I don’t know about you, but I can remember when I was broaching my teen years I would spend hours writing angry poetry in my bedroom. I was technically way too young to be writing about jaded love. But, I did. Although, my own experiences may have been limited I certainly had enough examples around me from which to deduce love’s disappointments. Then, there was the subject of war and its pain, inequities, and sometimes senselessness. I wrote about that, too. Every now and then I’d actually write something light and hopeful. It must have been due to the various candle scents that provided the benefits of aromatherapy. I’m quite certain it wasn’t Jimmie Hendrix or John Lennon providing me my fleeting optimism.
My bedroom was always my emotional ‘haven of rest’. I locked myself behind those four walls much like Anne Frank hid from the Nazis. It was that place where I could exercise my cynicism, my anger, my hopefulness, and my dreaming. My walls were plastered with McCartney, McCartney, and….ugh…did I mention McCartney? If any of you do not know who McCartney is you shouldn’t be reading this.
I also took time in my haven to brush my waist-length hair 100 strokes per night. I painted nails and toenails and blew cigarette smoke out my bedroom windows. Like as if my parents didn’t know. I spent a lot of time trying to figure them out, too. I had time to sing along to every rock band, holding a hairbrush as my microphone as thousands of people (in my head, of course) applauded furiously at my vocal abilities.
I had time!
Then, I grew up. Sort of. But, in my desperate attempt as a female Peter Pan, I got married, had children, paid mortgages, packed lunches, ironed pretty, little dresses, buffed little, patent leather shoes, learned how to French-braid hair, learned how to English-braid hair (there actually IS a difference), attended school programs, wrote love notes on the hearts of my daughters, got divorced, signed homework, helped memorize vocabulary words, helped to collect and label leaves for a school project, helped to construct an Indian village for a school project, helped to draw and identify parts of the human lung for a school project, stayed awake nights when they suffered from high fevers and missed work the next day so I could nurse them back to health, stayed awake nights when I didn’t know where the heck they were and still went to work the next day so we could all eat, planned and paid for birthday presents, graduations, bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, and Christmas presents in between it all.
I had no time for me. And, I knew it.
So, when I found myself alone for the first time in almost 25 years I was desperate to find the “Peter Pan” in me again. Now, I would like to address something now that some of you may be thinking so we can clear the air right up front. You may be thinking that I am a very selfish person because only selfish people crave “alone time”. Maybe you’re thinking that I never should have had gotten married or had children if I desired so desperately to evolve as a person and that through the mothering years found it difficult at times to keep “me” richly alive and whole. Maybe some of you are even bold enough to think that I didn’t truly have the capacity to love my children the way a mother is supposed to love them.
Maybe I’m thinking that those of you who actually ‘think’ these things are not brave enough to be honest with others and, more importantly, with yourselves. Every parent who has ever truly done his or her job as a mom or dad has certainly felt lost in the process. It’s only natural. Parenting is tough. It’s a full-time job, often interwoven with a full-time job. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s 24/7 for at least 25 years per child. It is also the most treasured blessing God could give us. Parenting in and of itself is a mirror that forces us to look at ourselves without the blinders for the first time in our lives. And --- if we refuse to take that hard look at ourselves --- I can promise you that our children will bring our sorry selves to our attention! And, we don’t even have to ask them for their help. They volunteer it --- and, usually, with an attitude!
Praise God for our children! We would never have become who we are without them in our lives.
But, what you thought was going to last forever is now gone. The kids are gone. They’ve moved out. Now, they have children of their own. Miraculously, they are figuring out why the heck you were so tired and worried all those years. Now, they’ve suddenly figured out that hats are an important wardrobe piece during the months of December through February. All of a sudden, your children want to take a nap. But, now they can’t.
But, YOU can! So, let’s talk.
There is absolutely NOTHING wrong when parents struggle between being a good parent and coveting time alone to continue self-development. We are supposed to be role models for our kids; not just circus clowns, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and an ATM machine. How will they ever evolve themselves if we don’t show them what ‘evolving’ looks like. We need to pick up the baton we left behind 25 years ago and re-create ourselves over and over again so we can show our kids what we learned through it all. We need to show our grandchildren that life’s vibrancy doesn’t stop just because the ‘kids are gone’. Life’s vibrancy continues as we embrace those grandchildren --- and, if God gives us the time on earth --- those great-grandchildren!
