I drove away, I ripped their hearts out, dragging them, slowly beating like the U-Haul I was towing.  Selfishly, I didn’t care who I hurt as I ran to him, it was all about me. Me, me, me and whatever I wanted to do.  Was I making a good decision?  Did I consider the feelings of my family who urged me not to go because I really didn’t know him?  No, I was a twenty year old college drop out who’s only future plans rode on the pipe dreams of a wanna-be whom I’d only been dating for three months.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, that couldn’t be any truer!  Had I known what I know now, would I have made a different decision?  Probably, but what happened in my life over the next two years was meant to be.  It was the most eye-opening time of my life.  Fate, destiny that is determined before you take your first breath, had carved out a scenic route for me.  On this part of my life’s journey, there were so many twists and turns that I thought I may have lost my way while spiraling out of control.  Today I am thankful that I landed face up in familiar territory.

My eleven hundred mile trek dropped me in South Carolina with him.  This part of my journey I like to refer to as “driving through the storm”.  This storm lowered my self-esteem and made me unsure of every move I made.  I worked two jobs to pay all of our bills and he claimed to have a job.  As far as I knew, with a job came a paycheck, this never happened.  His lack of a real job led to drinking and drinking to excess.  Drinking to excess led to hostility and anger.  Anger led to huge arguments and mean, nasty words.  Arguments led to him storming out of the apartment to the local bar.  And finally, more drinking led to cheating.  I won’t even dignify his presence in my life by writing or speaking his name but I do owe him one thing.  Thank you.  Thank you for opening my eyes to a world outside of Massachusetts.  Thank you for showing me what kind of relationship is never worth having.    But most importantly, thank you for leaving.  The mind games in which I had been the pawn finally stopped.

The next part of my journey is referred to as “the accident”.  He was a guy from the golf course, he was married, and he had kids.  I was drowning my low self esteem in Crown and water.  We hit it off right away.  He told me that he was married but he and his wife were treading on thin ice.  I wonder if she knew that but of course I believed him because I was a starry-eyed twenty-one year old.  He shared that he still lived at home but it was only because of the kids.  None of that seemed to matter to me.  I was on the rebound and needed someone to treat me like a girl was supposed to be treated.  What a twist in the road.  I was the one being cheated on last time around but this time I was the accomplice in the cheating.  What a terrible irony.  Unfortunately the only thing wrong with this relationship was that he was married.  Oh, did I mention he was seventeen years older than me?  Alright, so there were two things wrong with that picture.  Enough said.  The fun was short lived but well worth it.  I regained my self-esteem, grew a conscience and vowed to always be treated as I should in a good relationship.

I was having the time of my life, feeling good about myself, living on my own, working hard, attending classes at University of South Carolina and visiting my family whenever I could.  On a visit home during the spring of 1992, I caught back up with Mark.  Mark grew up a mile from me and I had known him since grade school.  He was “a friend of a friend” and when his eyes met mine while I was spending my last night in town out with a group of friends, I felt like he was the only one in the room.  His smile made me melt from the inside out.  The way he laughed with such innocence took my breath away.  Why did I have to run eleven hundred miles in the other direction only to find the love of my life living in my hometown?  Was it my destiny?  Was it for personal growth?  It was fate that took me on this scenic journey.  In the blink of eye my life had changed.  In less than one year from the day we re-connected, I married the man who had become my best friend.  This final part of my journey I like to call “reaching my destination”.

Living Your Dash

This time of year is perfect to reflect on where you’ve been, how you feel about the present, and what your future holds.

I must admit, I have been doing this a lot over the last 2 or 3 years – reflecting, evaluating, and re-aligning. When I’m deep in thought about my “what’s next”, I’m often reminded of the poem by Linda Ellis entitled The Dash.

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?

As we usher in the new year, make a point to be proud of your dash. If you’re not, it’s time to do something to change it.

Exercise…ewww!

Ok, we can’t just hang out with friends, go out to eat, go for drinks, and travel because our house is empty, we have to do something in our spare time to focus on our health. The point of this game of life is to live long and stay healthy enough to reap the benefits of this empty nest and enjoy grandchildren. No, no, not yet, but one day!

While the kids were growing up, I never had time to focus on a healthy, active me. Sure, I could steal away a few minutes here and there but never enough time to realize what I liked to do to stay active. So many people spent their free time in the gym but I knew that wasn’t for me. I had to do something. I got the fitness tracker, started tracking my steps and soon realized I lived a pretty sedentary life. There wasn’t a lot of steps between my office, the ladies room, and the kitchen.

Now I had the time. Nobody waiting on me to cook dinner, nobody needing me to get them on or off the bus, it was my turn. First it was a nice long walk then it was – I’ll trying jogging for a few minutes. Next thing I knew I was thinking about my first 5k.

All by myself. Didn’t tell a soul I was doing it (not even my husband). I showed up, signed up, and ran. Headphones in, lost in my thoughts, slowing and walking whenever I needed to.

I did it, I finished in 36 minutes. Not a world speed record but I actually finished – first step to last sprint…3.107 miles. Here I stand a couple of years later having completed 6 of them so far – I love it. It’s my time. Whether it’s a quick mile before work or a walk/run 5 miles around my town, I’ve got my headphones in, wind in my face and my head full of positive thoughts – I have found a big piece of me.

Value Every Moment

Getting everything ready for Christmas, I pulled down the box of ornaments ready to hang many of the same ones for the 24th or so time – the tiny painted handprints, the bead wreaths with a kindergarten picture tucked in the middle, the snowflakes cut by safety scissors with preschool hands.

Each and every one of these precious memories bring a tear to my eye. Partly a sad tear but also a proud tear. Sad because there aren’t any new handmade ornaments getting hung in the tree, those days have passed, but proud that almost 25 years later, my boys still love the traditions. They still make the time to help us trim the tree, now taking over the duty of stringing the lights. They look forward to seeing a candle in every window as they pull up to the house, and this year, we were fortunate enough to bring back an old tradition of heading north to choose and cut our own tree.

My heart is full – my empty nest was crowded for a fun-filled 24 hour journey to find the perfect tree. Lots of laughs, lots of connecting, and new adult memories that I will cherish just as much as those handmade ornaments.

Sorry Garth, I Disagree

I’m not “much too young to feel this damn old“, quite the contrary – I might be too old to feel this damn young!

In just four short days, I am taking a 24 hour road trip – 500 miles roundtrip to be exact – to see my favorite country music singer of all time – Garth Brooks.  Some may say “Are you crazy? Why go all that way?  He’ll come back here one day.”  To them I say “If something sounds like the right thing to do, you do it.”

I have dreamed of seeing Garth perform since belting out “Friends in Low Places” in a bar I wasn’t supposed to be in because I was underage.  I have thought about it every time I play his music.  It was never the right time…kids too little, no extra money for concert tickets, no one to go with me…the list goes on and on.  I will admit, I wasn’t much of a concert-goer in my early days but now, one of the many exciting things about empty nesting is that if something strikes you, you go for it.  There’s no one waiting for me to pick them up, no one waiting for me to tuck them in, no one needs my undivided attention except for me.  The weekends are mine, vacation days are mine, sick days are mine. It’s my time to do the things that I want to do.

In this journey of self-discovery, I have felt younger every day. I have re-discovered or discovered what I love and what makes me happy. Each and every experience in my journey has breathed a new life into me; a refreshing breath.

As lonely as an empty nest can be sometimes, there are so many things to fill your time…all you need to do is look, explore, and take a chance.  Be ready to just get up and go; what do you have to lose?

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