I walked outside at dusk not long ago to catch a glimpse of the beautiful amber sunset to the west of the farm. To get to my normal Instagram worthy sunset location I walked by an enormous patch of blooming thistles. Instead of passing them by this time I stopped and stared. Mesmerized by the deep purple and how gorgeous they looked in the quickly setting sun and contemplating also what a nightmare they are going to create around the yard if we don’t get rid of them before they go to seed. Thistles multiple quickly if you choose to ignore them and can turn into a prickly mess all over the place in a heartbeat.
I decided to snap the picture above reflecting beauty and the beast instead of some random picture of the sunset that I may never actually look at again anyway.
My soul needed something specific to capture at that moment even though I wasn’t sure what it was searching for. But it felt like a true reflection of the life I’m actually living. There’s the life I choose to show most people on social media. The cute photos of beautiful things that people “like to like” on a daily basis when scrolling through tiny photos that maybe are the truth but more likely not from the deep places of honesty and my life. Tiny glimpses of what is chosen to make myself look good. But outside of those photos it’s more like the thistle patch. It looks beautiful from a distance but if you walk up closely you’ll see the real me. The prickly ugly truth of who I am.
I honestly had no idea what my life would look like after the kids moved away and out on their own in the world. They’ve been my responsibility since I was a teenager and I guess I just never took the time to ponder what I would do once they weren’t here. They have been my life and sole focus for so long. I loved every minute of it. Even the hard times. It seemed so far away anyway that they would some day leave and we were always so busy just enjoying and loving life as a family that I didn’t give a ‘what’s next’ any thought. Ever!
But then in a blink of an eye those magical wonder years were over and now it’s just two of us. And lots of empty space and time on my hands.
Empty nesters. For some couples it’s the dream. However I have come to find out it wasn’t a dream I ever pictured. I don’t know what to do with myself or my time without a small army to boss around, to keep me busy nonstop on a rigid schedule and always thinking about kids or other people’s kids in my care and their needs.
Instead I find myself now constantly in my head. Contemplating life things. Big things. Small things. Can’t even lay my finger on it type of things. It’s been a vicious cycle for a couple years now.
Several months ago in a moment of searching and utter despair I pulled out a notebook and wrote down a few things just randomly that I wanted to work on and help keep myself busy while flailing about at accepting our current empty nest situation.
Fall in love
None of these things come easy for me. You may see get dirty on the list and think that’s a no brainer to be able to achieve living on the farm. But I’m not talking about physically getting dirty. I’m talking about digging into the dirt of my soul. Those deep dark places everyone hides from others. The places that actually make me who I am.
And falling in love has nothing to do with my husband or my marriage. I want to fall in love with myself. To accept who I once was and who I am now and not worry about who I think the world expects me to be every day. I have never felt like I fit in so why do I care about it so dearly some days? I contemplate that one daily with extra time.
The hardest thing on that list that is actually physical is to laugh. I don’t laugh a lot. I’m always too wrapped up in my head. I don’t let loose easy so whole hearted chuckling is rare. But not long ago on a day filled with torrential rain, tornado warnings and fear I was gonna die in Rural King I laughed until I cried all day and into the night. It felt truly amazing and refreshing.
The hardest part of digging into ones soul is the first cut. The fear that comes with the not knowing of what you’ll find on the other side. I’m always so intimidated by it and terrified of what changes may potentially come or need to happen when you stare the cold hard truth in the face. I didn’t used to be but at some point over the years it became the norm. What you truly see in the mirror is easier to avoid if you just ignore it altogether.
But life has changed. And I need to change too. It will require work. Dirty work in my heart and soul. And a hard, long look in the mirror that hasn’t been cleaned in ages.
So today as Tom stood with a knife in his hand over the old, worn out stained carpet in the living room that’s covering the original wood floors in our farmhouse he asked me if I was ready for him to make the first cut.
For a moment it seemed scary. I knew I was getting in way over my head.
But I assured him that I was ready.
It was now or never.
And he made that first cut.
Hours later when it had all been removed Tom made mention he didn’t remember the floors being in such bad shape and I just laughed and grinned from ear to ear. I haven’t felt that happy looking at such a mess in a really long time.
And just like that prickly thistle patch I have another task on my hands. It’s more then just the floors. It’s the first deep cut of figuring out what’s next for me inside those honest, deep dark places.
I’ve learned my favorite parts of messes after all the hard, exhausting work is the change God was creating behind the scenes that I never expected to happen or saw coming. Its not the physical change that ends up speaking to me and changing me permanently.
It’s the type that can take up residence in an empty nester’s soul and make her whole again.
To making the first cut. And to refinishing farmhouse wood floors and my soul!