Becoming Empty (life essay & live music)

Nature had a way of gently helping me with an emotional situation before I knew I needed help…

I watched a mourning dove dart away from the top of our back porch pillar and return countless times over the course of several days. Each time he (that’s right) returned with a twig, string, or other objects that he delivered to his partner, who would then weave his found objects into what became their nest. I was captivated by this feathered pair who worked together to build a home for their soon-to-arrive baby birds. Arrive they did. I could not see the baby birds, due to the height of the pillar, but I could hear their sweet chirps. The resourceful pair had chosen a protected location close to our sliding back door near our kitchen, so I enjoyed many moments of watching the two birds carry on with their bird-parenting-business whenever I carried on with my cooking and cleaning business. They kept an eye on me too. Our routine of watching each other was enjoyable and temporary.

A scene on the back porch made me stop my movements after arriving home from work. On the ground, near the pillar, were two tiny birds. “Ohh, so cute,” I whispered. I did not want to startle them, but I needed to get inside the house; the back porch was the pathway between the garage and the back door. I decided to walk around to the front door, leaving the baby birds be. I dropped my heavy teacher bag and quick-stepped to the sliding door. I watched the tiny birds and wondered how long it would be before they flew away, forever. A few days is what I would learn. During those few days of their fumbling and tumbling around our back porch, I worried about their safety. Should I help them, I entertained. What about the hawks, owls, and bats that also visited our back yard? I accepted that nature knew exactly what to do and I needed to let nature be. I noticed that the dove parents were never far. I did not see their departure flight; I only noticed when the babies were gone. This backyard bird scene taught me a tiny lesson in letting go. A scene I would watch at least four more times before I had to let my own daughter fly.

Her flight from the nest would not be traditional. Fitting for her personality. Traditionally, most children leave the “nest.” We left her. Let me explain. The backyard bird scene was in Tucson, which is where we were living before my husband’s career brought us back to the Phoenix area. Because our daughter was about to start her second year of college in the Old Pueblo, she had no interest in joining the moving caravan back to the valley of the sun. I did not blame her. After my husband’s work transition was finalized, I used my real estate license to find and negotiate the details of a new nest (again). I then found myself saying so long to a teaching position, my dancing tribe, friends, including my feathered ones, and the emotional transition that trumped all others… moving our daughter into student housing.

My husband made the official move before I did. With his new position under way, I stayed behind to deal with the movers and house stuff, then, with Tucson in the rear-view mirror, I woke up in a new home and a new empty(nester) life. Although the move allowed us to be closer to three aging parents before their passing, the life transition was very difficult for me. I missed the incredible nature we were surrounded by, but more than anything I missed my daughter, her boyfriend, and her friends who doubled our grocery bill, but the sights and smells of my daughter cooking for her friends was worth every cent. The sounds of teenagers in the kitchen has been replaced with streaming music or podcasts and I have adapted to quiet dinners and eating alone on occasion. This mealtime change is just part of life and despite these changes, cooking is still enjoyable for me. 

Life goes on, whether we are ready or not. I secured a new teaching job in Phoenix a few weeks after moving and I made my way through months of separation sadness. I learned how to grocery shop for only two, I adjusted to my husband’s even busier schedule, and I began building a new life in a new life phase. A long process for me. Remembering nature’s gift of those baby birds helped me to let mine fly free. I will always miss the most rewarding job I’ve ever had – being a busy mom – but I have finally embraced the freedom that comes with having an “empty nest” and after hanging out too long on the back porch, I am learning to use my own wings. Letting go is allowing me to enjoy the view.

This is what Zen means by being detached – not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling is not sticky or blocked, and through whom the experiences of the world pass like the reflections of birds flying over water.

~ Alan Watts

Being an empty nester means saying, “Yes!” when a friend calls with Monday night show tickets to an unfamiliar band. Who cares! It’s a live show! I wore ear plugs and of course I moved to the front row. Great idea until I got bumped in the head after the crowd got rowdy. 😂 Here’s what makes that head bump funnier… needing a little comic relief after this write, I asked Siri to tell me a joke. Here’s what my British crush just said, “When that librarian bumped her head, she had no one to blame but her shelf.” 🤣 He really does get me. 😲 BTW-I was fine; I have a hard head. Thank you for visiting and reading. Be well. 💗 Michele

Writer’s note: It isn’t too often that I get this personal and I would much rather write sweet sexy romance, but I do think sharing our challenges and triumphs can help others (and ourselves). If you like this style of personal narrative, you might appreciate my piece, “His Last Two Quarters” ~ a touching story about the moments after my father’s passing.

