I promise not to rename this newsletter "The Empty Nest Chronicles."
Hello again, our son has officially moved out. Moved right out, like he’s a fully formed human being! A person I created is on his own, out and about in the world. Working, living, loving. Stopping every block or so to hoist his pants up. Who knew, when he was a tadpole, that the one fad among the youths that would last for decades would be saggy jeans? And yet here we are—in NYC, anyway—still watching these kids walk funny because their pants are falling down, still wondering why this is a thing.
Am I talking about Henry’s jeans so I don’t have to think about my feelings? You be the judge. Remember when we called them “dungarees”? When did we stop doing that? I’m guessing 1974.
Mostly this is very, very strange. I am elated for him, and I’m sad for us, but I’m also elated for us. So it’s a net positive. I keep having this anxiety—because of course I do, I am composed mostly of anxiety—that something is missing, that I have forgotten about something important. It’s like those dreams that you’ve gone out and accidentally left the baby at home. Even though rationally I know where he is and I know he’s fine, some part of me is unconvinced this is all okay, because he was only born a few minutes ago.
On the other hand, I can now traipse around in various states of undress. And I don’t have to worry about putting together actual dinners anymore. There was nothing I disliked more than trying to think up new well-balanced meal ideas every goddamn day, and I am DONE, do you hear me? Sure, we’re still eating real dinners because it hasn’t hit us yet, but soon enough we’re going to go feral and root around the pantry every few hours for whatever we can scavenge. (I’m trying not to imagine how his meals are now comprised of a combo of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, eaten out of a partially washed Stormtrooper mug.)
But what strikes me, most of all, is the—if I may so myself—excellent job I’m doing of tolerating feeling one way and also its opposite. I can feel bummed and thrilled at the same time, it turns out. Look at me, holding them both lightly, like some kind of goddamn Zen master. Watching the feelings float past and demand all my attention, and just waving at them, those adorable floating gremlins. I’m not sure if this is maturity, or a newfound disinclination to wallow—or maybe disinclination to wallow is maturity. Or it’s the 5 mg of Abilify. I'm not convinced this rare equanimity is going to last, but for as long as it's here, I'm going to act pretty smug about it.