One of the hardest lessons I've been learning through this stage of my life is when to hold on, and when to let go. As life moves on and the journey continues, the "rules" change. What seemed to need all my time and attention has passed and I'm at a new and different phase of life where I have needed to renegotiate my priorities. This can look a little bit like a midlife crisis, or we can turn it around and look at it as a new adventure. Brene Brown calls it an "unraveling" as you let go of expectations and embrace the life you're living.
When I was younger I could hold on to my children and influence their decisions and their lives. They looked to me for guidance and to keep them safe. Now they are grown and flown and out in the big wide world and they rarely need any input from me. It can be hard to remember to pull back and not offer that unsolicited advice that I am so sure they need. To let them go and to not feel bereft as a mother - to trust the parenting we gave them and free them to be the people they were created to be. Letting go is part of the parenting journey - those who hold on too tight for too long often come to regret it.
FRIENDSI have friendships that I thought were indestructible and I worked hard at holding on to them for decades (and that is a VERY long time!) only to realize they are not really friendships at all anymore.We have moved on in different directions and don't have a great deal in common now. Rather than working harder and harder to hold on to these people, I am coming to the realization that I can acknowledge they have run their course, and gracefully let them move out of my life and use the opportunity to be open to new friendships.
On that note, I am also realizing that new friendships are hard to come by. I used to make new friends all the time - through playgroup, school mums, church, work etc etc. Now I don't have those same social circles and it's harder to meet like minded women. This is where blogging has taken on a life of its own, the friendships and connections all over the world have added a new dimension to my life. It's easier to let the old go when the new is so interesting and engaging.
I've also needed to learn to let go of my husband - not in the sense of an open marriage thank you very much! But in the sense of not expecting him to be my chief source of entertainment. As my circle of friends decreases and my children have moved on, he has become a much bigger part of my life again. It's lovely to reconnect, but not to feel the need to strangle him with my need for time or attention.
Although he has always been the closest person to me, that doesn't mean I should be looking to him to fulfill all of my social needs, and (seeing he is an entrenched introvert) this is an incredible relief to him. It's been a process of finding the balance between time together and not expecting him to be the provider of my happiness.
I have seen marriages suffocate when the wife holds on too tightly to her husband in the hope he'll compensate for her empty nest and lost fledglings. We can't expect one person to create our happiness for us and holding on too tight can actually push them away. We need to renegotiate our boundaries and our expectations, holding on with a tight fist isn't the answer, it can be toxic and creates a slow death for any relationship.
Back in January 2015 I chose "Release" as my word for the year and this still comes into play in my life 18 months or more later. It is about learning to let go of things and people that are no longer good for me. Trusting that better things are in store, and finding sufficiency in myself rather than looking for it in others. Holding on to what is important but not grasping it in a needy way. Midlife is such a learning curve for me - one where I can let go of old habits and unnecessary obligations and fill those places I've freed up with new and interesting pursuits.