“Yes, Tom, these are the changes I need to make:
* take Lauren’s name off of the policy,
* and remove her car from the policy because I do not have it anymore…she sold it before she recently, and permanently, moved to Australia (!!),
* oh, and please take her name off our joint AAA roadside assistance card. She won’t be using that anymore…”
(sigh)…this sucks… and it hurts. I feel like another important chunk of my body is being cut off and in my throat I feel that familiar choking tightness…
I have *purposely* delayed taking care of this finalizing piece of business because I knew it would be personally confronting…. and now here I am sitting uncomfortably, and stoically, at a desk across from an insurance representative. Fortunately, he is very young and to his great credit he is open, friendly and overall a terrific AAA representative to this purchasing public. This made it easier for me as I must sheepishly admit, had he been a different type of representative, the ‘less than easy to deal with Martin’ would have been what he experienced since I do not suffer poor customer service easily when I am wounded and hurting.
For him all that is happening, as he is updating my policy, is that he is deleting printed letters arranged in such a way as to spell out both a name of a person he does not know, and a vehicle he has never seen, from any number of columns laid out on the screen in front of him. He hears the reasons why the changes are being made, and most understandably, seems to have no context for the depth of what is going on.
For me, I am having the experience of a further, and reluctant, letting go of former and no longer needed responsibilities as a father. You see, all the years of taking care of Lauren’s insurance and being sure she had roadside assistance in case of emergency said to her in so many unspoken words, “I love you….I am taking care of you and I want you safe.”
The personally confronting piece is about how my attachment to, and my identity of, being a father is yet again (!) being unceremoniously eroded and being plumbed to even further depths…
When Lauren was born, my heart and entire being opened and a custom fit mold was instantly formed within me that only she could fill. This same mold was continuously shaped with every hug I gave her that held her so p r e c i o u s l y like the gift she truly was to me and to the world. Add to that the visceral sensations of every whiff of the baby fragrance that was only hers and the sing song sounds of her playful gurgles and cooing that I can still remember so clearly even today.
This mold was further forged to a kiln – fired – like – permanence when she would let go and surrender into sleep while lying on my chest often leaving behind a small pool of Lauren baby drool.
My life was instantly changed for the better. I was able to express parts of me that I never could, or felt safe to, express before. The nurturing and loving Truth of who I always knew I was, at my core, had LIFE v i g o r o u s l y and g r a t e f u l l y breathed into it. I felt open and alive!
I embraced being a father with a kind of endurance and zeal that knew no bounds. I could feel the rightness of it all even if I couldn’t put words to it at the time. I didn’t feel restricted in any way and I found deep levels of easy patience and understanding. The terrible 2’s everyone warned me about, with their exasperated rolling of the eyes, was for me simply Lauren doing her job as a 2 year old by curiously testing her boundaries and figuring how life was going to respond to her relentless inquiries.
I smiled a lot and through varying levels of enjoyment and challenge and I grew as a man, and a father, with every layer that unfolded as she ever so gradually grew into her own budding and promising life.
Unfortunately, when Lauren was 9 and, her younger brother and my son Jeffrey was 7, their mom and I split up with her choosing to move out and file for divorce. The subsequent, and very painful, child custody battle resulted in me winning primary custody and both of my children remained in the home with me nearly 80% of the time… as a single parent. Jeff moved out at age 16 and Lauren moved during her last year of college yet frequently, and most wonderfully, returned home to stay for long periods as necessary until she married at age 25.
When Lauren was young, her growing into her own was at a slow and very manageable pace. For me, this was good as I am clear that I am a man who historically resists uncontrollable, sudden and big changes!
From the beginning, I cognitively knew that this slower and manageable pace was time limited and that sooner or later her growing into her own would mean letting her go from the nest. I also knew it would be hard although I could never really know the multiple flavors of what that hard would look and feel like. Compounding this was that after Jeffrey moved out, it was very clear that Lauren was the last one in the nest and when she moved on, that – was – it…
Over her 26 years, I have “dealt with” … ”embraced” … ”learned from”… and “experienced” many milestones of her growing into her own. Last year, at her wedding, I symbolically handed her off to her new husband when I gently and consciously placed her hand into his. At that time, I thought I had reached the most dramatic and challenging milestone to date and to some degree, I thought my ‘letting her go’ challenges were over…
I feel a bit ashamed to admit that this AAA situation was pushing directly on the button that announced loudly enough for me to hear, and feel, that I was not needed here … in this way … anymore. Clearly, the ‘letting her go’ challenges were not complete and here was more for me to learn…
All of her life I had been needed for something. She is my daughter and I gladly and wholly gave to her what was needed and I felt good inside. I felt full, happy, needed, wanted and valued. I allowed myself to enjoy this huge part of my fullest self – expression to be expressed. I also derived tremendous satisfaction of being, “the man,” who could make things happen for another who couldn’t on their own.
And now, this particular piece of being a father, which provided auto insurance and roadside assistance, is no longer needed and frankly, it hurts. From the subjective, and more narrow personal point of view, there was *nothing* about sitting at that desk and canceling Lauren’s insurance that affirmed or confirmed that I was feeling wanted, needed, full, happy or valued.
It hurts this much, too, because I am realizing that over the years in some ways very large, but more often in ways measured in little by little, my ability to participate in the actions that wordlessly let her know, “I love you…I am taking care of you and I want you safe,” were being whittled away. I think this AAA situation is one of the final remaining ways I had left to hold onto that has now fallen like a last tree in a shrinking and nearly barren rainforest.
From the objective point of view, and not being directly involved and sucked into this, it would be easy to say, and it would be true, that I am still needed… of course I am! It will just look differently from now on…
Just because Lauren, quite literally, moved to the other side of planet only means that she moved. That I adjusted the insurance policy and even got a small refund check doesn’t mean I am not needed. It just means that the policy was changed and I have a check. Both the subjective and objective ways to see and feel this are true for me….
Lastly, I think it boils down to these 4 questions prefaced by the following:
So Lauren has left the nest to try on life differently just as she was destined and is supposed to! Again, just like when she was 2, she is just doing her job as a well-adjusted and courageous young woman who was raised in the best way I knew how.
1) Doesn’t it make sense for me to shed my old identity as a father of young children and kick myself out of the nest and experience what lies beyond the self – limiting identity of what was???
2) Is this yet another lesson about fatherhood and moving on that Lauren is silently teaching me? (Thank you Lauren 😉 !)
3) Isn’t this where I learn that I can fly with new wings of possibility amply supported by the warm up drafts that are resultant of a very successful and rich run at fatherhood… into whatever newness is awaiting me instead of being held back by my attachments and making things mean something?!
4) Now that I, most gratefully, have this newer awareness of what is going on around my upset, don’t I now have the choice to see it all from either the subjective or objective viewpoint and then *choose my own experience*? Meaning: I can have the resultant tightness and paralysis of the subjective OR I could experience the freedom, flow and acceptance of the objective!
Yes…I know…phew!! Insert right here: **a breath of fresh air… along with a lifting of the heavy weight I’ve been carrying for too long on my shoulders**!!
This Empty Nest business is no joke. It is a very real phenomenon. Lining up for the consistent challenge of being open to the riches of the full on expression of all of me as a father with unparalleled love and devotion meant, quite simply, that I chose to also line up for the pain, upset and grief of when the pendulum swings so unceremoniously to the other side.