I am the mother of three young men. When My husband and I were raising three boys, it seemed as though that part of our lives would never end.
The days of sports practices, piano recitals, Civil Air Patrol (like boy scouts with a focus on aviation), and epic games of capture-the-flag felt like they would go on forever.
I cried when the eldest left for college. And the middle one. And, of course, the baby.
I worried about them. I wanted them to be independent, but I wanted to hold on.
Then, they were gone. Just like that. The youngest to his own apartment, the middle one to the other side of the country for graduate school, the oldest half a world away to Zambia for the Peace Corps.
Suddenly, my husband and I were empty-nesters, and I was sad. So sad.
For about 10 minutes.
Running had long been part of my life. When the boys left the nest, I began running in races. Then I joined a running club and started traveling to destination races. I reconnected with an old friend when I bumped into her at a race. We were both surprised to learn the other was a runner.
Bill and I were young and poor when we got married. When our nest emptied, we had more disposable income and initiated some adventures of our own. We began exploring. We rekindled our friendship and our romance.
The event that we (or maybe just I) had been dreading was wonderful.
The emptiness I feared turned out to be liberating. If I had tried to hold on to those fledglings, all of us would have been miserable. Letting go allowed us to soar.
Bill and I are the type of people who hang onto things.
When we decluttered the basement last year in anticipation of downsizing, we discarded checks from the year we were married – 1978.
When we cleaned out our filing cabinet, we discovered owner’s manuals from blenders, toasters, vacuum cleaners, and electric corkscrews that have been taking up space in a landfill for decades.
We met many of our closest friends half a lifetime ago.
Bill worked at the same architect’s office for over 40 years; I worked at the same school district for over 30.
Our social and political views continue to evolve. We read and educate ourselves. We think about consequential topics.
We recently had to let go of some long-held views after much consideration and evaluation. Desperately clutching attitudes and beliefs that no longer serve us can feel like a weight dragging us down and holding us back.
Emptiness feels good. Letting go is empowering.
I have recently begun a practice of doing a short meditation before prayer. It empties my mind and helps to silence my internal narrator (for a few minutes, at least).
Selflessness is what I seek.
It may seem like a paradox, but I believe that selflessness is best achieved through self-confidence.
It takes a certain amount of conviction to deny the small voice in our head that clamors for recognition. The voice that whispers in our ear asserting our superiority is not easily denied.
It has been my experience that the opposite end of the spectrum from self-confidence is self-righteousness. The more we have of one, the less we have of the other.
When full of self-righteousness, we believe we have the authority to judge others and ourselves. In our self-righteous judgment, we are usually the winners. Others may be judged more harshly.
I believe self-confidence comes from God. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.“
Self-righteousness, on the other hand, comes from our inclination to camouflage our own perceived weaknesses.
Emptiness depends on having enough self-confidence to let go of our need to judge, to always come out on top.
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