Michaeline: April, Empty Nests, and Cats Amongst Pigeons

Three birds, empty nest

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I was tempted to post a cat picture today and call it good – maybe even do it for the whole month. See, the thing is, I am now officially an empty nester.

I spent a lot of the last six weeks getting my youngest to entrance exams and then helping her settle into her apartment just outside of Tokyo. I’m exhausted. Tokyo is a city for walkers. And for stairclimbers. And for uphill shufflers. It’s a regular Olympics for the pedestrian, and I participated in the triathlon (at least until I did a bit of orienteering, and learned to find the hidden elevators in the city).

I didn’t write. I barely even thought about writing, and for the last week, I didn’t even study kanji characters. (Commitment: 10 minutes a day. Reward: Much satisfaction.) And I played the ukulele once . . . in a crappy little music store in an outlet mall, about five kilometers (or miles, if it makes you feel more comfortable) away. I pretended I was going to buy an instrument, even though I have no room for another uke, just jonesing for a little strumming fix. Stealing sound and rhythm. They needed to change their strings, so I didn’t steal much.

By last Tuesday, though, things had settled down. The entrance ceremony was held on Monday, and so I was left in the apartment to my own lazy devices. We’d built IKEA Kallax monuments to books and makeup, and a clever shelf/hanging rack for over the washing machine. We’d hauled at least 10 tons (if you want metric, you can consider it 15 tonnes, if you like – I’m too tired to Google it, but it’s rhetorical metric, which doesn’t have an accurate counterpart in the real world, anyway) through the train and subway systems, and up to the third floor (no elevator, no magical portals, nor any sprouting wings).

Tuesday, I cracked open a book about self-publishing that I’ll talk about this month, and started making some plans to feather my empty nest with activity. I started thinking about two of my abandoned books, and idly toyed with how I could re-start them as projects. I thought about blogs and blogging. I thought about how much I loved short stories, and how I need to start sending them to magazines and let other people see them. And I began to dream about schedules – I have a dayjob from eight to four every day, but if I organize myself, surely I can find two hours each weekday for writing. Surely more on the weekends.

But for now, I’m awash in emotions. It’s really, really nice to have two daughters launched and on their own. (Oh, Mrs. Bennet, I can feel your foolish joy.) The reduction in laundry alone is a satisfying side-benefit. But on the other hand, it’s worrisome. Are they happy? Are they fine? There’s really very little I can do to contribute to their happiness at this point. Last month, it was enough to feed her some chicken, or drive her to the really far clothing store. This month, it’s out of my hands, and if things follow their natural course, it’ll never really be in my hands ever again.

It’s overwhelming to lose that role; maybe I can channel my over-abundance of helpfulness into other causes. Or maybe I can post cat pictures for the month of April, and get back into the swing of things in May. We’ll see.

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: April, Empty Nests, and Cats Amongst Pigeons

  1. Weirdly enough, I’m in a similar position. Although my only child has been gone for decades (and has a family and owns her own business and has grown into an amazing and formidable woman) I recently lost the rescue dog I adopted back in November. (I talked about it on my Tuesday post a couple of weeks ago.)

    But now the house is strangely clean, even before I clean, and it feels empty during the day when my husband is at work. I grew up in a family with seven kids, and I’ve never quite gotten the hang of being in an empty house.

    You’re right that your kids have moved on to their futures, which means you did what you were supposed to do as a mom, so go you!

    • Oh, how I longed for an empty house! Actually, that’s not the problem for me. I love being in an empty house, getting things done at my pace. My problem is that niggling feeling that I’m supposed to be somewhere else, doing something different.

      I can imagine your feelings, though, with an empty house and people-shaped and dog-shaped holes.

      You really did your best with Kai.

      I will say, getting to the place where I go to the clean the house and find that it’s already clean is total GOALZ, as the kids say. I’ve been making some headway this weekend in the main bathroom (it’s wheelchair accessible, so there’s lots of space. But since nobody is in a wheelchair in my house right now, the space has been filled with other things. Not good. But getting better).

  2. Oh, Michaeline, I’m sorry for your loss! On the other hand, as you and Jeanne both say, you’ve done your part to launch your kids with the best tools you could provide, and now it’s up to them. I hope that when you’re a little more adjusted, you’ll find the time to submit some stories and write some new ones, as well as play your ukulele and otherwise move forward to your next phase, too. My best wishes!

    • I think I’m just so overwhelmed with the clean-up process. I’ve seen how nice my daughter’s apartment is with the fresh new-place energy. It drove me nuts that she left half-unpacked bags around, but of course, I didn’t say anything, because half-unpacked bags is my MO at home.

      After I left, she picked things up and sent a few pictures, and it’s so nice! And my home? 24 years of child-rearing debris, plus all the stuff from her high school lodgings and my eldest’s high school lodgings (my eldest has tackled her stuff every time she’s come back, so that’s not terrible). How do I clean, and study, and play uke, AND write??

      That said, I got some stuff done over the weekend — more than usual. I succumbed to YouTube on Sunday afternoon, but only after I had made some progress Saturday and Sunday morning.

      I think studying Japanese falls under the auspices of my dayjob, and to some extent, so does the uke. I play English songs to my EFL classes. Maybe I can shift my schedule around a little bit so I can get everything done.

      I really do feel that having a dedicated time for doing stuff is a key to forming a habit. And, having an empty nest means I lose some excuses for not doing stuff; I’m going to have at least six to eight more hours of free time over the weekend. I just have to figure out how I’m going to manage it.

      (-: I hate change. And I miss my “tribe”. But, I’ll get used to it all, and it’ll all be the new normal until the next change comes around.

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