Empty Nesters wake-up from 20-year nap

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Shelley Urben
Beavercreek writer
Shelley’s Sagacious Slants

*** Bronze Prize Winner ($25) Inspiration writing contest. View winners all this week at Oregon Women’s Report.

Not too long ago my husband and I officially became empty nesters. Over the course of last summer numerous people told us how wonderful our lives would become once the day came – no kids at home, total freedom,… like living the high life. I don’t know, it’s only been a few months, but to me it feels like I just woke up from some kind of wonderful, scary, beautiful, magical, and sometimes frustrating dream.

Honestly, it feels like I took a nap twenty years ago and just opened my eyes and here my husband and I sit. During my nap I dreamt that we had two amazing daughters and we put our heart and souls into raising them and loving them and encouraging them. In the dream I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants a million times, I never could wipe the prideful smile off my face, there were a few instances where my heart felt like it might break into a trillion pieces and never get put back together, and I cried tears of joy and sometimes of anger and occasionally of sorrow.

Now I’m awake and the house feels empty. Those beautiful girls in my dream are no longer here. Or sure, they exist, but they are nearly grown women and now they are not only my daughters, but in some regard they are becoming my friends. I love that.

The funny thing about all of this is the fact that when I took my nap I was much younger. I had barely turned twenty-six. My blonde hair hit my shoulders; I just knew I could conquer the world, and when I think about it now I really looked pretty darn cute! My boobs were reasonably large and fairly pert and I got carded at nearly every bar we went into. And my husband? Gosh I remember him as this sexy young dude with brownish blonde hair, a great mustache, and practically zero fat.

These descriptions don’t match the two people I woke up to. When I awoke from my dream I looked down and realized everything on me had started to sag. And when I looked in the mirror I noticed wrinkles on my face and grey on my head that someone tried to hide with hair color. And the guy who shares my bed looks kind of like the pre-nap guy, but he also kind of looks like his dad. He doesn’t appear to be as saggy as me, but he has less hair, more grey, and he might be a smidge, or maybe two smidges, heavier than his twenty-six year old self.

Ah, but there are benefits. The pre-dream us lived in a much smaller home that we rented. This place is much nicer, far cleaner, and actually owned by us. While I was asleep we accumulated an awful lot of stuff, but most if it’s fairly decent so I think I’ll hang on to it. And somehow I feel more confident than I did before my nap. I’m not as worried about what others think about me, I’m more comfortable with who I am, and I more or less like me.

This is the start of a new phase of our lives, and in many ways it does feel as though we are just picking up where we left off twenty years ago. We might look a little rougher around the edges, but the battle scars we acquired during that dream provided us with a bit more wisdom, a lot more humility, and a deeper love and appreciation for each other.

If you’re a new empty nester, have been one for a while, or will be one someday – this piece is for you. Hang on to that dream, and when you wake up hold it close to your heart. And then move forward into that next phase … and enjoy.