Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: v.e. schwab

My Empty Nest is not the End of the Word, But I Could Use a Hug

Every parent experiences the empty nest at some point, I know this. But what if we didn’t have to tuck it all down and experience it alone? Vulnerability in the midst of struggle is not my specialty, but sometimes I feel that my saying something might be just what someone else needs.

The perfect quote for an empty nest on a winter sunrise background.

“And this, he decides, is what a good-by should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there to pick it up.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Goodbyes are so hard. The end of a chapter, the turning of the page. I loved this ellipsis analogy. I often use those, and my son tries to tell me I’m doing it wrong. “It’s not a pause, Mom!” I know but…I like it that way! Think about it.

“Goodbye.”
Door shut. Time’s up. It’s over.

“Goodbye…”
Turns slowly. Starts walking. What’s next?

It’s different and it feels so much better.

And then this one.

“That time always ends a second before you’re ready.
That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Yes, it does. I’m going through a big one of these right now. My youngest child has gone off to University in another state. I’m officially retired from everyday Mom-ing.

I have an empty nest.

Everyone knows that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. We have an amazingly close relationship. I never experienced that “teenage” stuff, where they shut themselves off from me. I know they’ll always be texting, sending me pictures, and coming back to visit as often as they can.

But… (I did it again)

I’m alone here all day now. And when my husband is done working, we’re alone all evening and all night. And when I get up in the morning, there’s no reason to keep quiet. I can do what I want at any time of day. The TV isn’t on unless I’m watching it. No one is playing music in the middle of the night. No one interrupts what I’m doing. It’s so damn boring.

I’ll admit that I was excited to retire. We have three kids. When the first one left, we relaxed. There was a bit more space in the house. When the second one left, we were happy. There he goes! Two down, one to go! We looked forward to the youngest taking off. If all three of our kids were out in the world taking care of themselves, we were off the hook. We did it. Done! Children are a huge, long-term commitment. It’s incredibly stressful.

But… (he he he)

It’s so quiet. And then…I’m choking up again as I write…can’t we have one more day? One more drive into the city? One more dinner? One more, “Guys! WTF? Can you not?!”

I wasn’t ready.
I seriously underestimated how hard an empty nest would be.

But…

Are we ever ready? I don’t think so. We just have to dive in and keep flailing around until we notice we’re swimming.

I’ve hesitated to write about this for several reasons. It’s so fresh. I’m still working through it. I don’t need other people’s crap right now. But it keeps coming back up. A scratch in the record that needs to be dealt with, not ignored. You’ll only keep hearing it every time you get to that part of the music.

The first is, as usual, I don’t want to make my kids feel bad. They are doing nothing wrong by growing up and going out into the world. Pursuing our own path is what we all do. That’s normal and good. While I’d certainly have no problem with them living here forever, I want them to chase their own dreams without worrying that the mother they love so much is having a nervous breakdown. It would defeat the purpose of raising children into adults if they were so afraid to hurt my feelings that they never left home.

The second is that I’m not good at being this vulnerable. While I’m good at telling others what I’ve already been through and worked on, I cringe at the thought of asking for sympathy and help as I need it. I’ve recently come to notice that my culture fosters independence over just about anything else and I’m not sure it’s all that healthy. Stand on your own two feet. Buck up. Don’t be such a baby about it. From childhood and adolescence, into adulthood, marriage, children, and on until we die, we’re encouraged to keep our feelings to ourselves, to deal with our own shit alone.

I’m starting to question the wisdom in that. The times that I have reached out to talk to someone about something I’m going through, I’ve always found that I’m not alone. Life’s stages are common. We all move through them. Amazingly enough, no matter what you’re going through, there are others that have been there, felt that. The key is finding those people, and they’re usually very close by, remaining silent, believing they are alone in the world too.

And the third reason is people’s reaction. I don’t find support when I express my pain, I generally find platitudes, dismissal, or worse…help or sympathy. We’re not trained in supporting others through something difficult. Have you ever felt something so strongly, a feeling you just don’t want to feel and can’t get away from? Have you ever told someone about it and they said, “That’s just life. It’ll be better tomorrow.” Yeah…not helpful. Or worse, “Everyone feels that. You’re being ridiculous.” And “I told you this was coming.”

What do I want? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Maybe I simply want to be heard and to get a hug. I’d like to hear an affirmation. “This must suck.” Or “I feel that from you.” Maybe even questions like, “What are you going to do?” I also really enjoy hearing other people’s painful stories. “There was a time I felt that way.” Or “I remember when…” I hear that and I think, “Yes. I’m not alone. I’m just one of the humans here. Life does go on.” And then I consider what’s next or cry some more. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to wallow in my sadness awhile.

