Empty nest. It hit me in 2015. Hard. The last of my babies had graduated from high school and she was soon going away to college…a college that was more than just a drive away.
Not only did my youngest graduate but I also got a promotion that had me living in another city during the week for four months.
When I came home after the four months, it was fall, the days were shorter, the hubs traveling for work, and I was all alone.
Dang, it was lonely. However, I consoled myself with bubble baths and binge watching Downton Abbey…at the same time…sometimes for hours!
I began to realize that I was a little depressed. Not because I was enjoying bubble baths and my favorite show but because I was suddenly at a point in my life that I had to think of something to do other than take care of everyone else. I could still take care of them, but just not like I had for so many years…my kids had grown up. It felt like the kids and hubs no longer really needed me.
Fall rolled into winter and I began to think of my pending birthday. Wow. I had already passed that magical 50 mark and was going to be 51…what does a 51-year-old want or do? Especially one who is feeling melancholy…Hmmm….
At 51, I decided that I was going to be the next Cheryl Strayed. Kind of. I was going to begin backpacking around the world. Okay, well, I would start with an overnight trip in my neck of the woods.
I didn’t want to backpack alone. So, maybe I didn’t want to be Cheryl Strayed. I really wanted my hubs to go with. Somehow, I had to get him on board with purchasing all of the equipment we needed. Would he want to do this?
For my 51st birthday, I asked for hiking boots….one pair for me and one pair for him. I later found out that he wanted to buy me a used Mazda Miata but I kept saying hiking boots whenever I was asked what I wanted.
The hubs came through and took me to REI, we put a lot of thought into our boots and socks. Do we need liners? How thick should our socks be?
I could see that it touched his heart that my adamant birthday request was something for both of us. He melted at knowing that my deepest desire was to spend time with him. Not a car or a pretty necklace. Not a shopping trip or weekend away with the girls. Only time with him.
Our first hike. We went to a very muddy place with a steep incline to feel like we were really hikers. We might have even taken a survival pack for the 2 miles we hiked…up the forestry road.
Somewhere along that hike, we decided to be Cheryl Strayed together. Pinky promise shake…when the tax return comes, it’s going for backpacking gear.
Spring comes and leaves. We have purchased all of our gear. We took pictures of it all too. We even looked at it several times in excitement during the next few months.
Summer arrived and it was time for our first backpacking trip together. We had a map of a beginner trip that had graciously been given to us by a local outdoor group.
Off we go!
Have you ever experienced quiet moments with your spouse? Not the ones in the house. Not the ones that have other activity around. Not the ones with your children. Just the ones where it is the two of you and nothing else.
Here we were, out in the wilderness. We hiked up the trail and I found myself thinking that I had thought we were happy yet I had no idea what to talk about! How can I be happy and not know what to talk about with the one I’m supposed to me happy with? “Hi, how’s the weather?”
I didn’t want him to talk to me either. I was thinking. I don’t get to think or look at the trees unless I’m running and then I’m moving faster than I am with a 35 pound backpack on my back!
I was scared that something was wrong with us though. How can you be married for 26 years and have nothing to talk about? It’s simply that we were decompressing. We were like onions and each step we took peeled away the world. I didn’t know that at first though…then I saw…it was okay.
I had to stop to take pictures of every flower, every interesting trees or insect, and made him pose while walking across the stream. He called bears and attempted to convince me that wild animals were watching us.
Decompressed, our subsequent days were full of quiet moments, interesting conversations that led to many “I didn’t know that you knew that!” or “where did you learn this?” After 26 years of marriage, there was….
To the now.
The hubs has no desire to run with me but he is very excited about our backpacking adventures.
I’m thankful for that hard time in 2015. It helped to shape this new era in our lives. It’s a fun adventure of discovery.