Friday, August 26, 2016

Empty Nest Syndrome - A beginner's guide

Let's review my to-do list for the past 5 months:

  • Oldest child gets engaged
  • Put favorite house up for sale
  • Find somewhere other than car to live
  • Youngest child graduates
  • Move
  • Plan wedding
  • Help youngest get ready for college
  • Have wedding
  • Send youngest to school
  • Be really tired
Now that I have checked off everything on my list I am faced with the fact that my little nest is empty. Well, not completely empty. It turns out that if your children's angelic faces plead to adopt new little kittens when they are 5 and 7 (or was it 6 and 8?) you will still have said kittens 13 years later when the children leave. So my nest is empty-ish. And, while I have worked full-time since my girls were small I have ALWAYS thought of myself, first and foremost, as mom. So losing the full-time parenting gig, while anticipated, is a bit shocking.

My first thought, as I'm sure would be yours, was now I can finally star in my own reality TV series, "The Crazy Cat-Lady Chronicles." I have asked an underutilized local band, "Iron Donut" to come up with my theme song. I'm hoping for something that's a mix of The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, and Tom Jones. I really feel like Tom deserves some kind of comeback. It will be amazing. (No pressure Iron Donut.) I'm currently lacking a few of the essentials for a reality TV show, such as scandalous friends and ridiculous amounts of time devoted to whining and inventing drama. I have asked a few friends to spice things up a bit, but so far they've let me down. (Cathy? Lisa? Come on ladies!) Also, it seems like some kind of vacation episode is popular, but can't imagine that a trip to Utah county would feel exotic on the screen.

So, while that's getting underway I decided to do a little research into coping with this whole empty-nest thing. (And let's all agree to not talk about dating.) Here are the recommendations:

1. Spend more time on your hobbies. This one has potential except I seem to be missing mine. Several months ago I asked Lisa, part of my single mom power duo, what her hobbies were with the hope that I could copy them. She just sat there staring at me, speechless. Three days later she came up with one. Three days. While it took her three days I'm still at a loss and it's been months. Zilch. Granted, I was taking care of that pesky list above, but you would think I would have had something come to mind. I have contemplated designing a line of leisure wear for cats, but find that in my heart of hearts I am a dog person and find no inspiration in the feline lifestyle. Don't worry, this won't impact my reality show...it will merely add to the drama. "Crazy cat lady is actually a dog person!" 

2. Reignite the flame with your partner. While the thought of a romantic dinner over tuna tartar with the cats is intriguing, I know it will inevitably end with one of them distracting me by shredding the furniture while the other pukes in my shoe. After all, this isn't my first night alone with the cats. Now I know someone is wanting to bring up dating, but if you remember I mentioned we weren't going to talk about that. (see above) If you think dating is a possibility for me you need to refresh your memory...so please read this Michelle dating= painful awkwardness

3. Volunteer. This one I have thought quite a lot about and plan to pursue because I am actually pretty good at caring for others, but apparently most places looking for volunteers need ones that don't work 50 hours a week. I would like to be needed from 6 - 9 pm, but not every night because I have my reality show to consider and also Netflix needs me to check in. Oh and nature. I like to be in it and at some point I should try and enjoy house cleaning. (The downside to children being gone is I have to admit I'm the one messing up the house.) Other than these issues volunteering has real promise.

4. Go back to school. I have also thought about this one. The only problem seems to be when I think about it my gut response is "No! I don't wanna!" While my two pointless bachelor's degrees are lovely, I find no excitement at the idea of getting a master's degree. I still think degrees should function like the game Monopoly. You can turn in two bachelor's and a hundred dollars and get a master's degree without having to actually do any more studying. (PARENTING MOMENT: Girls - school is great! You should keep going! You will get better jobs! Studying is fun! This is the best decision you've ever made!)

5. Seek therapy. I realize it's clear that I probably should be evaluated on a regular basis by the mental health profession I find that I'm not in a very "therapy" kind of mood. Maybe after a few tapings of "The Crazy Cat Lady Chronicles" I'll change my mind. It would make for a fabulous episode. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Yes, Miss K, You Can Adult

It's the day after Nicole's wedding. I finally put on pants - at 4:00 pm, which is a good indicator of my productivity level today. Something in my head is clearly trying to claw its way out, in spite of the vast quantities of ibuprofen I've given the creature as a peace offering. The only thing I seem capable of is sitting and not thinking about planning a wedding reception. I do, however, keep thinking about Miss K. In less than a week she heads off to college and her first "grown-up" apartment. She is not excited, but IS slightly overwhelmed and worried about how she'll do academically, emotionally, and financially. A guide to adulting seemed to be in order and since no one else is here I'll have to be the one to attempt it. It will be similar to the Berenstein's Bears approach at life. You know how the Dad always did things the least effective way and in so doing ended up with very smart bear cubs? - But without all the rhyming...because, hello, I didn't even get my pants on until 4:00 pm...I have no energy for rhyming.