Photos: my images, unfortunately I do not have photos of the dove parents or the baby birds, I got into photography (again) after we moved Video: my footage of the band, Quicksand

© 2021 Michele Lee Sefton

114 thoughts on “Becoming Empty (life essay & live music)

  1. Thank you for getting personal Michele. It’s nice to learn more about you and your family; the person behind the blog and writing. Letting go seems to be an ongoing lesson for me. I’m glad you’re adapting and enjoying your new empty nest life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Brad. I appreciate your message. “Getting personal” is uncomfortable for me, but writing helps me process life and why not share with the world? 😆 I also believe what I wrote – sharing our stories can help others in similar situations. An ongoing lesson for me too – the letting go. I did not reference years in this piece, but this has been an ongoing journey for me, for several. Sending a child out into the world is a form of grieving, but I am proud of my years of devoted parenting and I am now embracing this life phase. 💃🏼

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with you, Brad, and that is what makes the hesitation to share worthwhile. I am grateful to the many writers and speakers I have learned from, made possible by their willingness, and often courage, to share. Thank you. Hugs to you too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Timothy Price

    “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange)!” That’s what David Bowie had to say about it. Touching essay. It’s hard to leave family, friends, and familiarity behind. But on the brighter side of life, you can go to a lively concert at the last minute, and do so headbanging. Literally. Speaking of Siri. Years ago, my cat Rosencrantz stepped on my phone and Siri asked if she could help him. He meowed, and Siri answered with a lengthy definition of cat vocalizations and a definition of a cat. I tried meowing in the phone, and Siri basically said I was not the cat’s meow.

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    1. Yes! Great song. It has taken me awhile, but I am finding many bright sides to this life stage. I said no to many things while raising my daughter. I don’t regret any of those parenting decisions, which probably makes this time even more enjoyable.😁 That is a funny Siri cat story. Siri can be quite entertaining. And surprising too! 😲 Thank you, Timothy and thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this story, Michele: I’ve found it incredibly hard to let go of the places I’ve moved on from, but letting go of my babies will be even harder I am sure! Still we learn to cherish the beauty in each phase of our lives ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are most welcome, Ingrid. Thank you for reading and commenting. I can relate, although there have been a few places I did not mind leaving. 😆 Having moved many times, like you, I can’t imagine not having the experiences and the memories of people, across the miles. Some I remain in touch with, thanks to technology. Although, nothing beats a handwritten letter. 💌 The many moves have definitely contributed to my tumbleweed spirit. 🌞 Enjoy holding and cherishing your babies – they are precious times. 💖 They will always be your babies, close to your heart, wherever life might take them, or you and your husband. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michele, what a beautiful and heartwarming story of learning to let go. I saw a similar scenario with two mockingbirds a few years ago. There were some dried grass clippings under my neighbor’s deck from him cutting his grass. At the time I was sitting on my deck and watched as these mockingbirds pecked over the ground, seemingly looking for the perfect size to carry off. 🐦 Of course, our trees are quite dense in the back so I couldn’t see their actual nest, even with my high-powered binoculars. 😲 Thinking about their process with weaving a perfect nest (I’ve seen several on the ground due to strong winds) captivated me so. And to think they only have a beak and two legs (no arms like us).

    But my takeaway from watching their commitment to working together to build a home for their family, and then when the time came to watch those birds try to fly when they left the nest was such a blessing to me. While I didn’t have a child to let go, God applied the lesson to something else I needed to take my hands off of and to step away from (but not to abandon mind you). 🤗 Our only problem are the cats that we catch roaming around the trees, but I scare them off when I see them! No, “I tawt I taw a Puddy Tat here!!!” LOL 🙀

    But girlfriend, I love your testimony and I love your moral to your story. 🥰😊😍 So many decisions, so many emotions to deal with, but sweetie pie, you did it, even through teary eyes. 😭 Your story warms my heart, Michele. Thank you for such a touching message for today! 🦜🐣🦅 Now, get on out there and, well, you know what to do ladybug… 💃🏼🎶👯‍♀️

