The art of being alone

imagesAugust 8, 2014 – When my son went off to college years ago, I cried. Not surprising, since most parents have similar reactions to their child leaving home for the first time.

Living alone was a new experience for me back then, a girl who married young, moved from her parents’ home to a home with her husband, and then to a home with her young son when the marriage ended.

Not only hadn’t I lived alone by that point, but also I never had my own bedroom until the divorce. And the only time I usually had alone as a single parent was driving to and from work. I’ll admit, sometimes I prayed for traffic.

It took time to get used to my son’s absence during those college years. Although we have great family and friends, it was mainly just the two of us for all of those years, so that’s understandable. But I did adjust to his wise choice to live at school, and grew to enjoy it. After graduation, he moved back home and I cried again. I had grown accustomed to a tidy life, and it felt like a hurricane had blown in with little warning, and another adjustment period was in order.

A year later, when he moved into his first post-college apartment, I cried yet again. Sense a pattern here? That pattern continued for three more apartments and many more tears as he moved in and out, coming back home in between apartments to pay off college loans, and leaving us both to adjust yet again. I suppose that’s the dance that many parents experience with their kids.

Despite all of the moving back and forth, I wasn’t officially an empty nester until this week when he moved into his first adult apartment, a place in one of the trendy parts of the city that’s perfect for a successful young man on the rise. I have the distinct feeling that this is the permanent move that all adults eventually make, and our days of living together have reached their end.

One of the first things you learn wandering around an empty house is that it takes time to get used any change, and even though I’ve had practice, it’s different each time. Strangely, I didn’t cry when I shut the door after his car pulled away. Or when his friend, who helped him move, asked if I would be lonely on the way out the door. I just shrugged my head and smiled because I clearly understand the difference between being alone and being lonely.

Spending time with family and friends is important because too much time alone can be harmful. But not enough time alone can be a problem, too.

Like everything else in life, it’s about reaching that happy medium.

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