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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

Dress Rehearsing Tragedy and the Single Mom Empty Nest

The first time I heard Brené Brown discuss "dress rehearsing tragedy" I had a lightbulb moment. In a nutshell it's...

"...basically envisioning every horrible scenario in any situation, especially when it comes to your loved ones, rather than just existing in the moment." (PureWow)

Before I had an official name for it, I used to call it "pre-worrying" and I'm a champion at it; if I can't find something in the present to worry about, I'll invent something in the future to occupy my mind. The reason for it is really simple: I want to worry about it ahead of time and hopefully do something to stop whatever the painful thing is that might happen and save myself some heartache.

The problem is that it rarely works.

Anyway, I've found myself in the pre-worry stage lately thanks to my impending empty nest. My youngest only has about another year at home before she leaves for college and then I will truly be on my own. I have worried and worried about this.

  • What if I get lonely?

  • What if that loneliness leads to depression?

  • What if I get out of practice being around people...and then I never want to be around people?

These are just a few of the things rolling around in my head.

Once these questions take root, I start trying to solve the problem.

  • Should you start dating again?

  • What about taking a class?

  • Should you join more networking groups?

As I start thinking through those possible solutions...none of them sounded particularly good to me. No, I don't want to start dating. I like my life the way it is. Yes, I want to maybe take a class for fun, but I don't know if I want to do that right now. I know I have some opportunities to expand my social circle, but I don't want to completely fill up my schedule. I like my free time.

It was as I was discussing this issue with a friend - AGAIN, because it's always on my mind - that I realized I might be trying to solve a problem that doesn't need to be solved. At least, not yet. What I'm doing is envisioning my future self sitting in the house crying because everyone is gone. But, if I'm being honest, I really only see my youngest for about five minutes every day because she's so busy. My other two kids call regularly, so I've lost the concern that we'll fall out of touch now that they're grown (another pre-worry I had). Basically, I'm on my own NOW...and I'm not sitting around crying.

I actually kind of like it.

I love to read. I love watching movies. I love to cook. I love snuggling with my pets. I've started going to a gym class three days a week. I'm sitting here writing this blog because I have the time to do it. I sprinkle in some social activities, but overall I don't feel particularly lonely.

I keep reminding myself that I don't know what the future holds and that I have the ability to pivot at any moment. This is the first time since I was 25 that I won't have to think about anything other than how I want to spend my time. If I want to take a class, I won't have to worry about someone else's schedule. If I want to go out with friends I won't have to check with anyone else. If I want a bowl of cereal for dinner, I won't have a kid walking in and asking, "But what am I going to have?"

Now that I think about it...what the heck was I so worried about?

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