Kristen's Guide to Adulting 

1. Put on your pants before 4 pm. (Just kidding...well, not kidding because you really should get dressed before 4:00pm)

Okay...

1. Get to know the thermostat. When you are cold or hot you really only need to adjust it one to two degrees. That's it. I promise. Turning it to 80 when you are cold does not make the furnace work faster. It doesn't make the furnace think, "I've really got to be quick warming up the house...she's turned it to 80, people!" It will just put you in a sleepy zoned-out, completely useless state, when really you just wanted just wanted to feel comfortable, plus having a talking furnace would be a little creepy. The same goes for when you're hot. Turning it down to 60 will only give you a really expensive bill and an angry landlord because you will break the air conditioner. This is also true with how you're feeling. When you get overwhelmed, anxious, depressed - stop. Breathe in. Breathe out. Pause. Say a prayer and reach out to someone who loves you (pick me! pick me!) to vent to AND listen to so you can get re-centered and move forward. Going to extremes while experiencing intense emotions will only lead to different and more complicated problems. Most often just a minor adjustment in action or thought is needed to feel at peace.

2. Don't mistake salt for sugar. He may look like something sweet and be anything but. Spend time with people based on how you feel when you're with them. Do they bring out the absolute wonderful that you are, or do they make you doubt yourself and your instincts? Learn whether those are butterflies you're feeling or if it's bad sushi. The best guys will be the ones that you feel comfortable with from the start. This applies to girls, as well. 

3. Clean up the kitchen after you've used it. There's no great allegory here, it's just courteous and a really nice thing for you and all of your roommates. Plus cleaning out that tupperware you left sitting in a bag in the kitchen for several days was really nasty and should not be repeated. The cats even left the room and they clean themselves with their tongues...that should tell you something. Plus, when things are clean it's just easier to think and feel at peace. This applies to bedrooms and bathrooms, as well.

4. Hug the cashier at 7-11. Let me explain...It wasn't just because she had the Coke Zero, although that is a very endearing quality. Wednesday, when I went to re-caffeinate at 7-11 and was paying for my drink, I asked the cashier how her day was going and she started to tear up. I had this strong urge to give her a hug, but leaping over the counter would probably have frightened her, plus I was wearing a dress. No one needs to see that. So I tried to say a few things, but it felt inadequate. Some of my biggest regrets have come from not following through on a kind thought. I have tried, especially over the past 5 - 10 years, to never suppress a kind word when I have one. Expensive gifts are not often an option but kindness always is. I promise this is the absolute best tip for being an adult I can give you. It will change those around you for the better and it will keep your heart open to other people. It is the instant cure for self-pity and despair. Being able to share love and kindness is something you are already skilled at - don't ever stop practicing that talent. 

5. Eat your veggies first. When you were little and I served you some less than favorable vegetable  you would look at me like I had just placed a serving of cockroaches on your plate. Instead of attempting to smash them with your shoe, however, you would polish them off first and eat the "good stuff" after. This thinly veiled and annoying allegory is just what you think it is. Study first, then play. It will be hard to stick to this, but it will give you the academic confidence you want. You may even find that some classes are fun to study for. Talk to your professors. Get to know them so they can get to know you. As you make that personal connection it will help you feel more committed to the workload in the class. At times you'll be tempted to feel frustrated at having to go to class, study AND work - but just remember that you will end college with a degree AND work experience that will make you more attractive to future employers.

6. Feel the fear. Now pack it up in a little box and repeatedly run over the box with your car. Repeat if there are multiple boxes. Too often I make decisions in my life based on insecurity and fear. I cloud my thinking with what-ifs and lose sight of my passions to the point of not knowing if I even have any passions at all. You have gifts and talents in a combination that no one else has. Pursue your interests and trust that Heavenly Father is guiding you in the process. You have never been one that is drawn to the typical or expected - don't change that now. I trust you completely in choosing the path right for you. Don't feel pressure from that trust - instead use the strength that it comes with. And if you have to try out a few paths - DO IT! It will only enhance your journey when you settle on "the one."

Adulting has it's bad days and good days - but, believe it or not there are more good than bad. After all today my only goal was putting on pants. Check! Good day! I love you 70 x 7 and more!