Better & Bolder the Blog


Though my nest isn’t empty, I’m sitting on the bathroom floor in a B&B in Santa Cruz, CA, reading online about what others say about the empty nest. I am bereft. I am beside myself. In a few hours, we’ll go to campus to give Siobhan some hugs goodbye. 

My husband, still asleep in our rented bed, hasn’t been affected much by the impending change in our lives. Last night was our anniversary, 19 years married, and we headed out in the golden hour, just before sunset, to walk West Cliff Drive and watch the surfers. Beautiful youngsters, and one oldster, charged through the water, cut through the waves, twisted in dynamic 360s and then glided, relaxed and balanced, as they finished the ride before turning back for more. 

I will never be those surfers. Transport me back in time 30 years, and I still wouldn’t be the girl who took up surfing. Give me a youthful body and keep my 50 years of experience in my mind, and I still wouldn’t take the risks I didn’t take when I was young. I’m not meant for those kinds of challenges: surfing, parkour, rock climbing. Somehow, I am feeling this, too, as a loss, that I have led a life that doesn’t include becoming an expert at something physical. I remind myself: I walk, I run, I dance. I move and enjoy movement. I do not feel fully actualized in this, though. I am not amazing, not exceptional, not the perfect expression of fitness, grace, strength and stamina. I am not a surfer like those surfers. This lifetime, I am meant to be good at moving, not great, strong without being super strong, a mover rather than an athlete. Why does this not feel quite enough?

The idea behind Better and Bolder is that I’m taking my middle age and doing in my body what I did not do in my earlier years: pushing myself to be my best. Last summer I felt alive with that challenge. Now, I feel hindered as my achilles refuses to heal and on this trip especially is angry, twitchy, and stiff. 

I went for a wonderful run in San Francisco, a day after walking up and down the city streets for hours. After the run, my achilles, much worse, has caused me to forgo more running. No early morning run around town or on the beach for me. The brief hike we took in the Redwoods Sunday morning, too much of it going sharply uphill, left me limping. 

I just want to run. I would like to challenge my body, to play and to dare, and instead I am facing boring rehab, a combination of resting, stretching, and strengthening that feels like work. It feels as if Middle Age is calling me, telling me that I can keep moving but my days of pushing my edges should be over. I’m not accepting that yet and at the same time, I wonder what, exactly, it is I’m seeking. Last summer, I felt like a Badass because I was running. Without my miles, I feel ordinary and aging. I don’t like it.

It makes for boring reading, this, complaints about slowing down as we age. It’s less inspiring than reading about Diana Nyad, who, at 64 years of age, swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida in 53 hours. She was prepared. When she hit shore, she reminded us all of three things, "One is we should never give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. And three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team." Nyad has been attempting this swim since she was 28. That’s nearly 40 years of going for it. 

The sources I read tell me Empty Nesting is a time in which we discover ourselves by investing in other roles and relationships. What I’m not seeing addressed is the angry feeling that I don’t want to invest in other relationships; I want to hang out with my daughter, not just because she’s my daughter but because I really like hanging out with her. She’s not replaceable. Other relationships can’t take the place of this one. It’s a loss, pure and simple, of a time we had together and no matter how wonderful it will be for us in the future, it won’t be what we’ve had. I’m mourning. I’m grieving. 

My losses are piling up. Here’s what I will miss. The four of us -- me, my husband, my daughter, and my son -- are a unit. We have jokes that make sense to us. We watch American Ninja Warrior and then look up YouTube videos of parkour. I will miss my kids having their friends over and feeling the energy of them; they’re singing, they’re editing on the computer, they’re making pancakes. It was very satisfying to have a home that nurtured others. 

Finally, there’s this. I’m scared of getting old and I’m scared of dying. I know I should have plenty of years, many many years, left. I plan to keep moving throughout my life. I don’t plan to be the person who can’t go for a hike anymore. I  also know that my plans and my reality may differ. So. I’m scared. 

I  cannot parse out all my losses. They jumble together, a tangle of changes that require me to be present, patient, forward. 

So, it comes to this. I simply have to say that I’m ready to heal. 

It doesn’t matter if I am. There’s no more waiting on this, no more “fixing to” as they say in the South. It’s just what I say and then I act on it and then I will be ready. I’m ready to heal the parts of my body that ache and ready to heal the parts of my spirit that ache and I’m ready to embrace the next 50 years as they are and not in comparison to the first 50 years. 

Well, maybe I’m not ready, and that doesn’t matter. I’m ready to say I’m ready. I’m ready to act as if I’m ready. I’m ready to say the affirmations and practice the visualizations. I’m ready to do the slow, steady, daily healing and believing that it’s working rather than fearing the opposite, that it all gets worse and falls downhill, that nothing is ever as good again, that my losses are too much and my pains are too many. I’m ready to notice that some days I won’t act as if I’m ready at all, that some days I will be weepy and ineffectual, and those days won’t mean that I’m not ready. They’ll just mean I didn’t have a good day that day. 

So. I'm ready.