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    1. Kym, I loved reading your mockingbird story. Thank you for sharing. I have seen a few birds make unwise nest decisions. One built a nest on the inside of a large umbrella that needed to come down. I felt bad when I had to move her nest. 😞 Better luck next time momma bird! Those stray cats strutting around. 😒😆 Thank you, wonderful writer wonder woman. I have a moral? Teasing. You boosted my morale by identifying a moral to my story. 😁 I will get on out there and enjoy the chilly 80 degree temps. Better remember a sweater.🥶 haha Enjoy your day too, butterfly. 🦋☕💃🏽💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You really know how to lift a gal’s spirits Michele! 🤗🥰😊 Yes dear, you have such an incredible way of weaving your experiences with a very teachable moment. 👩🏻‍🏫 Yeah, sometimes our little feathered friends don’t make wise choices when selecting a place to build their homes. I think one time I had a nest in my gutters. Go figure. But they are survivors and the wise ones learn, just like us humans! 😱

        Oh I’m jealous that you have 80 temps in your neck of the woods. Yeah girl, bring out the sweater mittens, and hot chocolate! 🧣🧤🧥We are at windbreaker temps around 85 degrees I believe. Time to build a fire in the fireplace!!! LOL 🔥

        Thanks for the laughs and reality checks. Plus, you always have a moral to your stories, even the HOT, SEXY, STEAMY, AND SENSUAL ones! 😅😏😉 For the rest of this weekend…ENJOY!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You reminded me of a time when a bird built a nest near my classroom window. I was on the second floor. It was sweet to hear the little birds chirping away. 😄 Thank you for appreciating the layers in my stories, even when the layers are removed. Ooh la la! 🥵 Guess I know what I will be writing soon. 😉 Fire in the fireplace sounds so nice. Soon! AZ has one day out of the year when that makes sense. 😆 Thank you, you too sweets!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading every sentence! A little on the long side. Much ground to cover, or should I say sky to cover, based on the subject of birds learning to fly. 🕊 Sweet words.🌺 I have been an empty nester for several years, but embracing the experience is fairly recent. Thank you! I will. 💖Best to you! Aloha.

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  5. Wonderful written. 🙂
    Have heard about woodpeckers, that parentbirds when the cubs are ready to fly – then the parents invite them on a flight far away to a place where they can establish themselves. Then fly back without the kids.
    Would probably correspond a bit like if we humans changing the door locks while the kids were sent into town. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anne. I appreciate you writing that. I didn’t go too deep down the emotional well, but you know how it is to reflect on past challenging moments. I do think it is helpful for our growth and overall happiness though. Reflecting and releasing. An ongoing process. Writing helps. 😀 Thanks, I enjoyed the band. Great energy! I was sure I would have an egg in the middle of my forehead when accidentally head smacked by a large man. Nope! 😅 Wonder if he did? 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely loved this post, Michele. Moved to tears am I, as I’ve just recently been through a letting go of my youngest son, as he is living full time with his mother. The first 6 months were so hard, and like you, had deep bouts of separation anxiety and sadness; yet, I’ve leaned more about myself and life in the past two years and am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. Thank you for sharing this part of your story with us. Much love to you, my friend. 🥰❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel bad reading that I made you cry, but releasing emotion can be cathartic. So, you are welcome. 😆 Your poems evoke great emotion too. Emotional poets. 😁 Thank God for poets! 💖 The letting go sneaks up on us parents, and children too – losing older parents. I am not sure how I made it through my first year (and then some) after leaving Tucson. A challenging emotional time coupled with working at a challenging high school. Goodness! I am glad that is behind me, and I agree with you… we do learn a lot about ourselves during these times. Thank you for reading my “empty” story and for sharing your recent challenges. My best to you – I know how hard it is. You have a loving and open heart – a gift. 💝 Grateful to know you and read you, Jeff.🤗

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, please don’t feel bad, Michele, these tears are welcome and helpful, as you write. I’m glad that the crying happened while reading your post. More to process. 💖 Ah! Yes, emotional poets; and, yes, thank God for them! 😃 I’m glad that is behind you too. Indeed, it is the hard times that show us the most. Always. I loved your story; you are most welcome. 🥰 Thank you, Michele. Honored, and grateful for you. ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Sweetest Michele, this is soo touching and inspiring. Your skills are natural and your learnings from the nature are much more beautiful to read and feel strong through out the read. No doubt many women who read would get inspired, I am the first one always. Have a great n joyous time. Loves and hugs 🤗❤😘😘

