The Empty Nest

The Emptier Nester

by Natasha Horsley, MS, LPC~
It’s hard to face the emptiness inside when life changes. It could be divorce, the loss of a job, or, in my case, most recently, a child leaving for college.

One of the ways I find myself avoiding my own feelings about this is by watching seemingly endless episodes of Glee. It’s a T.V. show about High School age children (not college age ones!). I am watching it with my younger children, both of whom would rather be watching something else, so it’s hard to convince myself it’s for them.

We are watching the shows in the binge-like way people often watch them now, on Netflicks, so I know that one of the main characters has recently died in real life, an overdose on heroin. It offers an extra poignant perspective on an already, admittedly, sappy show.

An element of real fear. Cory Montwith was someone’s son.

Handsome, filled with talent and promise. Mmmmm…like someone else’s son I know?

Sometimes the fear paralyzes me, so I suggest we watch another show. 

The irony that we are watching people move, take risks and absolutely never watch television, is not lost on me. I wrap myself a little tighter under a cozy blanket, with our new puppy who literally has an “arm” around mine, and try to feel grateful, like I’ve earned this respite from all my own risk-taking and “doing, doing, doing”.

I have two more children to get to the same place that my eldest is now, but there is already so much less to do. What will I do then?

I have always done better facing my griefs early. In some ways, you could say I’ve been lucky this way. The ones I have loved and lost have given me plenty of warning when they are about to leave. Thankfully I have had plenty of chance to say, “Goodbye” slowly, thoughtfully trying to be, live, and connect in a way that I would not have to add a lot of regret to my already complicated emotional plate.

There is at least one: Not always having as much courage as I need to risk putting my own creativity out there.

I love being a wife, a mom and a psychotherapist, and feel clear that these aspects of my life give me the deepest sense of meaning and purpose.

Yet this emptier nest is nudging me to fly a little also. Not far, of-course. But to explore my own creativity again, to start over at the place where fear and self-doubt inhibited me when I was in my twenties. I got a degree in dance back then. My teachers told me that the size of my thighs and my lack of ballet experience would hold me back from the big time. This knocked my dreams and my self-esteem for a loop. And it has taken a long time to rebuild both.

In the last eighteen years being a mom, a wife and a psychotherapist has given me a powerful sense of my own ability to help, influence, love and support others who are dear to me. In the process I have become dear to them. This feels like one of Oprah’s “what I know for sure” comments, but it’s true.

Feeling sure that my contributions are valuable in my own small circle is a huge gift, like the bow on the gift of my self-esteem, handed back to me, all these years later. Part of me wishes I could just rest on my laurels, right here. Another part of me knows its time to fly just a little further from where it feels safe and home-like.

Right after one more episode.

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About Natasha Horsley Weston

Natasha Weston, MS, LPC is the owner of Weston Psychotherapy Services LLC & was a founding partner of the Temenos Center for 17 years. She has been an individual, family and couple’s therapist for twenty-two years. She is a specialist in the treatment of eating disorders and women’s issues, spending eight years as a therapist and supervisor at The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia. She has also received training in addictions counseling, Imago couple’s therapy, Men's issues, LGBTQ issues, DBT, and EMDR (a technique that helps people recover from trauma).

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