Snowed in

Is it empty nest syndrome? A midlife crisis? The itch before an opportunity?

I live on the same property I lived on as a teenager. Its terrain is as familiar to me as my own backyard because, of course, that’s exactly what it is—and what it has been for so many years.

The last few days of heavy snow have changed everything, however. The view outside my door and a trek across the yard reveal a foreign landscape. It surprises me every winter, how the sound-dampening white blanket turns the familiar strange and the once-obvious into something only hinted at.

And that’s how I feel after the first few steps into the new year as I contemplate the future. The landmarks, anchors and foundations of my life are still there, yet at the same time they are somehow hidden from me. I can’t make out their details.

I had my children about 10 years earlier than a lot of my friends had theirs, so while they’re still busy with child rearing and household things, I am not as much. So this spot I’ve hit … Is it empty nest syndrome? A midlife crisis? The itch before an opportunity? I don’t know—but I suspect it’s a normal phase of human development, like teething for babies and tantrums for toddlers. (So not the most fun, but survivable. Normal.)

The other day, I described my life as “empty” to a friend, but even as I said it, I knew it wasn’t the word I was looking for—too ungrateful, too negative, when I actually feel so much thankfulness for all that I have. The fresh snow showed me what I had truly meant and failed to describe: not empty at all, full—but with the pieces that make me whole a bit buried at the moment, hard to see clearly or to make sense of.

In my 20s, I knew what my time needed to be filled with, what my priorities were, what I believed in and lived by (for the most par, my life was so busy that I didn’t have as much time to dwell).

Ditto in my 30s. Trying to put all my plans into action, working to see my hopes become reality, and keeping on top of the choices I made kept me focused and determined, constantly learning and seeking. I had to-do lists and goal maps that spanned years.

My early 40s were like a harvest. The bulk of things I had invested my time, energy and heart in for so long matured and were … done.

And 45? It’s a mystery. Thankfully, I love my work and take a lot of joy and solace in the fact that I still have lots of room to grow in it (forever), but everything else—who my husband and I are as a couple, instead of just as parents, what my new role is in my children’s lives (and in my grandchildren’s), what my faith is, how I should live, where I should spend my personal time—is blurry.

What will the next half of my life look like? I have no idea. Right now, it’s all shadowy outlines and slightly lumpy impressions. I think that’s okay though. As disconcerting as it is to be unsure of pretty much everything, beneath the obscuring layers, the landmarks and foundations of my life are still there. And just like I’ll have to wait until spring to see the details of my yard again, I may have to wait a while for the things I’m pondering to become clear.

Some seasons in life provide a straightforward vision of what we want to do next or how we need to grow. Others call for hunkering down, lying dormant, waiting—which is always, at least for me, less comfortable than forging ahead.

Whether your path is clear, or whether you, like me, feel that if a path exists, it needs to be shovelled (or plowed with a loader), I wish you a wonderful 2018. May you find what you need most—and may joy, laughter and good friends accompany you on the journey!

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