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am moved by your piece, Michele, and in seeing how your experiences have lent new meaning and ability to the new moments you undergo. Your perspective on the empty nesting life and how it may not be as lonely as the word “empty” implies is lovely. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jaya, I always enjoy reading your perspective on my posts, and I find this one most interesting due to our different ages – an age difference that melts away when the topic is writing or creativity. It seems not that long ago I was your age and yet, here I am thinking about the many life experiences I have had since then. I adore that you are already immersed in your writing path, and as I have written before – I am excited about your writing future.✨ In many ways, this empty nester life stage feels like being a young adult again, although, it is much better now. 😁 Thank you. Embrace the journey! 💗

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Ms. Jaya, you have many wonderful moments ahead of you, wherever life takes you. Getting to know you through your writing, I am confident that you will enjoy living and writing about the journey. 💖

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoyed your personal narrative, Michele, sharing reflections on life and lessons learned, both through profound examples in nature and experientially. From one nest to another, and another again, each temporary stage posing both challenges & rewards as life goes on, memories endure and new opportunities await. Have a great week ahead, my friend, and thank you for sharing. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lovely summary of my narrative and of life. Thank you, Phil, for your always thoughtful words. I appreciate the phrase, “new opportunities await.” ✨ Always! For all of us. I trust this will be a busy week full of memorable moments. Best wishes to you. Safe stepping out there on those trails! 😎

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  10. Oh the sweet precious birds, how they came as a glimpse of a personal journey and a lesson to be lived so truly – your description has so much gentleness and tenderness for how this life is. We keep moving on and letting go so many ways of our being. So exciting to say yes for a Monday night concert and the librarian joke was perfect lol. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are precious and yet so resilient, strong, and resourceful. More lessons. 😄 Thank you, Pragalbha, for your words that convey an understanding of a parent’s journey. The letting go and becoming “empty” allows us to evolve into the next chapter and the next version of ourselves. ✨ The joke was perfect. Too funny! Getting thumped in the forehead was pretty funny too. My Siri must have heard it happen. 😵 Thank you.

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    1. Thank you very much. You have summed up my emotions, both expressed through my words and felt when I was writing this. 🙏🏻 Some people spend a long time, even a lifetime living in one place. That has not been my journey (since childhood), definitely not prior to moving to our current house, which is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. Must be time to move again. 😆 I have embraced my tumbleweed gypsy journey too. My pleasure to inspire – thank you. 🌻

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  11. What a beautiful post, Michele. I enjoyed reading this, like always. Life indeed teaches us so many things in so many ways. Love when you connect to us personally. I left my parent’s nest when my job got transferred. It took time for me too. I got married soon afterwards, though. 😊👰. Stay blessed always ❤️❤️🤗🙏

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    1. Thank you, Diana. What a treat to see your lovely face and read your cheerful and sincere words. Yes, life is never without its lessons. It helps when we receive inspiration in unexpected ways and from loving people, like you. I will do my best. You too gifted poetess. 💖 🤗

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    1. Thank you so much for reading my personal post. 🙏🏻 As a mom, I am sure you can identify with the process and inevitable change that comes with children getting older. I suppose some children never leave the nest for a variety of reasons, but my daughter has always been fiercely independent. Both a parent’s gift and a protective and sentimental mom’s challenge. Layers and layers of letting go. Much freer now. 🕊💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes indeed Michele. It’s truly an ongoing lesson and I totally can relate. We love our kids fiercely and are always mom’s first so I appreciate and know intimately the challenge of letting go. At some point they all have to make their way even when it pulls at our heartstrings. 💖💖🌷

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    1. Thanks a million, Dwight. Those sweet doves arrived just in time. They sure helped me see the bigger (parenting) picture. Adaptability is key. I’ve always known this and life has taught me to go with the flow, but this last move was especially challenging. Leaving her and my husband’s schedule had me asking, “What happened to family?” Adaptability and gratitude for the many involved mom years I did have. 💝

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      1. Thank you for noticing. 🙏🏻 I did a fine job raising my daughter and husband. 😉 I started teaching in my early 30s, when my daughter was in 3rd grade. Prior to, I worked in professional office settings. I obtained a teaching certificate so she and I could have the same schedule. I had planned on leaving when she graduated, but kept on. I was in the HS classroom for 15 years-a few more at the lower lever and subbing. The last few years included teaching community college classes. That is the short answer. 😆 What about you?

