I’ve got a bad case of ENS.
Yep, it’s a thing.
And it hit me hard at 6:50 Saturday morning.
If you know me, you know that I’m a night owl and usually not even awake until at least eight o’clock. But this past Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn toasting a bagel and spreading it with cream cheese. Then I made a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and avocado, peeled a few carrots, and filled a ziplock bag with crackers and cheese. I carefully placed all the items in a small cooler, adding a few cookies and an apple before zipping it up to give to my son, who was packing the last of his things into suitcases and boxes.
I thought I was prepared for this, having gone through it twice before with my daughters, but this time everything felt different. This was my baby, the last one to leave home.
ENS: Empty Nest Syndrome.
I became a mother with my first child at 21 years old. And now at the age of 60, I was about to become a mother who didn’t have children in her home. My entire adult life has been accompanied with at least one child in tow. I’ve always been a “package deal.”
Who am I now? I mean, really, who am I without a child to take care of?
The truth is, I’m not sure I know how to do this.
What do I do with this space?
All. This. Space.
ENS hit me hard just seconds after I handed my son the cooler I had prepared. I gave him a big hug and told him, as I often do, I love you.
My husband helped him load all his belongings into the car like until it looked like a game of Jenga. He’s good at that. And then I watched through the window as they embraced.
My son got into his car, waved goodbye, and drove off. Off to his new apartment 600 miles away to begin his first full-time career job. No more coming home for college vacations or summers. This really was a one-way door to the other side of his adult life.
The good news is that apparently ENS is not contagious. My husband is completely unscathed. No symptoms whatsoever. In fact, when he came inside after their goodbye hug in the driveway, he was singing!
“I’ve got sunshine… on a sunny day…”
“It’s cloudy,” I said.
He continued: “sunshine… on a sunny day…”
“It’s cold outside!” I nearly screamed.
“Yeah, it is,” he said. “But it’s really sunny out, just look! A perfect day to drive 9 hours.”
He opened the shutters and the sun blazed through our living room.
I held my head in my hand, and started to cry.
“The song,” I cried. “You have it all wrong.”
“I’VE GOT SUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY! WHEN IT’S COLD OUTSIDE I’VE GOT THE MONTH OF MAY!”
“What are you talking about?” my husband said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“The point of the song,” I said through tears, “is that everything that’s shitty in life is beautiful if you have someone near who loves you!”
He looked at me with a blank stare.
Are we really arguing about a song?
“Get it?” I continued. “The clouds turn to sun… the cold turns to the warm month of May… because he’s got the girl he loves by his side. Get it?! MY GIRL!” I screamed.
“Hmm… I never knew that was what it was about,” he said, turning to walk down the hall. “Come on back to bed. It’s too early to be up.”
That’s when I lost it. Deep sobs, shoulders shaking, nearly gasping for breath. I put my head down on the living room table and just let it ALL come out.
“We will never have children live with us again,” I cried to no one. “It’s just… us.”
I picked up my phone and tapped on the “Find My Friends” app. He was still in Rhode Island. Soon it will be Connecticut, then New York, then Pennsylvania.
I put my head back down on the kitchen table, closed my eyes and sighed.
A few moments later I felt my husband’s hand rubbing my back.
“It’s going to be OK,” he said. “Our kids are independent and strong. And so are we.”
And then he wrapped his arms around me, and started to sing softly:
“We’ve got sunshine… on a cloudy day.”
According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) in which yin yoga is highly influenced, we hold grief primarily in our lungs. Therefore, it can be helpful when we know we are holding stories of grief to begin with a pranayama (breath practice) to bring fresh oxygen into our lungs before we sit down to write. It can literally feel like you are breathing the story out of your body and onto the page. It’s really quite remarkable!
This is part of what yogic writing is all about; releasing blocks to find and write the stories we hold in our body. If you have a story (or even bits and pieces of a story) you want to release but don’t know how, email me at Rebecca@YogicWriting.com. I can help.
My group program Write Here, Write Now begins January 25, 2022. Are you ready to write your stories?