But, just in case you’re feeling as if all of your life’s purpose has moved out and moved on --- let’s think about how you can keep it going --- and, actually, end up having MORE to offer those precious souls that are no longer in your day-to-day care.
Tip #1: Revisit the hobby you gave up due to time constraints as a parent
Maybe you used to sing in a band or go to concerts or plays. Maybe you used to be a member of an acting troupe or dabble in local theatre performances. You may be one of those gifted people who work in stained glass or who can paint or draw. I don’t particularly care if you paint by numbers. Just paint (!) for crying out loud --- if that’s what you enjoyed doing before the kids came along. Do you have a green thumb? Then, plant a garden. Are you crafty? Then, make your Christmas presents throughout the year. If you’re good with wood…apply the principle in the previous sentence. If you always enjoyed writing --- whether it be poetry or prose --- pick up a pen or launch a WORD doc and get it going again. Who knows? You might become the next New York Times best author!
Tip #2: Get in shape
Maybe you used to go to the gym or play tennis or golf. Were you an avid walker or hiker? Did you enjoy yoga or dancing? There may have been a time when you were able to blame the kids or a spouse for your lack of discipline and/or free time. But, you have plenty of time now. (You’ll have to muster up the discipline…more on that later.)
Check out special discounted memberships at your local barrage of gyms. Some gyms run specials throughout the year; but, most run specials right after the Holidays and right before summer. You don’t have to become the next Mr. or Ms. Universe. Just get healthier. Get more toned. If the machines aren’t your bag, enroll in one of the aerobics or yoga classes. “Zumba” is a relatively new Latino dance workout that can be learned on many levels of expertise from beginners to advanced levels. It’s a fantastic workout and loads of fun…especially for the lovers of Latin music!
Check out your local dance studios and sign up for a dance class two nights per week. There are all kinds of dance lessons out there --- just in case ballroom dancing isn’t your speed. You can learn the Salsa, the Meringue, Country Line Dancing, East Coast Shuffle, and West Coast Shuffle. The list goes on. You don’t always need a partner, as some group lessons accommodate individual students without partners. There is always the opportunity to pay a little more money and train with the dance instructor one-on-one. That’s always fun!
In most towns the YMCA provides a plethora of fitness options from exercise equipment, aerobics, Tai Chi, and Yoga classes to basketball courts, indoor tracks, and indoor swimming pools and saunas. There is a product out there --- the “Swimman Waterproof IPod Shuffle”. You can now do laps to music and one of my social networking friends --- an avid swimmer --- swears by it!
Never underestimate the joy of your own home as a ‘work-out center’! As long as you have a floor and you GET OFF THE COUCH you can work-out to various walking DVDs and other aerobic and toning DVDs. Immediately, you’ll have a group of like-minded, fitness partners right there on your television! You can go at your own pace and change routines if you invest a little money so as to provide yourself some variation. Also, for an investment of approximately $100, you can purchase a stationary bike or mini trampoline second-hand from a classified ad, plop it right in front of your TV and pedal or jog the pounds off while watching your favorite television show. I, personally, find pedaling or jogging to music much for fun. Especially, if the music is fast-paced with a good, steady beat that makes you want to move. Of course, dancing for 25 to 45 minutes to your favorite CD is also a great way to shed the pounds.
All of the suggestions here can prove to be highly effective if you commit to doing them for 25 to 45 minutes three to four times per week. Get creative! Pick an activity you LOVE TO DO and just DO IT!
Tip #3: Begin Journaling
OK. This is different than actually embarking upon writing a book. However, it wouldn’t be the first time one’s ‘journal’ became a best seller. It’s happened before. It can happen again. But, the purpose of journaling is not so much ‘publishing’ it as it is an exercise in introspection and expression. It’s a great stress reliever, too, and can often provide on a conscious level those answers we hold on a subconscious level.
Take a few moments each day to record that day’s experiences. Start with those things in your life for which you are most grateful. Focus on your blessings; not your minuses. However, write what you are truly feeling and don’t judge what you write as either “right” or “wrong”; “good” or “bad”. Just write. Don’t even worry about sentence fragments and/or punctuation. This isn’t English class. It’s journaling. If you get all stressed out about how it ‘sounds’ you will defeat the purpose.
