Yes, My Child Has Gone to College; No, I'm Most Decidedly Not an Empty Nester

I love to write, and I love to draw, but lately, those two things are happening in all the wrong places.

I'm drawing in my journal (where I should be writing), and I am writing not journal entries or blog posts, but long text messages, fb messages, IG direct messages, emails, and even social media comments (not my own social media main feed posts which, as an independent artist, are mos def hard work done in the right place, but just plain old comments on other folk's posts).

I don't know how long I got lost in creating this mess of leafy vines in my journal
(or how long I got lost in videoing myself drawing them, taking in-process photos
and then loading them on my IG stories and Snapchat)!
All the energy I put into my creative enterprises is going in completely mixed up and slightly frustrating directions (well...all of it except for my dancing and coloring energy - I do think all of my tap classes and library coloring meet-ups are getting prepared for and/or happening just as they are supposed to, but I tend to focus only on what needs improvement, not on what's going well...a perfectionist's practice I am working on breaking, but I have yet to fully learn how to give up), and up until yesterday morning, as I was staring out at the rain (...again, because it has been raining in my part of Texas every bloody day for, like, a week), I was belittling myself for not being able to get my sh*t together, not being able to focus, not being able to create in more productive, useful ways, and not making headway on my creative/professional goals (anyone else out there fall prey to this destructive mental loop - spending precious brain power and time picking apart the reasons we are failures instead of using that time and thought to, you know, get moving in the right directions?).

Then my phone chimed.

It was a text message containing only a picture of my son's face, bright and shiny.

The sun was shining in Chicago while it was
pouring down rain in Seguin on Friday, Sept. 14th.
The image had been sent from my partner, Steve Vrooman (apparently they send each other selfies now and then, my husband and son, which makes my heart swell in a overwhelming way).

Tears to match the Texas rain started running down my face, of course, because, damn it, I miss my child's face (in case you're just stumbling onto my blog because social media and the Internet has a mysterious way of working, I've just sent my son off to college at DePaul University in Chicago,Illinois, to follow his dream of becoming a symphonic percussionist...and that's 1300 mi away from our home in Seguin, Texas.).

Let me be clear, I don't miss my child's baby face, I don't miss his youth. I miss his actual current, more often than not scruffy and bespectacled face. And, I miss the deep, nasally sound of his voice, oh, and the sometimes-painful-because-he's-much-taller-than-I-am hugs that we both call huggies (they include a little swaying back-and-forth, like a butterfly bush stalk in the wind, because I've always told him that movement makes a hug special, but mostly it's to help my short self not get crushed by his sharp, angular shoulders).

I miss my college-age son and it is affecting everything I do, especially the pace in which I do it.

Getting that picture today allowed me to be able to break through my self-hate bubble to realize I am drawing pointless collections of leaves/vines because I am lost in the thick of this experience that is so poorly named "empty nesting."

Seriously, there HAS be a better name for this stage of life; "empty nesting," my a$$ - I'm not a bird (I'm not flighty, I've never been much of a nester, and pooping on people's heads is just plain mean!), and quite frankly I am rather in love with how much more tidy, organized our space and our lives are with it being just the two of us, Steve and I!

The advent of Sam going off to college and becoming mostly responsible for his day to day life (and I say "mostly" because the financial aspect of his existence is still very much a part of our parental domain, so much so that most of the text conversations that I have had with my son since he moved three weeks ago begin with the phrase, "You're going to see a charge on the credit card....") has indeed opened up an incredible all-you-can-eat time buffet that I had hoped to fill up with the following:  finishing my coloring book projects (I am currently, working on three books that have 6 completed drawings a piece, and I have seeds of ideas for two others sprouting), beginning a regular collection of blog posts designed to help folks who struggle with perfectionism (I had the honor of working with a variety of very talented young and mature perfectionists this summer, and in coaching them through their creative and personal struggles, quite a few light bulbs turned on inside my own recovering perfectionist's brain about ways perfectionists can learn to let that demon go), creating my own blog store for folks to be able to purchase the tidbits of coloring I have started to create (and, honestly, that is ALMOST ready for me to say "it's done" - another afternoon of work and it should be ready to go...although I have already had someone purchase something from it two weeks ago, so, maybe whether or not I think it's finished is irrelevant?), and bringing an adult tap class to the studio in which I have been teaching youth/teen tap classes the past year (and on that front, I have successfully focused and achieved that goal - there's been a great turnout of students the past two Fridays - but it wasn't only in my hands to do so, and I believe that is why I don't feel entirely responsible for making that dream happen).

But, filling up this new found time/space is no "empty nesting" activity; this mental, emotional and physical space I'm running around in is a maze! And, up until I received that text message, that photo of my lovie's wry grin, I think I was turning myself down all the wrong corners, stumbling into time-suck dead-ends.

