The Nearly Empty Nest: Mid-life Meanders on Airbnb – Whale Bay, Raglan
Strolling down to the rocky beach reserve at Whale Bay, a box on a lamp post offers free plants. Surfers, craning their necks at the top of the hill to check the waves, smile and say hello.
The sound of the dog’s feet walking on the vinyl floor, had woken me at dawn. Peaking through the curtains, the moon bathed the massive deck and shone a torch across the ocean. I realised I did not need to lie in the dark of the room, waiting for the comfort of day to rise. It called me outside, to experience the sky brightening with pink stripes, to stretch my body open and breathe in the peaceful ocean air.
At home in the shadows of dark, when there is too much traffic noise, when the doof doof doof of the neighbours music is too much, I try to block out, the outside. Encased in the walls of my suburban house, I think about moving to live somewhere else. Maybe somewhere smaller, safer and friendlier, like here.
Sometimes in those early hours I feel lonely, but it’s not surprising. The nest is nearly empty, I am in my 50s and single. The purpose I have felt from managing a busy family life is disappearing. Often, not having had enough time or energy for a social life, my lack of available friends is becoming apparent and it now doesn’t seem as easy to make new ones. The independence and strength I have forged as a single parent to create and maintain a home, has it been to my detriment? Would being less capable and more vulnerable have resulted in having more people in my life?
My son, a young man, is soon to leave home, on his own journey. The western European way. Don’t be a mumma’s boy! When did the goal become independence from those who we have grown with and been loved by? To leave those who have raised you, on their own? Is it in our immigrant nature to travel away from those who ask things of us, define us, to find ourselves? Life gets busy as you build your own home, take care of your responsibilities and there seems not enough time to visit parents and grandparents, still managing everything on their own. Seems like a lot of doubling up of work and expenses.
Society has played its part. Years ago I read an article, the gist of it being that in London, after the second world war, architects were asked to design housing concepts to rebuild the bomb-destroyed city. In order to create a greater sense of community and to support the women whose house work could be lonely, someone recommended that two houses could be designed so as to share one central kitchen. The idea was rejected. The reason was suggested to be linked to the fact that the corporation, Kelvinator, had recently started marketing and selling their new domestic refrigerator. If two households needed only one kitchen, well then they would also need only one fridge. Each house was therefore designed to be independent of others, not for the good of the people who lived in them, but in order to sell more products.
I wonder if there was a similar motive in the origin of the Western European notion, that grown children should live independent from their elders? Not because it was good for everyone’s wellbeing, but in creating extra households, it was good for the economy?
Maybe the current scarcity of housing in New Zealand and the increasing costs of living will force more of us into extended family homes where we will once again share expenses, chores and life.
It is common already across many cultures, where children leaving home is not the norm. The younger generations step up to take on more responsibility as the older generations have less energy to do so. The older generations offer support and wisdom. Theoretically, enjoying the relationships created and being sustained by them. Everyone of all ages and stages, with a purpose and a place.
If we allow our kids to become who they want to be, without judgement and the pressure to conform to our own ideas of who they should be, I feel loved, I belong, can we just skip this whole process of being independent and grow old together?
Scrolling through the real estate websites, I imagine a life in Raglan. A happy beach town where ocean and bush in abundance, are a playground of nature and a landscape for serenity. Where cafes, bars and shops filled with clothing and local art, entertain in the vibrant town center. Where it is small enough still, that the people smile and say hello to people they don’t know.
I am not sure I have the energy and enthusiasm [of youth] to create a whole new life. After a busy day at work, when I am tired and the house is feeling empty, I have the convenience of not only my own fridge which hoards my chocolate stash, but the company of my own Smart TV. Capable of living on my own, even affording to holiday on my own, I might settle for the life I have. Be grateful. First world problems, right?
Oh crikey. Do I need to get rid of the TV? I didn’t have one for years and I definitely did more with my spare time. New Year’s resolution…no TV for a year? No! TV free days? Maybe. First world solutions?
My time would be better spent going to more places like this bach, in Whale Bay. Where the outside world appears inviting and friendly. Where I am reminded of how community creates a sense of belonging. It feels good. That is for sure.
Moments after publishing this story, I opened a book and on the first page was this poem. It speaks so well to this time in life, I wanted to share it here.
FOR A NEW BEGINNING
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you