Empty nest and what it taught me

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I am going to share a little bit about myself in the hopes that this might help someone going through the same or similar experience.   I raised my daughter on my own from 5 weeks of age when DB (deadbeat) dad went to “find himself”, until I met my now husband when she was about 9.  She is now going on 24.  Raising a child whether it is on your own or with two parents is, as those with kids know, a journey fraught with minefields, deep dark holes, flying by the seat of your pants as well as at the other end of the spectrum super proud moments, unconditional love and the highest of highs; I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity and I never take it for granted. 

During that time, all my focus was on working a 9 to 5 “job” to meet the bills, getting my daughter through Grade 12 and then onto college and just the “doing” of everyday life.  Then one day at the age of 19 she got offered a wonderful opportunity to go and work in Sydney at something she was really passionate about; there was no way I wanted her to miss out on this as I had always urged her to follow her dreams.  Everything happened quickly and it was all very exciting for her.  I however had never really thought about life without Miss A, especially her moving to another state.  This is when my wheels fell off - literally.  I had been living my life without any thought to the future.  This experience brought up so many emotions, fear, confusion and questions.  What was my life without my daughter being there in it every day?

I had been so focused on being “mum” and “partner” I didn’t know how to be just “me”.  I hadn’t thought of a life with just my husband and I.  I had been so busy living moment to moment that I had no idea who I was anymore - literally.  It was like I had totally lost my identity, through no fault of anyone but myself, and it was one of the most scariest periods of my life.  I didn’t know what made me happy anymore.  I didn’t know what to do with my life.  I didn’t know what my “purpose” was.  I didn’t really know very much about myself at all and it was nearly like an out of body experience.  I felt flat, stuck, scared and very confused.   Sometime after that I suffered a severe episode of anxiety and depression – it was really quite a frightening time in my life, I just felt numb. 

That is when I started my journey of seeking outside help, trying to find “something” to hold onto and anchor myself to; meditating, reading, listening to others’ wisdom.   Gradually I began to start designing a life for myself that could get me excited about the future again.  It wasn’t something that happened overnight by any stretch of the imagination, but bit by bit, layer by layer the old “me” started to reappear and make choices and decisions about her own life and get “unstuck”. 

It just seems to be an innate characteristic of us as women that we want to care and nurture but somewhere along the line things can go way too far off the spectrum, to the point of forgetting who we used to be before we took on the role of parent and/or partner.  There needs to be balance, it is imperative and it is our responsibility, no-one else’s.  This is where we need to invest time on ourselves, to the things that bring us joy and peace.   At first it can feel very uncomfortable and even selfish to do this, but actually it is selfish not to!  It is a gift to those around us, to be a happy, healthy you and especially modelling healthy behaviours for those of us who have daughters when their time may come to be a mother.    

So I would like to reintroduce myself to myself – I kind of like this new version of her too, she is much more fun even if she is a little bit dotty!

 

How your Thinking can Negatively Affect Your Body Image Long Term

You would think my knees and AC-DC would have nothing in common but you would be wrong!

I live on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia where it gets hot – the kind of humid heat where your clothes stick to you, your hair sticks to you, the seats stick to you and the summers seem to get longer every year.  The best way to cope with this is to hang out in air-conditioned places, drink copious amounts of fluids and wear as little as possible.  Couple this with menopausal hot flushes and the feeling can be akin at times to that of self-combustion. 

Therefore you would assume that my summer wardrobe of choice would be shorts and tops – but alas, you would be wrong.  This is all because of what my “brilliant mind” tricked me into believing was true.  Back in my early teens, my “best friend” at the time innocently (although perhaps with a little bit of malice) mentioned that my knees bore a striking resemblance to those of Angus Young, the guitarist from AC-DC.  Whilst being compared to someone famous might be a compliment to some people, to a 12 year old girl who was already self-conscious and shy, having her knees compared to a weird looking fully grown guy wearing a school boy’s uniform was not the highest form of flattery.  Thus began my journey on the path of hating and hiding my knees at all costs, with long skirts or dresses and pants the order of the day, despite the discomfort.

I have been dwelling on this a lot lately and realised that it is time to let this go.  Here I am supporting other women in loving themselves fully, every single part of them.  Not seeing themselves through other eyes but their own.  Not comparing themselves to ridiculous, unattainable images portrayed in social media but fully embracing all the parts of themselves, even the not so perfect ones.  The irony of this finally (hallelujah) struck home – enough already about my knees! How lucky am I to have two legs when others would give anything to have what I have?  Do people really scan through the crowd looking for knees like mine to point and snigger at – no!   How insane of me to even think that my knees were such a big deal to the general population.

Therefore, this summer I am claiming back my freedom.  I am giving that little 12 year old girl the best present I can of self-acceptance, self-love and believing she is good enough, just the way she is.  I have gone and bought my first pair of shorts in many, many years and man, I am going to rock them!  Who is with me?