Getting busy isn't the solution to missing your child, or at least it isn't for me. I have so many plans, so many irons that have been not-so-patiently waiting in the fire for Sam to be situated in college, but they all require my focused creativity, something I haven't had a full allotment of since we returned home from delivering our son to his college dorm. And, thinking that I am only "moving in the right direction" if I am working on those plans is creating an enormous guilt monster for me to have to vanquish each morning just to make it through the day! I think rather than "being busy" and not getting anything done that I feel good about in order to fill up this "empty nest," I need to let myself the freedom to follow my creativity wherever it leads me when time permits, and be satisfied with jobs-done-as-well-as-I-can-right-now given that my partner and I are going through a huge and confusing transition.

Currently, experiencing the true, deep missing of another human being for the first time in my life has caused my creative energy to want to draw leaf, after leaf, after leaf, vine after vine, morning after morning...

This is where the leaf-craziness stopped, and I promised myself that
I would find some place useful for these creepy, crawly vines in a
future work, one done in the proper place. re-live some classic parenting disaster moments from my son's childhood and text them to him...

This selfie isn't random. This pic of myself
grinning ridiculously is in front of the section
of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens where
we learned to take a spare change of clothes
and shoes everywhere we took our toddler, Sam.
Yes, he didn't jump OVER the water, he jumped
directly INTO the water, changing the trajectory
of the day, but creating a precious memory that
I truly enjoyed reliving a few weeks ago:) I
REALLY wanted to jump in the water myself as
it was blooming hot that day, but sadly I had
 only brought one pair of shoes. create art for my son's dorm room wall (since he forgot to pack ANY of his posters and decorations)...

Sam's favorite quote, his inspiration to practice all his instruments,
was giving to him in poster form by a beloved high school teacher of his.
He meant to pack it, and in the frantic-ness of seeing what would fit into
our CR-V that final day, the poster remained above his marimba in his room.
Too big to ship safely, I made him a temporary copy to take its place for the
 time being and sent it straight away.

...and to take an unbelievable amount of leaf pictures, since I am currently obsessed with leaf shapes!

Seriously, this is only a teeny fraction of the leaf pictures I have on my phone
from both SA and Chicago. I need help...or do I? Leaves are sofa king cool!

Getting that simple picture yesterday of the smile I miss the most in the whole world right now threw my whole perspective on my where my life into fabulous clarity: I'm okay, the work I am getting to when I am able to work is okay (and sometimes more than okay), and the pace at which I am working is okay, too, and I'm probably almost ready to start to picking it up. 

This morning we got to Google Duo Sam (that is Android equivalent of Face time-ing for all you iPhone folks) over coffee. He regaled us with his intense schedule (18 hours a week of rehearsal, then classes, then private lessons, then master classes, then working, then his private practice - he barely has time to eat), a collection of fascinating facts he's learning in his music history class (this is our 2nd Duo conversation since he started his semester, and I am absolutely over-the-moon that our conversations with him inadvertently become study sessions for our son as he steps into the professor role, teaching his music-nerd parents some deep music history facts, pulling out his notebooks to double check his names and dates), and that yes, there is loud dorm music just like there was back in our day, but the song of choice over the weekends has been a booming Justin Bieber's "Baby Baby" (which I'm not sure is better or worse than Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" from back in the 90's, but it is safe to say that whoever is blaring music out of a dorm room in whatever decade we're talking about, these folks simply have very questionable taste). 

Our conversation meandered naturally for a few hours as we all had our breakfast, taking breaks here and there while he went to go get his laundry; it was the most perfect way I can now imagine spending a raining Saturday morning in south Texas. 

This new place for my creativity, my family, it's no "empty nest."

We are in a very different place, to be sure, but this new place is far from empty. 

It doesn't surprise me that, after my revelation yesterday upon getting that serendipitously timed text, that I was able to sit down to my computer and begin to pull together this blog post, my first in over a month, or that after chatting with Sam this morning, I was able to finish it. I've turned my back on a couple of dead ends and started myself down a new, maybe clearer angle in this life-maze of mine; I now know that just seeing my Sam's face in a photo is all I need to remind myself of who I am, what I am doing, and, most importantly, what I want to be doing.

Thanks for reading this very personal blog post; I wrote it because I hoped there might be some nuggets in my struggle through the last few weeks that could be helpful for others. I will be getting back to coloring, creativity and a new free-coloring-page-of-the-month very soon! So, if you haven't downloaded your free digital download of the "It's All Connected" bookmark and wish to do so, get on that! My focus is definitely come back, and I am ready to do some cool stuff with it!


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