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      2. Starting in 1969 I taught elementary 4-5 for 29 years. I did home repair for 2 1/2 years after I retired, then worked 2 1/2 years teaching a hands on Building Construction class with the Community College. We worked on cite with Habitat for Humanity and later with the city of Rock Mount doing rehab. My last six year, I managed a Vinyl Siding warehouse for a friend of mine. Now I am retired and writing poetry! :>)

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      3. Thank you for serving young students and families for almost thirty years. 👏🏻 Your teaching year began the year I did. A great year for new beginnings! 😄 Most teachers wear many hats and have many jobs (in addition to teaching) – we are resourceful! I got my real estate license in 2005, for two reasons: with all of our moves it seemed smart and to supplement my income – also smart. Thank you so much for sharing part of your work/life journey with me. A busy one indeed! I have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity – a wonderful organization. Writing poetry is a gift! I have not retired – I help teach online writing classes, which you’ve probably read on my blog. I have entertained teaching one class through a college. If I pursue that, it would be online. I like the flexibility that is affording me. Thank you so much for sharing part of your work/life journey with me. We may be out of the classroom, but being a teacher will never leave us! I have discovered there are many ways to teach. 💗

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      4. Yes, once a teacher always a teacher! You are welcome Michele. You have had a busy and interesting life as well. I like where I am at this point in life. Writing poetry has be great fun and meeting people on line is very rewarding. Thank you for sharing some of your life experiences with me as well.

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      5. Yes, we are! I suppose I have lived an interesting life. It sometimes feels like it has gone by so fast and other times it feels like I have lived ten lives in this one. What a blessing that you like where you are in life. 😊 Writing, sharing, and meeting people (from around the world) is engaging. I enjoy reading your creative posts and interacting with you. Thank you.

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  12. Beautiful and graceful writing, Michele!💕 I love to hear you chatting about life, big or small, with your tender words. 🌸🏡

    Wish you the best with your move and your new job! You will be loved anywhere you go🥰💕

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    1. Thank you, sweet Annabel. It is always so wonderful to hear from you. 😊 Thank you for appreciating my chattiness. 😆 Reflection is an important part of learning for me. For everyone! We moved several years ago… it has taken me a few to embrace the empty nester lifestyle. 😁 Thank you, though. Have a wonderful weekend beautiful lady! 💐 I hope all is well with you.💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Michele! ❤️ Your empty nester lifestyle seemed very generously productive to me! Now you can free write, free dance, free traveling…plenty of fun things to experience💕🥰🏡

        And I am well ( not really😬 my new car got hit twice in 2 weeks…) I am counting down my time in Philly. 😅😂🤪 Enjoy your beautiful weekend, too!!🥳🌸🏝

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      2. It is a liberating time. Harder to fully embrace the freedom than I ever could have imagined. I suppose that is fairly comment with devoted parents (moms). 💖 After several years, I am getting the swing of it! 💃🏼 Oh no! I don’t like learning that. Are you OK? I bet you are ready to leave, already. Goodness. Be safe and hugs to you!

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      3. Oh, yes! I can clearly tell between your lines that just what a devoted mom you were and still are!🥳😃🥰 It made me laugh and surprised when I learned that you even missed your daughter’s boyfriend …🤗🏡😂! We need more Michele as moms💕🤪

        You know me, Michele! Although I am not injured, but one foot is already out of this place😅😂. Send hugs to you, too💗💗

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  13. Hey Michelle, I haven’t been spreading my wings enough or something but caught on to this posting and immediately was happy to see the opening or feature photo of two mourning doves which I love, along with all wildlife; but the background shots and the whole feature article empty nests was a good one to read!

    I just wanted to send along these two links which were about a mourning dove I had to rescue and try saving! Hope you get something enjoyable from the story.
    God bless.
    Lawrence

    https://lawrencemorra.com/2019/12/12/the-miracle-morning-dove/

    https://lawrencemorra.com/2020/01/11/the-miracle-mourning-dove-the-miracle-continues-release-update/

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome Sister Michelle! You offer some very inspiring and beautiful images and thoughts in your blogging!
        Your doves caught my eye and heart so I can say something happened because I slept only a few hours and woke to come upon another following bloggers inspiring essay, which I had to reblog! I like how this turned out very much! I see and feel God’s presence in all of this! Very comforting! Amen.

        Hebrews: Brothers and Sisters

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