Taming the Melancholy Flood
The scene was adorable: three neighborhood boys walking down our street after a hard rain with their fishing poles. They were heading to the creek, and would undoubtedly catch a few minnows or other tiny fish. I was shocked that I needed to pull the car over as sadness washed over me. I choked back the tears streaming down my face. Wasn’t it just yesterday that those three boys were my three boys, waiting anxiously for the rain to calm enough for them to run out to the creek with their fishing poles? Wasn’t it just recently that I had cleaned off their shoes and bleached muddy socks after such an adventure?
It never ceases to amaze me how the smallest thing can bring back a memory; a moment in time that vanished all too soon. It has happened to me watching the car line at a school where I worked, or seeing little ones in their soccer gear or baseball uniforms scurrying off to games and practices. Just this past spring, I stepped out of a building just in time to hear the crack of the bat and the cheering crowd at the high school. I was instantly transported back to the days when I was in the stands cheering wildly for our boys as they played.
It is during those moments that I experience true melancholy. Sometimes I am able to collect my thoughts and move on with a smile, thankful for having had those experiences. But sometimes, as with the fishing boys, I find myself actually crying. I am brought back to those moments in time so long ago, my mind wailing where has the time gone?
The real trick for me is managing to contain the melancholy in moments, rather than allowing it to creep into hours and days. I am finding that this empty-nest stage of life is about redefining who I am and what I have to offer. Although the parenting never ends, the needs of my adult children are very different than they were when they were young. If I’m not careful, it is easy to slip into memories of times past and allow the pensiveness to creep in.
How, then, can I pause to reflect on past memories and experiences without allowing them to drag me down? I have realized that it is important to acknowledge those thoughts, but then to replace them with hope and anticipation for the future. I now have grandbabies to pour myself into, and an aging mother to care for. I have more time to re-connect with old friends and the opportunities to make new ones. I can exercise more and spend time with my husband on our hobbies and interests. I can spend additional time studying God’s Word to strengthen my relationship with Him.
I must be intentional in allowing melancholy moments to be just that; moments in time of reflection on the past. For me, the remedy lies in living passionately in the moment and looking with anticipation to the future. It lies in taking time to thank God for the experiences of the past, and asking for His guidance as I embrace the future. It lies in the realization that for each and every experience that has brought me to this point in life, there is another to look forward to in the days ahead. Those moments of melancholy will most certainly come to us throughout our empty nest years. May we find the strength to look at them, cherish them, and move on to the blessings of today and tomorrow.