The whirring, clanking sound of the ceiling fan falls on my ears. Alone again. My spouse deployed, my children grown and gone, and here I sit in my quiet house with my quiet dog. There’s a calmness that I remember longing for all of those years ago, yet it doesn’t bring the peace I thought it would. My oldest is now 30, and my youngest is 24. Wait – what? When did that happen?
“Don’t blink,” they would say. And I would smile on the outside, but I was rolling my eyes on the inside while thinking:
"You aren’t really thinking about what to expect in the future when your nest will eventually become empty while you’re wiping noses and making chicken nuggets for the fifth night in a row." @iwillwaitvsp Click To Tweet
Seriously? Don’t blink? Ha! I wish it would go by a little faster! This morning I had to clean up vomit (again). …and try living with a pre-teen! It’s like riding a rollercoaster that keeps changing direction! Also, I need to go to the grocery store, but I don’t want to take the kids. Don’t blink?! I just need a moment of peace! Just some silence, please!
I have that silence now. The silence reminds me that I did blink, and they are gone.
What Once was Found, Now is Lost
Knowing, in my peaceful silence, that there are mothers who would give anything for a day (okay, maybe a week!) of this, why do I now find it so unnerving? Why can’t I just be grateful for what I once longed so deeply for?
Once upon a time, I had friends who also craved this peace. We had kids who were around the same age, and we practically lived in each other’s homes. We spent our days and planned our tomorrows together. We grew and experienced life together. We were what the military calls each other’s “battle buddies.”
Most of us were miles away from our families and talked about both the pain and, (in some cases), relief that distance brought. We were in a situation where we needed each other, and that need brought us together as a community – a family. We sometimes knew more about our new friends than we did ourselves! Yet, as military life requires, we all moved on and away. The friendships that I made back then have all faded. While we stay connected through social media, an occasional Facebook message just isn’t the same as, “Hey, I bought a pizza. Do you want to come over and join us?”
My table now is set for one, and the peaceful silence brings an awareness of that loss – of how alone I truly am. I can’t decide if I am sad or just indifferent. My mind hears the muted whispers of memories of the things I am missing from years before. The longing to be a part of a community that seems not to know I exist. I could, of course, take steps to change that. I have read books about interpersonal relationships, communication, how to win friends. I’ve taken military spouse classes, and I’ve been a part of the support groups. So, what does this mean for me?
Rebuilding the Nest with My Own Birdsong
I know the continued silence is my choice. I suppose I choose the silence now because it allows a space in which I can finally do some of the things I always longed to do. …back when I had noses to wipe, sports games to attend, bathrooms to clean, and children to raise. I am finally creating, writing, and telling the stories that have been locked away for years. And new stories are coming and being told. Yet the performer in me is lonely, longing for the stage, for people, for the call of “Action!” as the marker is closed and the camera is rolling. I asked for this silence. I have earned it, but it is not exactly what I expected.
What did I expect? Honestly, I don’t know if I have an answer to that. You aren’t really thinking about what to expect in the future when your nest will eventually become empty while you’re wiping noses and making chicken nuggets for the fifth night in a row. Yet, here I am, fifty-one years old, mentally walking through an unknown, deafening silence. I see it now and hear it for what it truly is – a place for memories and daily moments to exist and overlap, simultaneously sounding like a big brass band in my head and a hushed murmur in my physical reality.
Time is the keeper of this calmness, and no amount of eye-watering refusals to blink will stop it from coming. While I’ve realized – accepted – that time is its keeper, I have also realized it is not the maestro. Now that I have that clarity, I will pick up the baton, take a breath, and be the director of my own loud silence. Perhaps this nest can be filled to the brim with music and not be so empty after all.