Exploring After The Empty Nest

copyright beabe thompson 2017
Dan and the Puppies. Copyright beabe thompson 2017

I spent about a year moping about after my youngest fledged the nest for Northeastern University.

A study in contrasts of the day he left for kindergarten and I danced in the street after his school bus turned the corner. Later that day Karma smacked me down when his teachers didn’t load him into his bus ride home. Yikes. Odd creaking upstairs was just the house settling or adjusting to humidity and temperature changes. After fourteen years of boys thumping, crashing, slamming, and laughing, my house was empty. Too empty.

Months after Youngest left for Boston I still mentally attributed household sounds to him, then gradually my brain caught on. Odd creaking upstairs was just the house settling or adjusting to humidity and temperature changes. After fourteen years of boys thumping, crashing, slamming, TV blasting, voices laughing, my house was empty. Too empty.

It’s going on three years now, and I’ve finally realized there are plus sides to empty nesting. No need to buy expensive and often wasted vegetarian entrees, no disagreements about curfews and sharing cars. Then there was the realization that our social life rotated around school volunteering, Scouting, orchestra, choir, etc. The piles of kids’ shoes in our foyer, belonging to our sons’ friends, went elsewhere. Familiar faces of those friends’ parents faded as our lives moved on, and a realization that we didn’t have a social life of our own.

Reinventing ourselves from parents of high school kids to college students, then adult men have been an experiment. Who am I but Sam or Colin’s mom? Regressing back to being an introvert was a shock. Will I stay home and feel depressed and lonely, or get off my too fluffy keister and do things? So easy to pick the former when getting out and making myself socialize is kind of frightening.

Last year we bought a teardrop camper and started going to music gatherings or parks. Where I secretly hated sleeping on inflatable mattresses as a Cub Scout volunteer, I can now snuggle in a four-inch memory foam mattress in a tricked-out travel trailer. Turn on the camper AC, take a nap, or listen to a novel through the sound system. We can pack up our dogs and go places where my husband can play music. Or unwind as we hike along lake paths or through the woods. I’ve fallen back in love with trees, with the wind making sounds as it travels through a wood or across a body of water.

I still miss our sons daily but am happy they’ve found their place in the world. That they’ve turned into men we always dreamed they’d be and are doing things they’d dreamed of growing up.

So I can sit outside a bakery in a sleepy Texas town and talk to my husband, sneak bits of croissant to our fur children, and plan on the next trip. This heady new path feels almost intoxicating.

Pete and Tucker, copyright Beabe Thompson 2017
Pete and Tucker, copyright Beabe Thompson 2017

 

The ADD Writer: Part Two, The Social Media Sinkhole

office-new-crSocial Media can be a theft of attention and time to ADD writers. Its siren song is limitlessly powerful and destructive.

With the best of intentions, we promise ourselves to just spend a few minutes responding to friends’ jokes, memes, and messages. Hours later chores aren’t done, blocks of writing time are gone, and chances to accomplish something have evaporated.

What can we possibly do? Sometimes I have to go cold turkey, which worked until accepting an admin role in a Facebook group. If I uninstall Facebook on my computer and phone huge swaths of time open up. As writers, we’re told constantly to have a presence online using all kinds of platforms, and each one has the potential to gorge on our precious time.

Here’s an article from Jocelyn K. Glei with 10 online tools to try, including one with the Pomodoro Technique. 10 Online Tools for Better Attention & Focus . What’s the Pomodoro Technique? THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE premise is to focus on one task for 25 minutes. That’s doable if I set a timer and shut all those online windows to Twitter, Facebook, email, LinkedIn, the list goes on.

There are apps that will lock you out of websites that soak up your time and distract you from your tasks. It’s like quitting smoking if you’re as addicted to Socal Media as I am. ADD kicks in and my hands are twitching to see what my friends are up to at that moment.

If those are too constraining or you don’t want to mess with apps, try alloting 25 minutes to reading emails, scanning Facebook, or reading tweets. I suggest using your phone timer or an egg timer if you’ve got one. Egg timers tend to send me through the ceiling when they go off, so I like using my phone. Once the time goes off, I have to finish what I’m doing and quit the page. Close the tab and get offline if possible.

If you need time to interact with readers, editors, publishers, etc., allocate time and stick to it as much as possible. Make appointments with a beginning and an end, then stop. In the business world, professionals know meetings have structure and an end. If you’re paying an editor for time over the phone or IM, it’s in your best interest to know when to stop.

Notification settings from Social Media, calendars, email, IM, and the like are like a red flag flapping towards a bull. Turn off as many as you can, especially those for Facebook and Twitter. If it’s not a message about your family’s welfare or an intruder alert, do you really need it? Can you read unnecessary messages and refocus? I can’t. It’s a rabbit hole and I’m gone, totally distracted from my task.

What do you do to avoid spending too much time with Social Media?