Tuesday, September 16, 2008

To Think or Not to Think

By Melanie Lynne Hauser

So I was thinking about something the other day.

I know, this is always a dangerous exercise. I should know better. Thinking can only lead to bad things, like impulsive acts of kindness, or fits of aerobic exercise, or a sudden urge to declutter-ize your life, which usually results in throwing away really sentimental family heirlooms or dusty bric brac that your mother will later tell you came over on the boat with Great Grandma Agnes, and was worth a fortune.

So I shouldn't think. I think I know this - oops! Did it again!

Anyway. I was thinking. And I was thinking about how, lately, I've been feeling kind of adventurous. Compelled by a recent burst of creativity, I actually had an impulse to hop a plane and fly to Europe all by myself to do some research for a new writing project. I could envision it so clearly, where I needed to be, how I could pack the most amount of research into the shortest amount of time; I could see myself walking down some paths I need to see with my own eyes, touching some walls, smelling air that is foreign to me, but very important to the setting I wish to create...oh, I just had such a fearless impulse! My heart soared, my fingers itched; I actually looked up flights and places to stay. I remembered where my passport was. I realized I have no real obligations keeping me here, my husband and younger son can certainly spare me for a few days.

Truly, my whole body thrumbed with anticipation, I felt so free and fearless and there was absolutely nothing holding me back anymore. Nothing, that is, except -


And this is the thing I was thinking. When I was younger I had so many fears, and then they got all wrapped up in my family and their need of me, and mine of them, and then my fears took on greater meaning because if something horrible ever happened to me, what would become of my children, and of course, there was no way I could ever just take off and do something adventurous even if I wasn't afraid, because of them.

But now? They don't need me every day, or even every week; they're almost grown, I don't have to worry so much what will become of them if I'm suddenly kidnapped by white slavers, and lo and behold, it seems as if I've outgrown many of the fears that hobbled me when I was young. I've reached the age where I can say, "Well, so what? I've had a good run here in the suburbs; now it's time to see what else there is."

I've reached the age where I'm no longer attractive to white slavers, too.

However. I've also reached the age where, because of the kids and college and certain career, uh, rest stops, I have less disposable income than ever. And thus, have to remain at home and content myself with Wikipedia and virtual tours of places I can't afford to visit.

And I think this is one of the cruelist ironies of the empty nest. We have the time. We have the courage.

We don't, however, have the money.

So I was thinking about all this, and of course, I got a little depressed. Which leads me back to the beginning of this post, which is -

Thinking is highly overrated.

(So, perhaps, is a college education.)


Joanne said...

As I was reading this, I was "thinking," Wow, she did it! She went alone to Europe! OMG, how exciting! Then I read on and felt a little disappointed. I think b/c something here speaks to all our disappointments. Maybe a little more thinking, then next year?

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

Yeah, well - imagine how disappointed I am, Joanne!

Seriously - and this post was written prior to yesterday's depressing day on Wall Street! - the money factor, with the kids in college, is beyond what I could have ever imagined. As I'm sure everyone knows and experiences.

Yet we're told - and as this post reveals, we really do get bolder in this way - that this time of life is when it gets to be all about us, not them (the kids). Magazines like "More" suggest this time of life is perfect for whizzing off to Greek islands for soul-searching retreats, etc.

There's something missing in that picture - a little something I call money!

Suzanne Macpherson said...

Melanie, funny you should say this, because I've made a similar decision to venture over to Europe for some research.

Set your sites. Put up the map. Get the vision, plan the trip.

The money will come. Your funds will fall into place.

Read Esther Hicks.

mommeeof9 said...

My youngest is 2, hubby is almost 50. We'll be empty nesters when hubby is 70. Maybe we'll travel then?

Suzanne Macpherson said...

As I often say to myself- oops I had four kids! Even so, do not give up. Tuck on back burner and keep it simmering!