Tip #4: Become a student of Better Money Management
Unless you’re already a wiz at finances (I’m no psychic, but I’d venture to say most of us aren’t), check your local community for workshops and seminars that teach the tricks of money management and investing. These can be special events that come to your town much like the visiting circus, or there may be ongoing workshops held by community colleges or your local Chamber of Commerce. Either way, you can learn a great deal at these types of events and you can feel safe in doing so because if everyone else in the room had a handle on this topic they wouldn’t be at the seminar. But, the others are on their way to building wealth and you may as well hang out with those people anyway. We’re talking “evolving” here, right? Your finances are no exception. This activity will create many opportunities on a daily basis to look at your life and, possibly, a recreation of Y.O.U.
Tip #5: Read
Whoaaa! Now, I know I’ve scared the skin off of some of you. But, R.E.A.D. is an OK, four-letter word! It will NOT be a bad influence on your children and grandchildren when they come to visit you if you have to put your book down on the coffee table to open the door. It’s OK if when the phone rings and the other person asked, “Hi, what were you doing?” you said, “I was reading.” Last I checked this isn’t against the law.
Now, if you want to grow and change into an even more awesome person than you already are, you may want to consider reading biographies of successful people or self-improvement books which teach you skills for living better and with more purpose. Wouldn’t it be really cool if you could be an example to your children and grandchildren as to how to do this?!
Tip #6: Turn Off the TV
Listen. It’s my personal opinion that TV really doesn’t ‘keep us company’. It keeps us stagnant. An occasional show with half decent content can be fun, can provide laughter, and --- if we get REALLY lucky --- may even offer great music or drama. But, I know way too many people who watch fictional characters every week as these characters attempt to unscrew-up their screwed up lives. Instead of watching someone else ‘have a life’ --- create a life for yourself! Go to Borders and have a cup of something and browse for a good book. Chances are that if you meet someone interesting in the section you’re in ---- you’ll have a lot in common. Strike up a conversation. Be approachable. Not for romantic reasons…for “people” reasons. You have plenty of time for cultivating friendships. Remember, 20 years ago you would have sold a lung for the opportunity to get out of the house alone and hang in Borders. HANG, for heaven’s sake!
Tip #7: Learn a new skill
So, which word above is confusing you…“learn”, “new”, or “skill”? Do you have any idea how many fabulous opportunities there are in the world to learn? Many colleges, universities, and community colleges offer courses as “audits”. You don’t even have to pay for the course because there are no credits earned ---- just information and new knowledge. These courses are offered in a variety of disciplines from religious studies to science to photography to vegan culinary skills to creative writing to windsurfing. Again, everyone loves something. And --- the really cool part about this whole idea is that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It’s all about YOU! You can learn how to play a better game at whatever game it is you’re playing. But, you need to be PLAYING!! If it’s been SO long since you’ve thought about what it is that truly fires you up, take a moment and think back to when you were running around like a chicken with your head cut off. You were running to T-Ball games, dance recitals, pediatrician appointments, pharmacies, parent/teacher conferences, choir practices, girl scouts, and boy scouts. You were driving kids to the movies and picking them up because somehow YOUR children had you convinced that YOU were the only parent with the time and a car. (Can you believe that we believed them?)
So, what was it that you were dreaming about in those private moments in your heart when you said to yourself, “Boy, if I only had more time I’d love to ______________!” Can you fill in the blank? THAT is what you need to go learn more about. Or, you can learn how to send video messages and audio messages within an email to your friends instead of typing a message. You can learn how to organize all of your bills online with the various software programs that are out on the market. You can learn how to make your own greeting cards. And, if you already know how to do something that other people want to learn about --- write your OWN eBook!
Tip #8: Invite friends for dinner
Yes, friends. I know you have some. They’re the people to whom I was referring in Tip #5 who call you on the phone and interrupt your reading. They actually enjoy eating and would love a free meal at your place. But, if you’re not inclined to cooking or you feel as if you’d be a threat to your friends’ health by doing so --- invite them out for dinner and meet them at your favorite place. Chances are they have been stuck in a rut, too, and would really enjoy getting out of the house. (I can almost see those red-checkered tablecloths already.)
