Combatting the Silence of an Empty Nest with N.O.I.S.E.
The dog’s tags jingle. The cat saunters across the back of my chair, stretches out and purrs.
These are the sounds I notice when the house is once again...too quiet.
The place was busier and louder all summer long. Our older daughter was home from college and, since she is a music major, she filled the air with beautiful sounds of piano, flute, guitar, and singing. Our younger daughter was also home for a few days at each end of the summer. She’s the chatty one who talks our ears off and adds a joyful noise whenever she’s around.
It was good. It was noisy. But now they are back to school and the walls are closing in on me.
Does the transition back to school mean a quiet, empty nest for you? Maybe your nest isn’t empty (yet!), but just having the kids back to school means there is more quiet than you’re used to.
Did you hear that? It’s the sound of silence.
And it’s good. We crave at least some silence in our lives. But too much of a good thing can drive us a little crazy. We dwell on the fact we’re alone. Sadness creeps in. We spiral downward.
We imagine our kids, whom our lives revolved around for 18-plus years, no longer need us. This is far from true, but that hearing-a-pin-drop silence will make our minds say crazy, untrue things, just to fill the void.
There’s no denying the Void.
But rather than fill it with crazy-talk, I suggest we fill it with some NOISE!
No, I am not suggesting you crank the stereo as you did in your college days (although I won’t stop you if it makes you happy!). Nor am I saying that singing in the shower, running the vacuum, or blowing leaves will chase your blues away (but if so, go for it!).
I’m suggesting instead, five areas that will add a little N.O.I.S.E. to your life again. In addition, these activities will add meaning, purpose, and enjoyment to your new situation. These are the ways I’ve learned to combat the silence of the empty nest.
Nourish your mind and soul.
Do you listen to podcasts? My husband has listened for years, but I only recently realized I love them too! There are a plethora to choose from and something for everyone! Some of my favorites are The Hidden Brain (NPR), The Next Right Thing (with Emily P. Freeman), Before Breakfast (with Laura VanderKam), The Moth, and TED Radio Hour (NPR). If you haven’t already found some you like, I’m sure you will.
Since it’s quiet, why not read a book, a magazine, or a blog post? There is an abundance of great writers who want to fill your mind and soul with good advice, stories, and inspiration! (Trust me on this one!)
Finally, use the silence you’ve been given to dwell in the presence of God. Read scripture or a devotional, pray, start a gratitude journal, or take a nature walk. I’ve found that having a regular time of day and rhythm to my “God time” has helped me become more consistent in this practice. And I’m learning that a well-nourished mind and soul brings deep satisfaction in the silence.
Orient toward Others.
God created us to be social beings. But when we’re home alone, we focus inwardly instead. Find some time to meet someone for coffee or host a dinner party. Reconnect with old friends. Commiserate (or celebrate!) with other empty-nesters.
Do you have more time to volunteer? Have your name added to the list of Sunday school teachers, nursery attendants or coffee servers at your church. If you’re concerned about becoming over-committed too soon, sign up for a one-time community service project.
Don’t forget your spouse. You are both missing the kids, so be sure to share the latest texts and calls you’ve received from them. Don’t neglect your own relationship and take the extra time you have to make a nice dinner, light some candles, and play some romantic music to reignite that “spark” in your marriage. (May I suggest the perfect playlist? Scroll to the end to find My Gift to You!)
Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! You’ve denied yourself many pleasures over the years as you’ve sacrificed your own time and money for your kids. So go ahead...stream a new show on Netflix or Hulu (you can even binge-watch now and then). Take a nap. Eat ice cream out of the carton (I won’t tell!).
If finances allow, go on a mini-shopping spree and spruce up your wardrobe. Plan a vacation or take a weekend getaway with your spouse or a group of friends. Treating yourself to the good things life has to offer honors the Giver of those gifts.
Shape up your surroundings.
With no kids (and their clutter) underfoot, now is the perfect time to complete that house project you’ve been dreaming of. Perhaps it’s time to convert one of the kids’ rooms into a guest room (with their blessing, of course).
Find out what this “Marie Kondo” craze is all about and work to declutter and organize your home. If working in your garden brings you a sense of joy and accomplishment, go for it! You’ll feel better when your surroundings are neat, tidy and lovely.
Energize your body.
I’m not a natural athlete, and exercise is rarely my first-choice activity. But when I force myself to get up and move, it’s surprising what it can do for the spirit. Exercise gets those endorphin levels up and lifts your mood naturally. So go for a walk, hike, or bike ride; hit the gym for a workout; or dance to some tunes.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of a good night’s sleep! Put the noise of “zzz’s” into your life by avoiding caffeine late in the day, putting electronics away, and getting to bed on time. You’ll find a well-rested body results in more energy and a positive outlook on life!
Nourish, Orient, Indulge, Shape-up, and Energize, and you’ll find that silent Void begin to fill.
But, a word of caution. While silence can drive you crazy, trying to do too much can make you even more crazy. These are suggestions, not a “to-do” list. So for starters, pick just one activity from each heading above, and add it to a blank spot on your calendar. You have years of empty-nesting ahead of you, so no need to do everything at once.
Take your time as you ease out of the silence. Plan your next move, take a deep breath, and get ready to make some NOISE!
Just don’t wake the neighbors, okay? 😉