Ultimately, the story continues no matter what happens to any of us. It isn’t a period, end of line, close the book. It’s just…what’s next?

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

What is the The Key to Understanding Love?

Love is complicated. We can’t possess people like we possess things. We can’t turn a key and make people love us the way we love them. The key to understanding love starts with loving yourself as a complete individual.

Understanding love is not possession quote on a desert background.

“It’s because I love you that I won’t. Love is hungry. Love is selfish.”
“You’re thinking of possession.”
He shrugs. “Are they so different? I have seen what humans do to things they love.”
“People are not things,” she says. “And you will never understand them.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

I’m reminded of one my favorite stories here, The Phantom of the Opera. I always cry for the Phantom. He loves her, but she refuses him. Why? It’s not the ugly she can’t get around, it’s that he misunderstands love. He’s twisted and tortured into thinking possession is love. He twists and tortures her world in order to turn her toward him, to make her love him.

I always wondered what would happen if she decided to love him, despite his evil ways. Would it end up one of those “unconditional love changes people” stories?

That’s what Addie is trying to express here. The Darkness is so removed from humanity, (because he isn’t human), that he is incapable of understanding love.

Writing that I just thought this same thing could be said about the Lucifer character in the TV show. It’s part of why I loved it so much. There he was on earth with humans, learning about them in every conceivable way but love. Lucifer learns to experience love, what it means to be human.

Addie is right. He has confused love with possession, as most people do. That’s why he hasn’t been able to learn the difference. Examples of real love are few and far between. We should know and be able to practice the difference, but we rarely do. It’s easier to possess another than to love them.

Relationships are complicated and there’s so much to do. To experience real love (and not possession), we need to start with ourselves. And loving ourselves is no picnic.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Ultimately, Most Life Choices are Just Best Guesses

There’s no way of knowing which life choices will end up getting us where we want to go in the long run. We’re working from a moving platform that is time, and aiming at a moving target that is satisfaction.

“…paralyzed by the idea that whatever you choose to do, it means choosing not to do a hundred other things…”

The invisible life of Addie Larue by v.e. Schwab

There is one thing that limits every human on this planet and that is time. We only have so much time in a day, a week, a lifetime. When you choose to watch an hour of TV, you choose not to do other things. If you choose to make a delicious dinner at home, you choose not to go out to a restaurant. It’s a fact of life that cannot be changed no matter how clever, rich, or powerful you are.

We all come to that realization at some point in our lives. Some of us have a very hard time accepting that fact and it makes us completely crazy. We stand there in distress, attempting to decide which is the better choice. What is the thing that make us the happiest? Which choice will lead us further down the “right” path? It’s enough to make any thinking person neurotic.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. Once I accepted the fact that I can’t do everything, that I had to live with the choices I make, it started to become easier. The next step was to enjoy the choice I made. That’s where it got complicated.

At one point, you’re looking over the choices you have. You puzzle over it awhile and eventually make your choice. Then, while you’re happily cruising along, you start to wonder, “Would the other choice have been better?” And now you’re not enjoying what you have.

Now what do you do? Invent a time machine so that you can explore alternate realities where you didn’t tell that partner to leave, you didn’t take that job or go to that school, or you decided to apply for a job in another state and moved. Wouldn’t that be nice?

What if we had a machine that let you play out exactly what would happen after each choice you made, and then you could choose which would ultimately work out best? Oh! And it took no extra time! A perfect world.

It’s not possible, outside of sci-fi movies. What can we do instead? Make the choice that makes you most happy right now, and not worry so much or so far into the future.

Photo by Bhargava Marripati on Unsplash

I’m imagining back when my sons were taking an interest in indoor rock climbing. The woman helping them learn told them, “Your only goal is to find the top your own way. Hold on and look for your own next step. Make it. Steady yourself. And the look for the next one you can reach. You may need to go sideways or back down a bit, but you’ll get there.”

That’s life.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Why My Personal Story Telling Helps Me Stay Connected

Story telling isn’t just for entertainment and gaining attention. And it comes in so many forms. What medium do you use to tell your story?

Story telling to preserve one's self quote on a desert background.
That’s Calico Ghost Town in the back ground. There’s a family story to that too.

“Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.
Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.
Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives – to find strength in a very long one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

What drew me to this book in the first place was the reference to stories and a bookstore, so it makes sense that the first quote I share from it would be this. There’s a lot here, though, so I’m going to try to pull it apart a little.

“Stories are way to preserve one’s self.”

I’ve always been chided and teased for story telling in every conversation and not just because I’m getting old(er). Even when I was in my early 20’s, I’d be at work telling someone the story about the time I went water skiing and got so sunburned or the time my brother jumped off the roof. As I got older, married, had kids, etc., the stories just kept coming.

I take pride in knowing that I will be that old lady in the corner of the livingroom spinning my yarns, “I remember the time…” and all my great-grandkids will want to listen but everyone else will roll their eyes. “We’ve heard this one!”

Why do we tell stories about our past?

“To be remembered. And to forget”

I want my friends and family to remember the things that have happened to me and the things we experienced together. I can write them down for posterity, and I frequently do, but telling them is my favorite. Something about sitting and remembering together is so comforting. It’s like reaching out to touch your partner in the night, a reminder that we are all still here.

When we’re together telling stories, some of us add details or their own perspective, things each of us might have missed. We solidify the story each time we tell it, a verbal family history. It’s the ultimate “family bonding” time.

We also tell stories “to forget.”

In that moment, when we are together with friends and family, swapping stories about our past, sharing tales of our childhood, embarrassing our teenagers with their cute baby stories, we put the current time with all its stress way into the background. For those moments, we don’t worry about bills that need to be paid or that meeting we need to attend at work.

Hearing each other’s stories like this also puts today into perspective. We may be currently stressing over work, home, business, and the state of union, but when we hear all our stories, we can see that nothing has changed that much. Our parents and grandparents worried about the same things. Life just keeps on going, kids do crazy things, adventures are had, no matter what is happening in the world.

What form can stories take? Like she said, “in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.” Most of our stories come in the form of words told over the dinner table or sitting around the livingroom, but some come in the form of a quilt my aunt made, a ceramic figure my grandmother crafted, or painting by my mother and her friends. It can also be the song my sons play, the robot they tried to make with their dad, and the video my stepdaughter made and posted on youtube. They are all connected to memories, things that help each of us be remembered and live longer in other people’s memories.

And this, “Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives…”

That’s why I read, but it’s also why I tell my stories. I am not just my life. I’m all the lives that came before me, all the lives and portions of lives that I’ve lived and heard of. My children and my grandchildren will have my life a part of theirs. Hopefully, my great-grandchildren will live a part of my life as well, even if they never meet me.

The quilt I made, the blog post I write, the pine tree I tended and got to grow tall, as well as the stories I told while we walked in the desert, are all part of the story that pass into the future.

Addie’s curse didn’t allow her to do that. She could live forever, be a part of the world forever, but no one will remember her. Her curse allowed me to see the beauty of what I have. And that’s why I love reading books.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

“The Invisible Life of Addie Larue”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue book cover on desert junk pile.
Even a Junk Pile can be Pretty

A big giant “Thank You!” goes to The Orang-utan Librarian for bringing “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” by V.E. Schwab to my attention. When I read the review I immediately added it to my wish list right and then…magically…I happened across a Barnes & Noble that was…wait for it…OPEN and I wandered inside.

The Starbucks wasn’t open, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was damn close so I’m not going to quibble over details.

I took a deep breath as I walked in the door and began wandering around. Civilization.

Like I’ve said before, I try not to buy books on a whim. There are just too many books to read in this world to just jump in willy-nilly. Besides, my resources (time and money) are not infinite. As I browsed the shelves cautiously, like an animal that hasn’t eaten in so long that it’s forgotten what food is, I remembered the wish list on my phone and got it out.

I got three books that day, all from the list, and “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” was the first cover I recognized and picked up.

I wouldn’t have got it from the title, but reading the review I was instantly reminded of Beauty and the Beast. “Far off places, a daring swordfight, a prince in disguise!” The book is about none of those things, but it is magical, involves a girl wanting more than her village and a bookstore. I’m SO in!

I’ll be attempting to savor this book, but I bet I’ll wolf it down like tacos with ketchup, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it within the next few weeks. As always, I’ll be adding my first thoughts about the book in my monthly email newsletter, which you can only enjoy if you sign up for it at the link below!

Want to want to read more posts related to this book?

Why My Personal Story Telling Helps Me Stay Connected
Ultimately, Most Life Choices Are Just Best Guesses
What Is The Key to Understanding Love?
My Empty Nest is Not the End of the World, But I Could Use a Hug

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