Tip #9: Create a Vision Board of something you desire
I have no idea what it is exactly that you would like to have in your life that isn’t currently in your life. Only you would know that. But, I would challenge you to remember that everything that you do have in your life began as an idea, a dream, or a vision. If you own a home, you probably had an idea at one point in your life that you wanted to own a home. Then, over time, you went through the various stages that precede purchasing the home. You didn’t just wake up one day and find a home, show up at a bank, get the money and sales agreement, and march into the presence of the seller with your offer. If it happened like that for you, then I strongly recommend you write the eBook on “How to Buy a Home in One Day” (Tip #7). But, like most people, finding your home was first a desire or dream and then you envisioned what type of home you would like to own. At some point --- after many challenges and strategic planning --- you became a homeowner. This is the same way we acquire anything else in life that we would like to have, do, or accomplish.
A Vision Board is nothing more than a visual format of a dream or desire. If it’s a tropical vacation you want, put together a poster board filled with pictures of that dream vacation destination. You can do it as a collage or just paste your pictures in a linear fashion onto the poster board. You may want a car or a boat. Or, you may have a goal in mind that is less tangible in nature, such as losing weight and gaining muscle mass or becoming a better skier, fisherman or golfer. You may desire a vocation change. What would these goals look like for you? Maybe you actually want to relocate to a warmer climate. Create a Vision Board with pictures of the exact city in which you want to relocate. Include pictures of homes, golf courses, restaurants, downtown shops, the surrounding mountains or ocean fronts, aerial views of the landscape of your favorite “home town”. The Vision Board is about what YOU want to achieve or receive, so there is no right or wrong way of doing it. There are also electronic versions of vision boards with slide show presentations that can be placed on your desk for frequent viewing. If you choose to utilize the poster board version, be sure to place it where you will have very frequent exposure to it on a daily basis. If you spend a lot of time on your computer, place it on your desk firmly fixed to the wall directly in front of your eyes. You will have no other choice than to look at it frequently throughout your day. It will be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. Believe me. You will move closer to your goal --- whatever goal you select --- just by implementing this simple idea.
By the way, creating your Vision Board doesn’t have to be completed in one shot. It can be created over time. It can unfold as your desire or goal unfolds. The desire or goal will create the Vision Board and the Vision Board will help to create the desire or goal. You will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome!
Tip #10: Decide what you want to DO for the rest of your life
“Decision” is a BIG word! Without decision, nothing else happens. We each spend approximately eight to ten waking hours each day doing some type of work. Even for those of you who may be retired or semi-retired, there is something that gets your attention for the hours in which you are not sleeping.
If you’re still working, are you really doing the type of work you love to do. Or, is it just a means to an end? Is your work nothing more than the paycheck at the end of the week? I realize that not everyone can just leave his or her “job” and do their life’s passion. But, for those of you who have the flexibility to do so, please take the time you are now allotted and figure it out for yourselves. Obviously, only you can decide if you can afford to this. Maybe you can’t afford not to. Either way, make a decision as to how you truly want to spend each day. For those of you who must continue to work at a full-time job, maybe there is something that you would enjoy doing part-time for extra income OR, possibly, on a volunteer basis. Did you always have a passion for nursing? Do you enjoy working with geriatric patients? Do you enjoy the laughter and energy of little children? Do you love libraries, art galleries, or museums? Every community has many Para-professional and volunteer opportunities in each one of these areas. Often, hiring managers welcome the more seasoned worker when looking for extra help because they know and trust the work ethic and experience you bring to the table.
Now, I’m having the feeling that many of you would love to start your own business --- maybe even on a part-time basis until it is up and running. What is that one vocation you have always wanted to do? Please don’t say “it’s too late” or “at my age?” For one thing, it’s never too late. Also, if you’re 60 years old now and you don’t pursue your passion over the next five years, I’m thinking you’re still going to be 65 years old after the next five years have come to fruition. So, you may as well go for it!
So, to which “empty nest” are you referring? ‘Cause if you’re in it, it’s not empty.
©2009 Debra L. Costanzo, 3 in 1 Fitness by D.L. Costanzo, LLC All Rights Reserved
Debra Costanzo is Founder and CEO of 3 IN 1 FITNESS BY D.L. COSTANZO, LLC, a health and wellness coaching practice focusing on creating balance in mind, body, and spirit for the busy professional.
Do you know how corporate executives are over-tired, over-stressed, over-worked and, occasionally, overweight due to the demands and long hours at the office? Well, Debra helps corporate executives increase their daily activity doing something they love while they decrease their stress and their waistlines. While our business leaders are trying to make a million bucks, Debra is helping them look and feel like a million bucks --- and have the energy to prove it!