Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pushing The Boundaries Of One's 'Empty Nest'!

I suppose one of the problems facing 'empty nesters' today is that, as in my case, our children not only flew the nest, but they flew the country!  Now before making the rather comical observation that they were in fact just escaping their parents, I would suggest that success as a parent is teaching one's children to fly and, from our empty nest, my husband and I stood by and watched them soar, with a great degree of pride and a certain feeling of satisfaction at a job well done!    

In a way, it was their pioneering spirit and enthusiasm for exploring life that made us look at our empty nest, still perched in the country of our birth and dare to conceive the idea of moving it to a foreign land! Having been parents since the age of twenty, we missed out on the 'gap year' culture of taking a year out to explore the world and, as I have mentioned before, much time was lost due to my husband's illness.  I suppose writing this today, I just want to encourage others who find themselves in their early forties or older and in the same position.  Realise it is your moment and maybe for the first time since becoming parents, push the boundaries and in finding a new life, whatever direction that may take you, enjoy discovering the person you have become during the those wonderful challenging years of parenthood.

Our time in France, where relocating our nest, saw us renovate an old presbytery in the centre of a little French village in the Poitou-Charente region, was to become an experience that tested us on every level and like anything in life requiring one's heart and soul, rewarded us beyond all measure. Things I discovered about myself along the way? Well, I discovered I love open spaces, nature and wildlife, unlike my husband I discovered I have to work hard at learning a foreign language, but my love for people never stops me communicating. My soul is enriched by the beauty of Romanesque Churches, art and history and in the face of adversity I try never to give up. Oh! And of course, I also discovered it is writing that keeps me sane!  

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Feeling Empty In My Nest!

Arriving back at my 'empty nest' this morning after walking the dog, I had as usual passed the time deep in thought! There are positives and negatives surrounding the whole experience of finding oneself sitting in an 'empty nest'.  In stark contrast to the riotous experience of the years spent being part of a family unit that to all intents and purposes seemed the most permanent of situations, there is most definitely a grieving process to go through.  Don't get me wrong, there is a whole new world out there, once you get your head around the fact that to a certain extent, it is time to reinvent oneself!

Recently, however, I found a poem I wrote when coming to terms with this difficult episode in my life, which at the time coincided with my husband losing his career due to illness and the death of my Mother.  It reminded me of my thoughts on the night I wrote it. So many things seemed to be lost, creating in their place a multitude of memories.  It was a cold January night and I stood at the window. Outside, snow fell heavy from a dark sky and, looking upwards in the light of the street lamp, I stood mesmerised by the multitude of flakes drifting silently to earth and in my mind...

I dreamed I lay on the ground one night,
When the snow was falling,
Swirling drifting flakes,
Like memories from the past falling from the night sky,
Becoming me, filling me,
How can there be so many memories, so many faces?
Reaching out to touch them, they melt away,
While inside, I feel so empty.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Stepping out of my nest, into the lights of 'Paris'!

I hope you will bear with me readers, as I jump from nest to nest, but you will probably have gathered by now, in the last decade I have moved my 'empty nest' between Ireland and France, and so, as I feather the empty corners and tidy the twigs, metaphorically speaking, reminiscences of recent adventures are never far from my mind!

With the summer coming to an end and the idea of winter leading me to ponder where I might be nesting this Christmas, my thoughts took me back to early December in my French nest, in our little village in the Charente region, of South West France. 

As usual, things were quiet, everyone having closed their shutters against the freezing temperatures outside, while life beyond ambled along, driven by the church bells' call to rise at seven and stop for lunch at noon. Bright lights and glamour were confined to distant memories of the big city, while here in the countryside the only visible illuminations to be found were in the amazing night skies, where shooting stars darted between galaxies of twinkling lights and the full moon alone illuminated the fields and hillsides below.

Just when my husband and I had become accustomed to wearing clothes as a matter of warmth rather than style and gained our evenings' entertainment from throwing another massive log on the wood-burner and sitting mesmerised, while watching the flames lick hungrily at the glass door.  Suddenly we found ourselves on the TGV to Paris, flashing through the French countryside, at well over a hundred miles an hour.  Where were we heading?  Yes, it seemed rather unlikely, but we were heading for a glamorous fashion show on the 'Champs Élysées', hosted by one of Spain's best known actresses, Victoria Abril!  

It's worth mentioning at this point, as one will find out eventually in my book, that many of the outstanding moments of my life can be traced back to the intervention of my amazing daughter, and this one was a perfect example, as it was Katie who had orchestrated this huge event to raise money for charity.

Having booked into a hotel; in the comfort of our luxury room, my husband and I sipped a glass of champagne, as we peeled off the layers of woolly garments designed for survival in subzero temperatures and for the first time in months slipped into our glamorous evening wear.  Stepping out into the street below, we hailed a taxi and set off into the Parisian night. Minutes later driving up the 'Champs Élysées', on either side of the car, trees covered in fairytale Christmas lights lined the streets and sitting spellbound in the back, I whispered to Ron, "It doesn't get much better than this!"

Finally, stepping out at our destination, in front of the illuminated white marble entrance to our venue, the Christmas lights bounced off the white walls, like the flashbulbs of the paparazzi, completing our final transformation, from French peasant to Parisian socialite!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

'Writing for Survival' in my Empty Nest!

As you may have gathered from my previous blog, I live in my empty nest at the moment, with the realisation once again, I am not always the author of my own destiny.  Indeed it hasn't been easy to return to Ireland and find myself living just a few miles from the family home where I grew up, after finally at the age of 47 having had the courage to embark on a new life in France.  

My husband and I had survived his illness, resulting in early retirement at age 40, the same year in which our children flew the nest and after separating for a year, had made the life changing decision to put the past behind us and start all over again, with a new life in France.  We had three amazing years of an experience that surpassed our wildest dreams, as this beautiful country welcomed us with open arms and filled every day with so many adventures that the past was just a distant memory! 

It hasn't been easy therefore, to step back into the past again and finding a way to cope until we can move back to France, has been a process of trial and error for both of us.  All through my life writing has emerged at different stages, in the form of poetry or articles for local publications.  It has always been  something that would evolve almost like an extension of who I am and what I am feeling, after which I would feel released to carry on with my life; So when I started to write the story of our French adventure, I never dreamt I wouldn't be able to stop, that every day when I sat down at the computer, like entering the wardrobe and stepping into Narnia, I would be back in France reliving every moment.        

Eighteen months later to my surprise I have written a book and looking back the process has been my life line, as I realise I was in fact, 'writing for survival'.