Thursday, March 01, 2012


Change is constant; all relationships change.
My soul is from elsewhere,
I'm sure of that.
And I intent to end up there. . . .
I did not come here of my own accord
And I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
--Jalaluddin Rumi 1207-1270

It’s Spring and our fledglings are about to leave the nest, flying off to the larger world that awaits them.

High schools and colleges all around the country will be having commencement exercises. So many of our fledglings are taking flight—trying out their wings and taking off to foreign lands and foreign homes, leaving us with empty nests. They think of their “commencement” as an end to the drudgery of homework and boring classes. But the word itself means a beginning, an inauguration, an initiation, or a new start; which it is for those leaving and those left.

We who are left with an empty nest in many cases will begin a new stage of our lives as well and new roles and even new identities. The roles and identity of mother and father carry such great weight that there should be a formal initiation, commencement for us to recognize the momentous journey parents take on: birth, first steps, leaving for daycare, kindergarten, first date, the stress of graduation from high school and college applications, and, eventually, leaving the nest.

It takes great courage to open oneself to the vulnerability of having children and birthing them into a world we can’t possibly control or protect them from. This Choice is an acknowledgement of our natural human vulnerability--not a weakness--and our stronger self.

We must continue to love our children without having control and without being controlling. And then we set them free to fly into life and feel a new level of loss. We have been so completely enmeshed in our role to parent, mentor, friend, teacher, and coach that we are shocked to discover that our job of 18 years is over; taken away with a “commencement” exercise, a graduation.

We lose our cherished and often stressful parental role but also a major identity—a large part of who we thought we were. We lose a part of our identity when we lose a job, a home, a relationship, or our health. The severity of the loss depends on how many of our identity eggs are in one basket. Those with diverse activities and roles in life may have a slightly easier time of losing one identity or one role. Nevertheless, there is a loss of identity when our children leave home.

Losing your identity can be a painful loss, but not necessarily a bad thing. It can open us to the unexplored aspects of our larger self. While always uncomfortable, the loss of identity can lead to living life more as a creative improvisation rather than following a set script; can open us to a surprise, a sense of wonder about “What’s next?” coaching:

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